Before I'll start this week's blog post, I'd like to express my gratitude to the many of you who left messages of support on my blog or via email. Thank you very much!
As a form of continued professional development, I'd like to complete at least one larger embroidery project a year. This year's CPD is going to be inspired by a medieval orphrey kept at the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, the Netherlands. I wrote a blog entry on an exhibition of medieval goldwork embroidery from the Netherlands held at the museum last year. You can find a picture and details of the orphrey of St. Laurence patron saint of Rotterdam, and indeed many excellent pictures of embroidery, in their catalogue. I contacted the museum for a high resolution digital picture of the piece. They were very helpful and within days I had the information I wanted.
Firstly, I spend several hours on redrawing the image from the picture. Older textiles have a tendency to distort. After I was happy with the result, I made a pricking and pounced it. Painting with water colour on c. 40 ct. natural coloured linen wasn't easy. So far, I only had experience with nice smooth silk. My lines are a little thick and my paint didn't stay at the right fluidity for long. However, since the whole picture will be solidly packed with either gold threads or silk, it is not a problem. By the way, I used my brand new high quality beech wood slate frame hand made locally. Would you like to work with the Rolls Royce of embroidery frames too? They are now available from my webshop.
As you can see, the saint will be stitched separately from the background. He will be later appliqued to the background. I will also work some of the background ornaments separately. I intend to applique the whole piece on a scrap of red chasuble fabric.
I've decided to start work on the saint. He will be stitched in Chinese flat silk and fine Japanese thread. Chinese flat silk has the advantage that I can split it to very fine strands of fib6res. This will be especially important for my tapestry shading of the detailed face.
As we attended Easter mass at 5:00h this morning, you will appreciate that I started with the least intricate part of Laurence: his shoes. They are worked in tapestry shading using two shades of a lovely dark chocolate. I split the flat silk in two. My tapestry shading is worked over a split stitch edge. That's all I managed today :).
Tomorrow, two ladies from Switzerland and two from Germany will join me for a five-day course on Goldwork embroidery. I am looking forward to meet them and spent a week sharing my knowledge with them. More on their results in next week's blog. After that, I'll regularly keep you update on St Laurence.
Finished violet and a little sale
Last week I finally finished my needle painted purplish violet from a picture I took on my balcony. Unfortunately, the piece saw a lot of stop and go due to all the other stuff related to running an embroidery business that gets in the way of the real stitching. It does affect the piece, but all in all, I am happy with the result. Nice thing I noticed: I am a much better stitcher than I was five years ago when I stitched my famous anemone. Thread condition is sooooooo much better. The piece shines like a polished chestnut. Want to try your hand at replicating the piece (or better still: do a better job :)!), why not join me on a five-day course in needle painting? You will work the same violet from the same picture with the same lovely palette of stranded cottons.
And remember my trip to customs last week? I had to go all the way to Weilheim and then wait, wait and wait some more. Biggest problem this time: what the #§$*! are SILK ribbons made of and what tax number do they have? And I thought I'd solved that problem last time I paid the customs guys a visit. Nope. Now I will have to have a sample tested (and pay for that, of course!), otherwise I can't import them anymore. How lovely.
Any ways. With the silk ribbons came a new old line of perle #8 from House of Embroidery. Instead of the 3x9 metres on the little cards, you can now buy single skeins of 27 metres. To celebrate this latest addition to my ever expanding enterprise, a skein is priced at just €1.80 (normal price €2.00). The 3x9 metres on the little cards are discontinued and are also on sale for €1.80 (was €2.00). And on top of that, the lovely people at House of Embroidery have come up with some lovely new colours. Let me introduce you to The Ocean:
None of the colours have been really replaced or discontinued. However, some colours have been tidied up. Meaning that they are merged with other, similar varieties. The Ocean is, however, a completely new addition and I think it is yummy! So why not pay a visit to my webshop and admire all the new colours available? Better still, get your Christmas shopping off to a good start! Sale price available till the end of November 2015.
And last but not least, thanks to all the lovely people who visited my stand at the Festival der Handarbeiten in Dachau on Saturday. It was a terrific way to meet new people and to promote my embroidery business. As I am planning to attend small textile or seasonal shows more often, we had to add a new 'family member'. More about that in a future post.
This week will see me busy mostly not doing embroidery. It's computer time. My workshop and course schedule for 2016 is nearly finished and will go up at the end of the week/early next week (guess what the theme is of next week's blog post...). I am getting pretty excited about all the new bits. In the meantime, here are two projects I have been working on recently.
This fun cross stitch piece was stitched in the evening hours when I needed to unwind from a day's work. I love the composition and the colours. A very nice contrast to our autumn weather and the first snow. Yes, that's right: the white stuff is back. Head over to Nathalie Cichon's website for more fun designs.
And here is a sneak peek of the silk shading project I will be teaching at ArtTextil in January 2016. It was the perfect piece to work at the museum last week. We had some very interested visitors. One lady from America in particular showed me a picture of her own unique art quilts. Such a treat! And I had a very serious young man stitching a beautiful starry bookmark. Früh übt sich wer ein Meister werden will!
P.S. My blog posts on the Regensburger Domschatz have been published in Handwerken zonder Grenzen 191!
A few weeks ago, I visited a most spectacular exhibition at the Catherijne Convent, Utrecht, Netherlands. From their own collection and from the collections of other museums, convents and churches, they had brought together the largest exhibition on medieval paraments I have ever seen. Copes, chasubles and dalmatics were exhibited free standing on a dais so you could have a good look without being hindered by glass. Lighting levels were however still kept modest.
Since only the best was good enough for God, medieval paraments were made of the most expensive fabrics finely embroidered with gold thread and silks. This meant that only the rich could afford to pay for them. One such a lucky bastard (literally: he was the illegitimate son of Philip the Good) was David of Burgundy, bishop of Utrecht from AD 1456-1496. Especially for the exhibition, the golden set of a cope, chasuble and two dalmatics donated by David to the St. Jan church of Utrecht was displayed together again. You couldn't tell that these pieces were more than five centuries old!
And isn't this a delightful example of late mediaval embroidery? The silk embroidery on Christ's face and hair is so expertly done. Unfortunately, the level of lighting was particularly low in this part of the exhibition. This is a detail of a cope shield from AD 1520 depicting the resurrection.
From a completely different quality is the above detail of a late 15th century chasuble. The angel is far less detailed and the gold threads are of a lesser quality. Hence they lost their lustre and became oxidized. After all, not everybody was a rich enough bastard like lucky David.
For those of you who missed the exhibition or simply lived too far away, the exhibition catalogue is a gem. More than 270 pages of embroidery goodness with many detailed photographs and a whole chapter on embroidery techniques by master embroideress Ulrike Mülners. Don't be put off by the fact that the book is in Dutch; the pictures will do the talking. Although I do agree that standard works shouldn't be written in such an obscure language like Dutch. You can order your copy with the publisher. Book plus oversees shipping is just shy of €60 or 69 American Dollars. Not bad at all.
In the coming months, I will show you more pictures of this exquisite exhibition. However, with the show at Osnabrück a mere four weeks away, I am up to my neck into writing tutorials, ordering materials and packing kits. See you next week after a short break in Vienna where my path hopefully crosses more gold threads...
I was never much of a Barbie's girl, however I do now wonder if Mattel ever made a bishop version. I would definitely buy one! And you might one too after you've seen the splendid gold and silk embroideries in this third post on the Regensburger Domschatz.
When you enter the exhibition, you are greeted by this splendid mitra pretiosa, and precious she is indeed. Heavily encrusted with gold and silver embroidery, fresh water pearls and gem stones. The floral motives are worked in the guimped couching technique with a fine passing thread over card. Fillings are worked in various fine basket stitch patterns. Wheat ears are worked with looped purls and sequins are sewn down with fresh water pearls. The piece was made in 1793/94 AD in Regensburg.
The mitre consists of two tapered shields (cornua) sewn together at the sides. The lining of the mitra is essentially still a cap. The two bands on the back are called vittae and symbolise the Old- and the New Testament.
These episcopal gloves date to the mid-18th century and were made in southern Germany. The extended cuffs (anicalia) are embroidered with delicate coloured silk and gold thread embroidery. Today, episcopal gloves are only seldom worn by bishops and other prelates.
Of a completely different style is the cope of the so called Stingelheim set. These liturgical vestments were donated by Dean Georg von Stingelheim (1741-1759). The vestments were made in 1740 AD in southern Germany. Colourful floral silk and gold embroidery on withe silk fabric.
Look at the beautiful shading of the green leaves and the red central flower.
One of my favourite pieces in the exhibition is this chasuble covered in beautiful silk shaded flowers on a satin background. Texture is added by basket weave couching techniques in the cornucopias from which the flowers sprout. The shading is exquisite and the colours are still really strong and vivid. I can clearly see my little bishop doll wearing a miniature version of this!
I hope that these pieces have brightened your day too. And maybe they have even inspired you to a new embroidery piece. Do share your ideas below.
Last week the Mayoress called to let me know that Andreas Baar of the Münchener Merkur paper would come to interview me. After all, a Dutchie stitching traditional Bavarian braces is a bit of a story, don't you agree? So here is Andreas' nice story about me and my folk stitching:
And now I am a bit of a local celebrity... Visiting the post office, my local cake dealer, the bookshop or waiting for the buss is no longer an anonymous activity. People's reactions are heart warming! And it has brought me many new stitching enthusiasts. Last Wednesday, I started a two day class on stitching Bavarian braces. We had a jolly good time at the Gunkelstube. Next month, I'll be teaching monogramming on Bavarian folk shirts. If you are interested, there are still a few spaces available. Please contact me.
On the stitching side of things: here is the progress on my silk shading Hollyhock. It is slow going, but I am looking forward to the finished piece. It will be on display at Nadel & Faden in September. Would you like to learn silk shading? Then why not join me at one of my classes at Nadel & Faden? You can register here.
Last but not least: this is the current view of my embroidery studio. Where has all the stitching go, I hear you wonder. Well, my dear husband brought me some medieval animal bone from Middelburg, Netherlands. I will be analysing six lovely boxes full of butchery remains for the rest of this week. No more stitching. Sometimes a girl just needs to make some money :)!
My guilty pleasure are richly decorated, sparkling chasubles (in the mists of time, one of my ancestors for sure must have been a crow). A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the chasubles designed by Leo Peters when they were on display in the Willibrordus church in Deurne, Netherlands. Peters worked in the style of the Art Nouveau with which he was successful around 1915-1920. His designs are very characteristic and easily recognisable once you have seen one. So here comes a bit of eye candy:
Silk Shading: Hollyhock
Ever since I did my first silk shading embroidery (purple anemone), I wanted to do another but then use real silks instead of stranded cotton. I have a lovely collection of real Chinese flat silks as used in Suzhou embroidery; so why not put it to good use? Several years ago, I took this picture of a hollyhock and occupant in my back garden:
Before the actual stitching fun with feisty split flat silk threads could begin, I had to get to know this flower intimately... So, I coloured one version in and I made a stitch plan which shows direction and order of stitch.
Time to dress my slate frame with a gorgeous dark green dupion silk (Silk Society) stitched on top of a piece of calico backing (old bed sheet, in fact!). I transferred the design onto the silk with the help of a light box and a white marking pen by Clover. The bundles of Chinese silk come in 6 to 8 tonal values. Obviously, I choose yellow and green for the flower and leaves and some additional colours for the bumble bee and its shadow. Time to use my beautiful wooden spools to keep them tidy.
Here you can see my setup in front of my balcony doors. No artificial lighting, just pure day light. As you can see, I use a colour image as well as a grey scale image to more clearly see tonal value whilst stitching. Apart from a general colour plan, I also make a detailed plan of each bit. This is very important as the right shading is what the picture will give its lifelikeness. Before the actual embroidery started, I basted the outline of the flower all the way around with a green sewing thread. This should minimalize movement of the silk versus the calico, and thus puckering.
It has been a while since I done any 'serious' silk shading, so some of it inevitably had to come out again. That's one of the wonders of silk shading: you do a lot of reverse stitching. And it is painfully slow (some would say 'utmost relaxing'). And you need to keep at it to develop routine. I am not quite there yet. This is why I try to put in a few hours of stitching each day. The total piece will take up between 120 and 150 stitching hours. However, I am very much looking forward to the results as I really like silk shading. In my opinion, nothing beats this Queen of embroidery techniques!
The coming weeks, I will share progress on a regular basis with you. If you would like to follow another silk shading project 'done the RSN-way', why not pop over to the Unbroken Thread? This is a blog maintained by Kathy Andrews, a Berlin based RSN student. In the mean time, I will keep diligently at it. Promised.
Art Chain Challenge
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 first piece:
This piece is very dear to me and has a prominent place on the wall above my kitchen table. I made the piece as part of my Royal School of Needlework Diploma modules applique and advanced silk shading. What's the piece all about? Well, when I once read a book on Buddhism the whole bascically boiled down to 'doing the right thing at the right moment'. This was illustrated by a parable saying that leaves shouldn't fall from their tree in summer, neither should they cling on in winter.
As part of the Challenge, I should now nominate somebody else. However, although it is a nice opportunity to showcase your work, I do appreciate that everybody is quite busy. So instead, I invite you, dear reader to go and have a look at Andrea's work on her fun blog Andiva. See you tomorrow for part two of the Challenge!
The National Museum has a handful of Late Medieval/Renaissance chasubles on display. By far and large, these are my favourite embroidered objects in any museum. You are in for a treat.
The embroidery on the first chasuble was executed in Cologne in the third quarter of the 15th century (1450-1475 AD). The intricate diaper patterns were made using 'Häutchengold' or skin gold also called Cypriot gold thread. It is comparable to Japanese gold, but was made by gluing gold leaf onto animal gut subsequently wrapped around a core of coloured silk. Here you can find an interesting article on medieval gold thread production by David Jacoby (2014). And here you can find an older article in German by Brigitte Dreyspring (2007). In the early 16th century, the embroidery was rearranged on the green velvet it is attached to today.
Another chasuble with re-used late medieval (c. 1500 AD, Rhineland) embroidery. Click on the pictures to see a close up of the figures executed in fine silk embroidery and surrounded by diaper motives in skin gold.
However, the most elaborately stitched chasuble is the one above. Do click on the pictures as the detail is stunning. The gold and silk embroidery was executed in Italy around 1500 AD. To achieve such a rich texture, the embroiderers used string padding and applique slips on both the silk figures and the oriental architecture. The style reminded me a bit of chasuble remains in the Catherijne Convent Museum, Utrecht (NL), showing the vita of St. Martin and St. Willibrord. However, those were made around the same time, but in the Netherlands.
I have been toying for a while with the idea of trying to replicate some of the highly textured architectural background of these pieces. If only I could find the time :). However, when I do, I will share the process with you. I have a few more goodies to show you from the National Museum, so stay tuned!
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