This weekend, I had set up shop at the Klosterladen at Ettal Abbey. In the video below, you can see me and my good friend Kathrin working on the needlepoint church kneeler. Later in the day, a young man with his father and grandfather came along. The young lad had a go at embroidery and was really good at it!
Apart from demonstrating stitching a church kneeler, I chat quite a bit with the visitors. That's fun too. But the best part of my 'job' is to observe how people react to monks :).
couple: Are you a real monk?
monk: Do you want to touch? (stretches out an arm)
couple: Do you really live here?
couple: Where exactly?
monk: Oh, madam, I couldn't possibly tell you. I already have so many fans standing under my window at night!
And to prove that we not only laugh our socks off all day, here is a picture of process so far:
Yup, it is true: I have arrived in the modern area too. It took me years. But when I heard that Fairphone makes smart phones that last, are repairable and don't use blood minerals; I ordered one. So far, I have used it to download (and use!) a 5K running app, Instagram, WhatsApp with my family, use Google for directions and information AND made the very occasional phone call :). Still much prefer my Ipad and Laptop... Maybe I should seek professional help? Pondering this option, I did make my Fairphone a cozy home to live in.
On Zweigart Newcastle natural coloured 40ct linen, I outlined the bird with chainstitch using a #12 variegated House of Embroidery perle colour Grapes C. Then I stitched partial buttonhole wheels for the feathers on the tail and the wing. I added straight stitches for the feet and the beak and attached some blue beads along the upper-edge of the wing. From the back, I withdrew every fourth thread in both directions and then added a Schwalm filling stitch called 'Gefieder'. The lettering was stitched using stem stitch. To make my 'phone home' a bit sturdier, I added wadding and a sheet of template plastic. The seams were then pimped with knotted pearl stitch. So far, my phone seems to be pretty comfy in her new home!
I've asked my very talented husband to make a nice clean digital drawing of my scribbled birdy pattern. You can download it at the end of this article. Apart from using it as I did in a Schwalm embroidery way (finished design including lettering H 55mm), there is tons of other possibilities. How about stitching it monochrome on a piece of felt? Or applique with a few simple stitches for embellishment? Surprise me!
Next up is another #broderibox project using a design of a Chlamydosaurus by Millie Marotta. This amazing creature can impress by unfolding his neck frill. However, it can only do so in opening its mouth widely. The bones in the frill are extensions of the hyoid or tongue bone. Isn't nature amazing?! The lovely people of Nordic Needle had put in a glow-in-the-dark thread made by Rainbow Gallery. I made sure to add it to every canvas stitch I used on the chlamydosaurus (it is the white thread you see). And it glows beautifully at night! Unfortunately, it doesn't translate well in a picture. You have to take my word for it.
Last finish for today: the Floral Pomander by Hazel Blomkamp. I really enjoyed this project with all the little flowery scenes using simple embroidery stitches and tiny beads. However, the instructions were a bit messy with tiny pictures of the finished panels. And piecing the pomander together was a little fiddley. That said, it makes a great project if you like miniature embroidery, beads and a different way of finishing your embroidery. Oh, and thanks to the dried lavender mixed in with the toy stuffing, it is my best smelling project ever :)!
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 :).
They're done! After 174,5 hours of stitching, my traditional Bavarian braces/suspenders were picked up by a very happy costumer yesterday. I used 82 skeins of DMC and Anchor stranded cotton and 18 TPI brown canvas. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy:
This is the total length of them: 115 cm. It's a tall lad :).
And a close-up of the re-drawn antique pattern used.
And the breast piece with the coat of arms of the village of residence. Now my embroidered 'raw material' goes to the saddler to get its leather backing and matching corded trims. Time to get one of my other embroidery projects out!
Happy start of the week dear reader! I am back from a week full of wonderful sight-seeing with my family. And one of the sites we visited was the Bauernhofmuseum in Illerbeuren. A pretty open air museum showcasing farm life from the Swabia area of Germany. And of course, there was some lovely embroidery on display as well. Mostly on household linens and mainly involving monogramming and whitework embroidery. How about these gorgeous Richelieu embroidered curtains featured in an inn?
If you would like to explore more of the 19th and 20th century embroidery on display at the museum in Illerbeuren, do have a look at my Flickr account: fairytale771978. I have also bought a brilliant book on buttons and will review that in an upcoming blogpost. Keep your eyes peeled!
In between family commitments, I sneaked in enough embroidery moments to complete my next #broderibox project. The broderibox is a monthly embroidery threads subscription put together by the lovely people of Nordic Needle. This month's box contained: five embroidery threads, beads and a purse clasp. Since the threads had a lot of browns in them; an ant sprang to my mind. Lucky for me, the amazing Millie Marotta has drawings of ants included in her colouring-in book 'Wild Savannah'.
As many of you probably know, canvaswork or needlepoint embroidery is stitched front to back. Or: object first, background later. Now be good and do not ever do that with your silk shading ;)! So, in this case, I started with my ant. She is called Truus de Mier, by the way. A favourite ant from a children's tv-show in the Netherlands. For Truus' body, I used a variegated perle #8 by Valdani. I really wanted to try this brand of embroidery threads. It worked a treat! No 'typical-low-grade-Eastern-European-Quality' here. As I wanted Truus to have a little 'body' to her body, I used the raised spot to fill it. As this stitch required me to pass 8-times through the same hole, I expected the thread to wear beyond pretty. But it didn't. They surely do know how to produce a fine perle in Romania!
Next up were Truus' legs. I stitched them in tent stitch and used both directions for different legs. This made the whole thing a little less tangled-up when legs crossed. The legs were stitched using Vineyard Silk shimmer. It is a silk thread with a shimmering filament added. It does not have a nice feel and it unfortunately stitched accordingly. A bit disappointing as I really liked the previous 100% silk threads by Vineyard Silk!
Apparently, ants have segmented legs that start with a bit of a bulky part. And ants have a mouth piece with which they cut leaves in handy transportable portions. Since this month's #broderibox had a violet Londonderry linen thread in it, I decided to use it to stitch these parts in cross-stitch. Lovely thread! I do stitch some whitework embroidery with linen threads and really love it.
That's Ms Truus de Mier sorted. On to the background. I decided to stitch the earth on witch Truus walks with Silk Lame Braid by Rainbow Gallery. Despite it being a silk thread mixed with metalized polyester and some rayon, it felt and stitched fantastically. Very well suited for the vertical Parisian stitch.
As the variegated cotton thread Watercolours by Caron had some blue in it, that was going to be turned into the sky. I separated the three plies and stitched the diagonal Cashmere stitch with one ply. I really love these cotton threads by Caron! They are so soft and hold up so well whilst stitching on canvas.
To finish my Truus de Mier, I decided that she needed a bright green stumpwork leaf. I wired a piece of dupion silk backed with calico. The buttonhole edging was stitched using a #12 House of Embroidery perle from my stash. I added the Mill Hill magnifica beads provided in the #broderibox to my leaf. Subsequently, I stitched a few beads onto Truus for an eye. And that's another #broderibox project finished satisfactorily!
P.S.: us dummies did take the camera with us to the Bunter Markt craft fair in Wessobrunn on Sunday, however, we forgot to take a picture of our stand... On the up-side, we did manage to sell two pendants and shed a few flyers and business cards!
Let's start with a joyful 'Happy Easter' to you all! Then we talk a bit about embroidery. And at the bottom of this blog article there will be, very aptly, naked bottoms. I won't judge you if you scroll :).
Let's kick-off with my canvas lion who somehow reminds me of Lenny Kravitz. So now the piece is referred to as Lenny the Lion :). Early April, I received another broderi box from Nordic Needle. This time filled with pretty golden, yellow and rustic red threads. When I saw the threads, I knew they would suit a lion well. Luckily for me, Millie Marotta has issued a new colouring book called: Wild Savannah.
It took me quite a while to get Lenny's face right. I wanted to use a single colour and only generate some definition through the use of different stitches. I used an amber coloured 100% silk called Autumn Orange by Vineyardsilk. I so love this twisted spun silk with a pretty lustre! It is such a well-behaved thread.
For Lenny's manes, I ran riot with stitches and threads. So much fun! I used a variegated rustic red cotton thread called Chili of the Wildflowers range by Caron. And a dark red velvet thread by Rainbow Gallery. Also from them is the yellow thread aptly called 'Fuzzy Stuff'. I feared the worst, but you can actually stitch with it :). Also in my broderibox and thus in Lenny's manes: Londonderry Linen thread 'Maple Sugar'. Quite nice to stitch with and a real 'calmer' in the manes-craze.
But best of all, was a spool with a metallic thread called Bijoux 'Tiger Eye'. Since my family widely believes there are magpies in our ancestry, it is no wonder I like threads with a sparkle! I finished Lenny by filling in the African sky behind him with a thread from February's broderibox: Tropic Seas from the Watercolours range by Caron.
As you can probably guess by now, I thoroughly enjoy my monthly broderiboxes. It is the perfect way to learn about new materials. And in order to prevent these lovely goodies from cluttering up my stash, I've set myself the challenge of using them straight away. So far, I stuck to my plan!
Let's move on to the pansies, shall we? Last week saw three women stitching away in my studio. They took part in my silk shading embroidery retreat. Personally, I think silk shading is an embroidery technique which you either love or hate, you can or you can't. It is deeply personal and progress is slow. My lovely ladies worked from a picture of a large blue-violet pansy. After five days of stitching diligently, eating lots of cake and laughing until our bellies hurt; you can see Elena's pansy on the left, Sabine's in the middle and Monika's on the right. I think they did a great job! Hopefully, I get to see the finished results upon their next visit.
Now: THE naked bottoms! As probably many of you know, my husband is a Catholic and I am a Protestant. Since we live in a predominantly Catholic environment, I sing in a Catholic church choir and worship in the same church. Although both Christian denominations, there are some differences and I am not always getting it. I usually blame that on John Calvin :). However, this Easter Mass, I wasn't the only one who was confused... This is what happened:
Due to a severe lack of priests, we got the 'monk-who-never-smiles' on loan from the local abbey. So far so good. However, he compared integrating the Lord's resurrection into our everyday lives with an ad for the protection of the environment. And you guessed it: This ad featured naked bottoms on a bench. With his ever-straight-face he even described these naked bottoms as being: Greek, Roman or of such making that they 'needed a little more space'... This left us very, very confused!
Yes, I know, 2017 should have been the year of my casket. Things never go to plan, do they? Luckily, I have a very pleasant interruption: a commission of another pair of traditional Bavarian braces. Today, I'll share with you how I go about such a commission.
Since I have stitched several of these braces to date, I now know that it will take me 150-200 hours to complete one. When you work on larger projects, it is always a good idea to keep track of your stitching hours and the materials used. After all, it is nice to be able to tell people who ask, how long it took you to create the masterpiece. Especially if they want one too and would like to commission you.
Next up: what does my client want? I have several books on Berlin woolwork. For instance, books by Raffaella Serena feature beautifully detailed antique patterns. The Antique Pattern Library has some of these hand-painted patterns too and there seem to be new ones added all the time. Browsing the books, my client can then pinpoint what he or she wants. When I have my client appointment, my table is also laid out with all the DMC skeins in order. This enables us to match colours and patterns. And they love the visual feast!
Then it is time to cut and paste a new pattern from the old ones the client wants me to use. This makes it a new and unique pattern. I only use this new pattern for this specific client. There are far too many exactly the same Hosenträger in Bavaria already. I use computer software to draw the new pattern: Cross Stitch Professional platinum. Not cheap, but very good and unmissable if you do this job regularly.
As subsequent turning my embroidery into a Hosenträger with a leather back, corded edges and buckles is a rather harsh process, I use sturdy embroidery materials: 18 TPI Antique Canvas and DMC/Anchor stranded cotton. The stranded cotton is used as is; no stripping of threads. Maybe not the prettiest thread to use, I would love to use a perle, but it is tradition :).
Then I send a computerised picture of the pattern to the client for approval. Once approved, I set up my frame and stitch one repeat pattern. I photograph that again and send it once more for approval. In this case, the guy commented 'unbelievably horny'! Yup, that's what he said :). Isn't German a fantastic language? So now I am all set to stitch the other 15 repeats :)!
My studio seems to be flooded with commissions at the moment. There might be a causation with the fact that Christmas is only 5.5 weeks away... A major milestone was reached today upon finishing the lengths of another pair of Bavarian braces I started quite a while ago.
Both lengths are 107 cm long and five centimetres wide. It took me 173 hours to stitch them. They were stitched using a full strand of DMC floss. I've used 22 colours on 18 TPI brown canvas. The pattern was adapted from an old Berlin Wool Work hand painted pattern. So, for the moment at least, there is no one with the same pair of braces in all of Bavaria :). I love to stitch unique patterns and I will not use this pattern again as long as it is still worn. The only option to obtain the pattern is to sit quietly behind the wearer in church with a piece of graph paper...
I've also spent some time today on designing the breast piece. It will feature the coats of arms of Bad Bayersoien flanked by two fearsome lions. Hope to finish that in the next couple of weeks too. Along with a couple of traditional shirts which need monogramming.
Regarding my refugee ladies crafting group; we laughed our socks off (a picture of my husband proofed to be very popular with the ladies!). In between the laughter, I even learned a new stitch from Ukraine. Never seen it before and I will make a tutorial once all the commissions have safely left the building. A huge thank you to all who left words of support and encouragement on my website or otherwise. The donations received will be used at a later date. The coming weeks, we will do some paper crafting to produce Christmas decorations to be sold at our local Christmas market. Every little helps.
I've been challenged by my dear friend Marina Berts to participate in an Art Chain and publish my artwork five days in a row in my blog. Challenge accepted! So here is the second piece:
This piece is also part of my Royal School of Needlework portfolio. During one of our family holidays to Bad Bayersoien in the early '90s, I was introduced to the work of German expressionist Franz Marc (1880-1916). I particularly like his bright colours and the 'graphical' feel of his work. My favourite piece is 'Der Tiger', so I decided to stitch that one first. This year, I hope to start work on his 'Füchse'. You can find more on Franz Marc and his work on Wikipedia. See you tomorrow for part 3 of the Challenge!
My current embroidery project consists of a pair of Bavarian braces which will be worn at first communion by Maxi. The straps are nearly finished and then there is only the breast piece (Steg) to be stitched. These braces are part of the Bavarian folk costume and were first seen in the early 18th century. From what I have seen, the oldest surviving ones are from about the mid-19th century. These were stitched in tent stitch on a linen background. The patterns are the same as for Berlin Wool work: mainly roses and other flowers, as well as animals and foliage. Me and my husband find a lot of inspiration in the old patterns. It is great fun to use new colour combinations and introduce new flowers. Maxi's pattern consists of a rose, followed by a cornflower, a fuchsia and a pansy. The Steg will feature the coat of arms of Bad Bayersoien. We use Crossstitch Professional Platinum to design our patterns. It easily allows us to adjust colours and to shift or flip design elements about.
Nowadays, mainly canvas is used instead of linen. I am working on brown 18 count mono canvas made by Zweigart and I use a whole strand of DMC or Anchor stranded cotton. As the background of the braces are covered with black stitches, I have found that on occasions white canvas shines through. Please don't be tempted to remedy this by 'painting' your white canvas black with a thick marker pen! These inks are not stable. The embroidery will be steam pressed at high temperatures when the leather backings are put on and you don't want black ink spoiling your lovely pink roses. Another thing to avoid is the thin double canvas. It is not sturdy enough and may rip during the construction process.
As tent stitch is a repeated stitch in one diagonal direction, there is a heightened risk of the straps becoming askew. To avoid this, I use a slate frame. As an added bonus, my posture whilst stitching is better too. Quite important as only the straps have taken 101 stitching hours so far. It also allows me to work with both hands and to 'automatically' start and finish my threads. This speeds up the work enormously. First: working with two hands. My slate frame rests on two adjustable standers. For this kind of work, I like my frame tipped slightly towards me. As I am right handed, my right hand stays on the back of the frame, whilst my 'weaker' left hand is guided by my eyes on the front of my embroidery. With each stitch I pass my needle from my left hand to my right hand and back. Much more economical movements then when I would only use my 'good' right hand and would have to move my whole arm forwards and backwards.
Secondly: automatically start and end threads. This method was such a huge eye opener when I studied at the Royal School of Needlework in London! And now I am met with a lot of 'aha, that's genius' when I pass the skill on as a tutor. Have a look at the picture above. You might think my embroidery has a bad hair day, but that is not the case (the same can unfortunately not be said of me...). Every tail of thread you see is either the start of a thread or the end. When I now continue stitching these threads are caught on the back and secured. Once I reach one of these tails, I can snip it off knowing that it is indeed secured on the back. For this method to work, it is paramount that pattern and background are stitched more or less simultaneously. The practice of firstly stitching the flowers and then fill out the black background in one go is not only tedious, but also adds the risk of differences in thread tension. Occasionally, I do unintentionally pull up a fibre of a starting or ending thread. No worries, I just pull or push it back. With practice, this occasional annoyance becomes less frequent.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my current embroidery project. Soon, I hope to post some pictures of the end result. In the meantime, if you would like to learn how to stitch traditional Bavarian braces in a small friendly group. Then why not join me at the Gunklstube in Bad Bayersoien in March!
Jessica M. Grimm
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