Before I am going to tell you what the above entails, I want to say a huge thank-you to all who responded to last week's blog post! There were some great suggestions and I was able to implement one straight away: I became a member of the Society for Embroidered Work by invitation. How cool is that? Do visit their website and follow the links to all the amazing embroidery artists on there! And one more laugh about the craft-tradition-art debate: I picked up the embroideries I had displayed at the Pilatushaus in Oberammergau. It is end of season and I didn't want them locked up until the spring. I was told by a fellow member of this organisation that nothing had sold. The reason given? I needed to understand that embroidery had no great tradition here... Strange! Only a few villages down the main road, I had just been told the previous week that I couldn't join the artist society BECAUSE embroidery had a strong craft tradition here!
Once a year, there is a textile fair not far from where I live. The buildings of the monastery of Benediktbeuern are filled with 140 textile related businesses. Always fun to have a walk around. Most is sooooo exclusive that it is way out of my budget, though. Each year me and my husband catch up with Thomas und Marianne Held who sell books on textiles. We met them one year in Osnabrück at Nadel & Faden where we were neighbours. They are such fun and generous people! This year I bought two books on textile collections held in Germany. Do visit their website as they really do have a great selection on hard to find second-hand books on textiles.
Apart from this happy re-union, I stumbled upon Christine Asböck of 77°Nord. She makes beautiful bracelets with something which looks like very fine pearl purl. I immediately fell in love with the pretty braid patterns and bought a bracelet. The combination of reindeer leather and silver thread is so classical. I watched Christine work on a new bracelet and was amazed that she braids first and then sews the whole braid down using very fine nylon thread. I also learned that this type of craft is called Tenntrådsbroderier or tin thread embroidery. It has been traditionally practiced by the Sami people of Northern Scandinavia as a winter craft to earn some extra money.
I was especially curious about this Tenntråd, which looks like pearl purl. It was easy to find a Swedish supplier and so I ordered a variety of silver plated, gilt and coloured threads in various thicknesses. Contrary to pearl purl, this thread has a textile core. It cannot be stretched like pearl purl. But it is still great fun! It can of course be used in the traditional way to make a braid and use it in goldwork embroidery. It can also be used as is in goldwork embroidery as a substitute for pearl purl. However, you would need to use the very fine nylon thread to be able to sew it down invisibly. You cannot pull the thread between the coils as the thread does not like to be stretched. As this particular supplier has a wide range of coloured thread, I am sure I will order some more in the future and get creative!
P.S. My teaching trip to China is fast approaching. This means I won't be able to ship any orders between 18th of October and the 11th of November. Anything ordered during this period will ship on the 12th of November.
Wow, where did the summer go? We had a lovely 26 degrees yesterday and only 6 this morning... We will even see the first night frost this week! Time to re-home my lovely flowering tropical plants from the balcony to the windowsill :). The cooler temperatures are also a perfect excuse to stay indoors and start a new embroidery project. As I really want to be recognised as an artist instead of a crafter, I need to start making original artwork again. For the past months, I have been thinking about a theme for my upcoming solo-exhibition in August 2019. I seem to be rather good at getting brilliant ideas in the middle of the night :). Luckily for me, I am pretty good at getting back to sleep after these nightly strokes of genius. My husband has a far harder time. After all, I have to tell someone, right?
I am planning to make a few embroidery pieces in the style of St. Laurence. Using 16th century goldwork embroidery techniques and artistic language. But addressing modern-day issues like immigration, climate change and consumerism. All unmistakably linked, by the way. First up is Pope Francis. Ever since his disarming 'Buona Sera', I have been fascinated by this man. But what probably fascinates me even more, is how we all seem to project our hopes and dreams on this one man. Francis should address climate change, the role of women, homosexuality, world peace etc. And 'pronto', please! The inconvenient truth however is, that one man, even when he is the pope, cannot accomplish this on his own. Are we willing to help him?
To show how our projections tend to make Pope Francis larger than life, I've given him a few extra arms. Like many Hindu Gods have. Two arms and hands form what is called the 'Kanzlerraute', the typical 'everything will be all right' posture Angela Merkel often shows. The background will be closely modelled after an orphrey from a chasuble made between AD 1520-1525 in the Northern Netherlands and now held at the Catharijne Convent under inventory number BMH t2911. I am very grateful for this museum to have given me free access to several high-resolution images of this magnificent piece.
That's all for now. I will spend the rest of the afternoon transferring the design onto 40ct natural linen by Zweigart using a normal lead pencil. This is the preferred way of transferring embroidery designs in the Late Medieval period.
P.S. This week's newsletter has a code of 15% off high-quality embroidery scissors by the German-based company DOVO. You can sign up for my newsletter in the right-hand column! You can read a review by Mary Corbet on these lovely scissors here.
Last week I was fortunate enough to visit the exhibition 'The embroidered Heaven' at the Church Heritage Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania. I also met with Lithuanian embroideress Agne Zemkajute. Discussing pieces in the exhibition with a kindred soul is pure bliss! And Agne proved to be a very knowledgeable guide and fellow cake eater :). As we both have a love of church textiles and love to recreate them, this was certainly not the last time we have met. For those of you not living within two hours flying time from Vilnius, I will try to pack this blog post as full as I can with impressions of the exhibition. And at the end of this lengthy post, I will pass on details of the lovely catalogue produced by the museum.
The exhibits were displayed chronologically from the Late Medieval period until the 20th century. Due to the fact that the Lithuanians were the last peoples in Europe to convert to Christianity in AD 1387, there aren't any really old vestments. And Lithuania's turbulent recent history with 100 years of Tsarist rule, two World Wars and the Soviet Occupation, didn't help in the preservation of what once has been there either. Nevertheless, there were two chasubles and a cope hood on display which dated to the Late Medieval period.
One of the Late Medieval chasubles was 'restored' using paint. Its iconography of saints sitting under an architectural arch is well-known from many other embroidered vestments and paintings dating to the same period.
There were many more chasubles and related vestments on display dating to the 17th century. Contrary to earlier vestments who told a biblical story, vestments from the Baroque period feature large floral motives and an excessive use of gold threads. The height of the padding on some of these pieces is mind-boggling! These vestments were meant to dazzle you and to clearly show you who held power.
Although I am not a fan of the Baroque period, I do admire the skill needed to produce these magnificent pieces of highly-padded goldwork embroidery. Today, this style of embroidery is still in use in the embroidery ateliers of Spain. One of the people teaching this type of embroidery and blogging about it, is Cristina Badillo.
Playful 18th century Rococo with its elegant floral motives is much more my cup of tea. Especially the cope displayed above. Does this not remind you of Jacobean crewel work? However, this is made with silk and silver passing thread. I have never come across a piece like this and I would love to hear from my readers if they know of a comparable piece. Agne and I discussed the piece at length as we can't quite discern how the flowers have been stitched.
In fact, we have so many questions about this piece that we will have no choice (how horrible!) than to try and recreate some of it. Just determining if it is best to stitch the silk before the metal threads or the other way around was just not possible from looking at the piece. We even took pictures if the blown-up detail pictures on display to get a grip on the stitching process...
This chasuble from c. 1909 reminds me of the chasubles made by Leo Peters, a Dutch artist, around that time. It has an Art Nouveau feel to it. And the padding underneath the figure of Jesus and the cross is just amazingly thick.
And I really liked this early 20th century piece as well. I don't remember seeing vestments using panels of needlepoint before. There is even some drawn-thread work in this one.
Apart from the many embroidered vestments on display in the exhibition, the museum also has a few vestments on permanent display. And, best of all, they have a large set of drawers on the organ gallery. Each drawer contains a vestment. They allow you to browse through them and have a good look at them without the hindrance of glass!
Please note: the exhibition 'The embroidered Heaven' will end on the 15th of September 2018. However, the Church Heritage Museum sells a wonderful catalogue, hard-bound, and with full-page detailed pictures of all the vestments held by the museum. Although the regular text is in Lithuanian, there is an excellent summary in English in the back. The catalogue has 222 pages and costs only €15. You can contact the museum here.
Last year I made a trip to the Benedictine abbey of St. Paul im Lavanttal, Austria. The abbey houses two important medieval vestments. The friendly monk on duty was happy for me to take pictures without flash. Unfortunately, upon returning home, the first 30 or so pictures were lost during the transfer from my camera to my computer. Luckily, I am going to visit these beauties again in the next couple of days! And, as only the first pictures were lost, I can introduce you to the younger of the two pieces: a beautiful cope from the 13th century.
Although these pieces are now housed in an abbey in Austria, they were originally made for the Benedictine abbey of St. Blaise in the Black Forest (Germany). During the dissolution of the monasteries in Bavaria in 1806, the abbot moved his convent and the treasure to St. Paul im Lavanttal and thus preserved them. Amongst the treasure were three medieval vestments: a cope from the 12th century (now in St. Paul), a cope from the 13th century (also in St. Paul) and a chasuble from the 13th century (now in the Österreichische Museum für angewandte Kunst in Vienna).
The cope from the 13th century is stitched with silks and gold threads. The main stitches used on the cope are long-armed cross-stitch and brick stitch for the silk and underside couching for the gold threads. However, details are also worked in other surface stitches like chain stitch and split stitch. The silk used for the brick stitch is untwisted, but looks softly twisted and thicker for the long-armed cross-stitch. Originally, no linen background fabric showed; the whole cope was covered in stitches! During conservation, it became clear that the cope had been sown together from loom-width strips of linen before the stitching commenced.
Depicted on the cope are the hagiographies (legends of the saints) of St. Blaise on the one side and St. Vincent of Saragossa on the other. Both saints were the patron saints of the abbey church. Scenes of the hagiographies are depicted as medallions as would have been the norm for stained glass windows in the 13th century. Each scene is accompanied by a few words to aid identification.
There are two possibilities regarding the maker of this excellent piece of medieval embroidery in the 13th century. It is quite possible that the cope was stitched by the monks of the abbey of St. Blaise. But it is equally possible that this cope was stitched at a professional workshop. Either way, it is highly likely that the person who made this was a man rather than a woman. A fact I love to "share" with male visitors to the Pilatushaus who exclaim that my stitching is a "mere female past-time they are thus not interested in" :).
Who provided the capital needed to produce these 'top-end' liturgical vestments? The St. Blaise abbey belonged to a reform movement in the Benedictine tradition. A movement highly endorsed by the nobility. Not only were many of the monks of noble birth, but noble families would endow the abbey with cash, lands, rights and works of art. These vestments were far costlier than the golden monstrance on the altar. Not only were the materials needed to stitch one quite costly, the countless man hours invested made the end-result VERY expensive. Another 'fun fact' for my visitors at the Pilatushaus who exclaim that the price tag on St. Laurence means the piece is unaffordable. I pleasantly inform them that in the Middle Ages they, as the commoners they are, would not have come this close to such a work of art :). Oh, you should see their faces! Truly priceless :).
If you are ever in the area, do visit St. Paul! They have many embroidered liturgical vestments on display. Everything is quite well lit so that intricate details are visible. Essays on the art historical background of the pieces and the conservation of two of the three pieces can be found in: Braunsteiner, M. & H. Kaindl (1998): Historische Textilien aus dem Sakralbereich (=Schriften zur Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte des Benediktinerstiftes Admont, Band VII), ISBN 3-901810-02-1.
Before I am going to feed you with some more embroidery eye-candy, I want to thank all readers who commented on last week's blog post. It seems to be that it is indeed possible to create these pieces on a loom and work the ends in. A picture of a woman weaving such a particular piece was posted on this topic in Mary Corbet's Facebook group. Equally, a comment with a link to a Swedish blog showed a similar piece being made on an embroidery frame. Pieces like these can thus be created by weaving or by pattern darning. That's fascinating, don't you think?
On a different note: I became a shipment of House of Embroidery perle, silk, stranded cotton and silk ribbon today! I've stocked up the webshop and almost all colours are back in stock. If you were waiting for a particular colour, grab it before it is gone again :).
And just one final shout out before we go back to Crete: I am participating in an art exhibition next weekend. Please come and visit me at Marion Werner's Studio in Steingaden. The exhibition is open on Saturday 12th of May 13-19h and Sunday 13th of May 11-19h. Entry is free and there is cake and coffee too!
One of the best places to find beautifully presented embroidery, is in the Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion (www.historical-museum.gr/eng/). There is a small display of richly decorated Orthodox vestments. These were made at the Asomaton Monastery and look similar to the ones from the Monastery of Arkadi. Do you see the fine embroidered lettering running vertically along the embroidery on the left? That's where it says who made this particular piece. In this case: 'the present was restored by the monk Methodios and the deacon Anthimos on the 1st of October 1854. The patron was Abbot Joseph'.
And then there is a whole floor (!) dedicated to the ethnographic collection. And oh joy, that is mainly textiles! The pieces themselves where lovingly displayed. But the main advantage were the detailed descriptions about them in English. The pieces were grouped according to life's rituals: religious holidays, marriage, birth, death, etc. Such a joy to read about the different textiles and their context of use! Seldom seen such a well-made exhibition. Here are some of the beautifully embroidered pieces:
A richly embroidered towel, probably from Ierapetra.
There were many examples of Ottoman-style embroidery and of Cretan embroidery.
And last but not least, I found the above text very moving and much in line with my own drive.
Are you ready for another trip to beautiful Crete? This time we are going to visit the Monastery of Arkadi. This place is famous for one of the many tragedies which befell the island during Ottoman rule. In 1866, 943 Greeks, mainly women and children, had sought refuge at the Monastery. After three days of fierce battle with the Turks, they decided to rather kill themselves by igniting barrels of gunpowder, than to fell into the hands of the Turks. It is quite impressive to walk into the ruined gunpowder magazine. You can read more about the tragedy and the monastery's history here. Not mentioned anywhere, the monastery used to house a famous workshop for the embroidery of ecclesiastical textiles for the Greek Orthodox church! And these beauties have recently returned to Arkadi. Freshly conserved and beautifully presented. Officially, you are not allowed to take pictures. However, I explained to the guard that I am an embroideress myself and that I re-create historical vestments. It was then ok for me to take as many pictures as I liked!
But first things first. The embroidered vestments of the Orthodox Church are very different from the ones we are used to in the West. We mainly have chasubles, copes and dalmatics, they have epigonation (rhomboid piece of luxurious material suspended from the waist at knee-level), epimanikia (detachable cuffs used to bind the wide sleeves of lower vestments), epitrachelion (stole), orarion (narrow band of cloth wound around the upper body of the deacon) and phaelonion (chasuble) with polos (medallion applique sewn onto other vestments). Yes, that's all Greek to me too :). Secondly, these vestments date to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Thirdly, the monks who made them, signed their work. How amazing is that?
The style of the embroideries and the techniques used, differ from Western European goldwork embroidery of the same period. But there are parallels. Especially the use of floral motives is seen in both traditions in this period. Apparently, the use of padding is also a Western influence as the Byzantine tradition does not make use of it. Apart from fine gold and silver threads, the embroiderers also used semi-precious stones and silk in their embroideries. Crimson silk was preferred for the background. Faces were stitched by appliqueing a lighter silk and subtly stitching facial features on top.
Moni Arkadi is well worth a visit for embroidery enthusiasts! The embroideries are well displayed in good light and have excellent caption texts in Greek and English. Besides, there are larger texts on the recent conservation and style of the embroideries. And best of all: the museum shop sells a booklet on the matter! The booklet is in Greek, English and German and has pictures and descriptions of all the embroideries on display, with a basic introduction. Pictures are ok, but not always splendid and the booklet is a little outdated regarding the current display. However, it is a good booklet for reference and at €3,00 it won't break the bank for most of us. The title is: Drandakis, N.V., 2000: Ecclesiastical embroidery at the monastery of Arkadi, ISBN: 960-86722-0-1.
P.S. If you liked my blog post on the embroideries of Moni Arkadi then please consider making a donation! Unfortunately, implementing the new GDPR regulations regarding European Data Privacy has doubled the costs of running this website as I needed to get legal advice.
P.P.S. If you run a website, blog, Etsy store or the like and you have visitors from Europe, you better read up on the matter too. Legally, it does NOT make a difference if you run these things as a hobby or you make money from them. As soon as you register your European visitors in any way or shape (think statistics, IP addresses, sign-up forms, blog comment sections, social media icons etc.), you are bound by the new regulations which take effect on May the 25th 2018. For instance, if you use MailChimp to send your newsletter, you'll need to sign a paper contract with them regarding data privacy and mail it back to them. If you want an idea of what is required, do click here to see my new policies which hopefully cover my back. They are not complete yet, but I am working on it!
Since St. Laurence was grilled to death, I thought the above a fitting blog post title. After almost two years of on and of working on this goldwork piece, St. Laurence can finally be revealed in all his glory. The piece is a near perfect copy of the orphrey held under catalogue number ABM t2107h at the Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht in the Netherlands. The original orphrey was made between AD 1520-1525 and measures c. 28.5 x 17 cm. I have covered this project in earlier blog posts too, in case you'll want to read the whole story.
Above on the left the original museum piece and on the right my version. However, last time you saw the piece, I was still working on the background. So let's explore how I assembled all the different pieces.
Apart from the background and St. Laurence, I also worked both columns and the ceiling keystone on the same Zweigart 40ct natural linen. I worked his bbq separately in a small embroidery hoop on a piece of calico. It is in essence a wired slip filled with silver plated Japanese Thread #8. Cutting away the calico between the bars, was challenging! So I used a dark brown textile paint marker to stain the remaining calico fibres.
Then it was time to cut out St. Laurence, the keystone and both columns. I took the whole piece of the slate frame and redressed it only with the background. As you can see in the picture above, I cut the other items out with a bit of a seam allowance. I folded the seam under and laced the back. This worked particularly well for the straight columns. It was less successful for the keystone and proved impossible for St. Laurence himself. So...., I used conservation glue. And it worked a treat! Since you only want the seam to stay put as long as you are appliqueing, you don't need huge amounts of glue, i.e. you are not soaking your embroidered fabric.
Before I attached any of the elements, I made sure my fabric wasn't drum taut. I started with the keystone, then did the left-hand column, then St. Laurence and then the right-hand column. Although I worked my background a little further than needed so it would go under St. Laurence, the fit wasn't perfect on all sides. I figure this is due to the whole piece being worked on a drum taut slate frame and once you release this tension completely, your elements shrink a bit. Note to self: work the background more generously on the next piece!
Appliqueing the elements onto the background was rather straight forward. As you can see in the above picture, I pinned the element in place and then couched around the edge with matching silks. Only for the columns, I used a different method. I noted that my long vertical rows of tightly packed Japanese thread gaped when couched down at the edges. Instead, I sew in a straight line between the last and the before last row of Japanese thread.
With all elements couched down, it was time to add the dark brown edging around all the elements. It adds a sense of depth to an otherwise near flat piece of embroidery. I used four to six strands of a dark brown silk perle. They were offcuts from a weaving project by a fellow local artisan. Don't you love it when you can recycle things?!
My original plan was to mount the goldwork first and then applique it onto the green chasuble fabric. This would support the heavy gold embroidery better. However, I didn't like it one bit. The embroidery was too high up from the fabric for my taste. As I have worked this piece mainly during demonstrations, it did mean that I hadn't been as accurate as I would have wished. The piece is 1,5 linen threads too high on the top left and 1,5 threads too short on the lower right side. This happens when you chat to people and/or work in improper light. No worries, I can perfectly live with these minor discrepancies! However, it did mean that my initial mounting had to go.
I ended up cutting out the whole orphrey with a seam allowance and couching it in place directly onto the green chasuble fabric. It worked a treat! As it should have done, since my medieval counterparts did it the same way. With the orphrey in place, I couched a gilt Twist #3 and a large gilt Roccoco around the edge to hide most of the linen background fabric. Today I mounted the whole piece and weather permitting, will bring it to the framer's tomorrow.
Working on this project certainly had its challenges, but I loved it immensely! During demonstrations and through this blog people from all over the world were able to follow the process. I will certainly make another one in the future! But for now, I can't stop looking at my achievement and enjoy this splendid piece :).
Those of you who follow me along on Instagram @maerchenhaftesstickengrimm were treated to some pretty embroidery pieces last week. As part of the 'Samt und Seide 1000-1914. Eine Reise durch das Historische Tirol' (Velvet and Silk 1000-1914. A trip through historical Tyrol) exhibitions organised by the European Textile Academy, me and my husband visited Brixen/Bressanone and Klausen/Chiusa. We were completely blown away with the high quality embroidered textiles we saw and are already planning two more trips. Unfortunately, for most of you, Northern Italy is a bit further away than our three-hour drive. However, if you are ever in the neighbourhood, do visit the two museums I am going to introduce you to further below! They are absolutely worth it. And do take a print-out of this blog with you if you are not proficient in either German or Italian, as English is not the lingua franca in Northern Italy...
First up is the Diözesanmuseum in Brixen. It houses the cathedral treasure of the former Diocese of Brixen. A large part of their permanent exhibition is devoted to textiles. The oldest being from around 1000 AD! However, this museum follows the modern concept of presenting historical art as art. Descriptions of the individual objects are very meagre and only available in German and Italian. There is nothing wrong with appreciating pieces as they are and enjoying the display in front of you. However, I would have liked to have the option of getting more information. Preferably as laminated information available in the display room AND a decent catalogue to take home. After all, I like to go to museums to learn and broaden my knowledge.
That said, the sheer amount of high-quality exhibition pieces gets you into textile heaven in no time.
My favourite pieces were the oldest pieces. Just the idea that the Eagle Chasuble (Adlerkasel) dates to 1000 AD. It was made at the court of the Emperor of Byzantium and given to Bishop Albuin of Brixen. It was probably one of the first silken vestments which arrived in this part of Europe. Due to its great antiquity and pretty good conservational status, it is one of the most important textiles of Europe. Another highlight were these pontifical gloves dating to the 15th century. They feature email medallions from 11th century Byzantium, showing again how important this imperial city once was in medieval Christian Europe. And aren't these tiny beads made of freshwater pearls to die for? I definitely want a pair!
The museum also has several 15th. century orphreys on display. These heavily embroidered gold- and silk pieces were once appliqued onto a chasuble. Look at those couched diaper patterns forming a pretty background for the holy figures. Just unbelievable that someone cut through them to make them fit onto a new vestment...
Then there were 17th. century chasubles with colourful silk and goldwork embroidery. I particularly liked the one with the small and detailed flowers. Look at the iris worked in long-and-short stitch and then further embellished with tiny fly-stitches to give the speckled impression often seen on an iris. The other chasuble shows a particular style of silken laid-work with couching stitches I first encountered on an Italian piece in the Wemyss School of Needlework Archive. I think it is very colourful and pretty. Great sources of inspiration!
The next museum we visited was the Stadtmuseum in Klausen/Chiusa. They have by far the better (=higher quality embroidery) textile collection and it is displayed in such a way that you can get very close to the pieces and the lighting is excellent. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take pictures. I didn't know I wasn't allowed to take any, so I can at least show you an antependium, or altar cover, from the Loreto treasure. And I (and the very friendly museum wardens) hope that it will whet your appetite so that you plan a visit too. And that you will help spread the word that this museum has a textile collection of high importance. As they are a tiny museum with an equally tiny budget, they need our help. So please show them some love.
But first, let me tell you a little bit more about what is called the Loreto Treasure. Maria Anna of Neuburg became queen of Spain, Sicily, Naples and Sardinia when she married king Charles II of Spain in 1690. She brought with her her confessor Pater Gabriel Pontifeser born in Klausen. He was a trusted and loyal advisor and she pledged to build him a monastery in his hometown of Klausen. The house he was born in was turned into a Loreto chapel. Queen Maria Anna, her husband and the Spanish nobility gave beautiful religious objects to the chapel. The Loreto treasure was born.
Permanently on display in the museum are several highly decorated altar covers. Apart from the one displayed above, which was probably stitched in Sicily, there is a further piece stitched in wool on linen and a silk- and goldwork piece in the Ottoman-style. Interestingly with the piece I was able to photograph, the main part with its flowers, birds and butterflies is stitched with long-and-short stitch. However, the border shows the same laidwork technique as seen before on the chasuble in the Diözesanmuseum Brixen. Besides silk and gold threads, the piece is adorned with red coral beads. This piece is truly to die for! It is very seldom that you encounter embroidery of such high quality that has kept so well. Other spectacular pieces were several chasubles with the same high-quality silk and goldwork embroidery. If you are ever near, this is a museum not to be missed! I for my part, will be back to study these pieces in greater detail.
But before I'll address my latest stitched beetle, a bit of new additional information regarding Hiroko's cat embroidery book featured in my last blog post. Remember from last week's post that I recommended looking at the pictures in the book through a magnifier? Well, not only Mary Corbet and I remarked upon the small size of the pictures, more people did. To overcome this, Hiroko opened a password protected website for those who purchased the book. She will upload key pictures from the cat embroidery projects featured in her book onto that website. These pictures can then be downloaded onto your computer and zoomed in on as much as you like. I downloaded the first project and it works a treat! Unfortunately, for security reasons, Hiroko can't upload all the pictures. But this is a very good compromise! Hiroko has also let me know that she will not re-print the book once it sells out. So, if you want one, visit Hiroko's shop and order!
Let's now move on to the beetle. I picked a line drawing from one of Millie Marotta's genius colouring books and transferred it onto 18 TPI Antique brown canvas with a black permanent marker. Why a permanent marker? Well if you'll need to block your embroidery afterwards, you don't want the black ink to run and ruin it :). I then started to play with the contents of my June #broderibox by Nordic Needle based in the US. First up was a lovely blue metallic braid called Variegated GoldRush by Rainbow Gallery. It is a mixture of 20% metalized polyester and 80% viscose and it comes in 10 yards on a card.
I decided to stitch long stitches to cover various parts of the beetle's body. The thread is just a little bit too meagre to fill out the canvas completely. However, it is not so sparse that I could have used a double thread. Instead, I just added a second stitch here and there on top of the first until I was happy with the coverage. For the neck, I used Byzantine stitch and since the single stitches making up the pattern are shorter here, I had no problems with coverage. Last but not least, I used tent stitches to stitch the mouth pieces and French knots for the eyes. This particular soft metallic braid is a joy to work with and doesn't snag or become worn. Will certainly keep it in mind for future uses!
Next up was another metallic thread: DMC Diamant colour D3852, a three-ply metallic. I filled the blanks on the body and the head with cross-stitches. In order to get good coverage, I doubled my thread. I like DMC Diamant as it is much better than many metallic threads out there. However, it isn't perfect. It unravels, wears and snags. That said, it is manageable as long as you use short lengths and watch your thread tension.
Up next were the beetle's legs. I used Soie Cristale by Caron to stitch them. In order to get a subtle difference between the meatier upper legs and the thinner lower legs, I stitched the upper legs with a cross-stitch and the lower legs with a tent stitch. This particular silk thread is a dream to work with and the colour is just gorgeous. It is nicely behaving silk thread and thus particularly suitable for silk embroidery virgins!
And now it is time for a serious confession: I do love Rayon. Or at least the type sold as Panache by Rainbow Gallery. The shine is unbelievable and gives the Byzantine stitch pattern a whole different quality. Hard to describe, but it shows a little in the above photograph. It adds movement to the background as the light comes off differently on different parts of the embroidery. And you can actually stitch quite nicely with this particular rayon! Yup, I am not lying. Yes, this three-ply thread unravels a bit, but nothing really serious. Yes, it is a bit slippery, but as long as you maintain good thread tension, it is a dream to stitch with. For those of you living in Europe, Sewandso in the UK carries the whole series. I know, because one 20 yard card wasn't enough to stitch the whole background. Conclusion: I do like at least some rayon threads. Still not sure if I should seek out professional help, though...
Now it was time for the really fun part: embellishment. I started by couching a Japan Thread #7 by Kreinik around the edge of the beetle's body. I used one strand of the Soie Cristale for the couching stitches. Then I decided to stitch three chain stitches at the end of each leg with the Japan Thread. Quite heavy duty for the Japan Thread, but it worked perfectly. It didn't even harm the rayon stitches in the slightest. At the end of the Japan Thread chain stitches, I stitched down two Mill Hill medium bugle beads #82045 using Soie Cristale again.
And then it was time for the really, really fun part: the feelers. I used brass wire to string up the bugle beads and placed a golden bead at the end before stringing back through the bugle beads. I plunged the ends of the wire through the canvas and secured them on the back. As the feelers are quite long and therefore had a will of their own, I partly couched them down with the DMC Diamant. And here is the finished beetle:
I hope you had fun reading about another one of my #broderibox projects! On a personal note, my husband started his new job today! After officially being laid-off in April when his employer filed for insolvency, he initially looked for a new job as an archaeologist. It quickly became clear that nobody really wanted a 50-year old digger. My husband realized that he didn't want to start at the bottom of the career ladder again. And we both realized that we didn't want to spend the next 17 years living the crazy living-apart life we had lived the previous 17 years. It was high-time to find an alternative. And luckily we found one! My husband now works part-time in a bookstore and part-time as a self-employed archaeometallurgist. Onwards and upwards from here :).
Today we are going to have a look at a few embroidery pieces my students work on. As I have only two hands and there are only so many hours in the day, tutoring others to embroider is THE solution. It is the perfect way to see some of my ideas put to work, without me actually stitching them :). First up is a crewel piece by Elisabeth Stix, which was started during one of my crewel embroidery courses.
Elisabeth's piece is really big. It has been inspired by a beautiful piece of wall paper. You can see a glimpse of it on the right in the above picture. Elisabeth works on and off on this epic piece. Just stitching what takes her fancy. She mainly uses Heathway Milano crewel wool, but beads and other threads are also included.
Latest addition to the piece is this adorable monkey in Turkey rug stitch. He is just such a lively chap amongst all the greenery! And I love the fact that his coat is so nicely mottled. Elisabeth must have had great patience whilst filling such a large area with Turkey rug stitch. And a lot of courage cutting it into shape :).
Next up is Sabine Gallner's peacock clutch bag in the making. This piece was started during my goldwork embroidery course a few weeks ago. Although it was originally inspired by an antique clutch bag, we have moved away form an exact copy. It is quite a challenge to use these long stretches of wire check to fill the peacock's tail. They later get secured with pearl purl and a blue spangle with a bead. You can get the idea from the one in the left-hand corner. This will be a real showstopper once finished!
And last, but not least: two creative bees made during yesterday's goldwork embroidery workshop. The left bee was stitched by Monika Wilms. She is now planning to stitch a larger floral-with-creepy-crawlies-piece which will combine stumpwork embroidery and goldwork embroidery. So looking forward to mentor her on that one!
The bee on the left was started by Sonja, a lace-making friend of Monika and Sabine. Sonja had not embroidered in a long time and had never done any goldwork embroidery. I think she did a terrific job!
Would you like to stitch your own Bee Creative piece? A full kit with instructions in either English or German is now up for sale in my webshop. Alternatively, you can purchase the instructions for direct download.
One more thing: I would love to start a student gallery here on my website! Showcasing embroidery pieces made by you from my kits, downloads or conceived during my embroidery courses. If you would like your piece included, please do send me a picture. I will start compiling the gallery in the next few days!
Jessica M. Grimm
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