Happy New Year! May it be filled with lots of exciting embroidery adventures. And I can help you with that :). Below you will find details of two embroidery workshops I am organising this year. I have also returned to Social Media. Thanks to Elon Musk and his imperial behaviour on Twitter, I became aware of Mastodon. It is a social network but not as we know it from Meta. It is federated, has no algorithm and you have total control over your data and privacy. How do they do it? Quite simple. Mastodon is a non-profit and its software is open-source. The tone is very friendly and I have already met a few amazing embroiderers and embroidery artists. Most of them are new to me as the tribe on Mastodon is generally a bit different from the Meta tribe. So, if you share my concerns about privacy, Meta's threats to democracy and are generally fed up with an ever-changing algorithm, why not try Mastodon? You can find me here. I'll post pictures of what I am currently stitching. But I will also boost other interesting embroidery posts to make more people aware of this amazing artform.
After last year's successful embroidery workshop in Glentleiten, the museum and I decided to do it again this year. During the first weekend of August, we will again turn one of the historic buildings into a medieval embroidery workshop. This time, I will teach you how to recreate a golden bird inspired by the 11th-century Wolfgang chasuble. You will learn how to transfer the design and work on a professional slate frame. The actual goldwork embroidery consists of a few simple stitches (split stitch, stem stitch and couching) and is ideally suited for beginners. More advanced embroiderers can hone their skills in free-hand couching patterns. More information and how to sign up can be found here.
As Germany is quite a large country, I am slowly trying to find fitting workshop venues in other parts of the country. I am delighted to have been invited to teach at the Cathedral Treasury Museum in Halberstadt. Their medieval textiles collection on permanent display is probably the largest in Europe. We will be sitting in the medieval cloisters right next to the collection. This gives us ample opportunity to compare our own work with that of the medieval embroidery masters. During the workshop, you will learn three couching techniques which are commonly seen in medieval goldwork embroidery. You will also learn how to set up a professional slate frame. More details and information on how to book can be found here.
By now, you will probably have noticed that I am passionate about the use of quality embroidery tools and materials. Especially the use of a professional slate frame is something I am now adamant about. Why? Because I have seen some pretty ugly things happening outside the Royal School of Needlework. Ignorant me thought that all seasoned embroiderers would work on slate frames as soon as they tackled serious embroidery. That's how I was taught at the RSN. Especially for the full-coverage goldwork embroidery I usually teach, the good old slate frame simply rules. Just before the pandemic hit, I was made to teach my orphreys on a cheap roller frame. It wasn't fun. You need drum-taut fabric that stays that way for a long time. Roller frames and the like can't do that. Hoops can't either. That's why I now provide each of my students with a 12-inch slate frame from Jenny Adin-Christie. Together with a Lowery stand and a magnifier lamp, it forms the perfect workstation for my mobile classroom. Hope to see you in class soon!
My new home
Wow, it is more than a month ago that I wrote a blog post ... But I have finally moved. And I have had a temporary internet connection since Friday. Our apartment has been completely updated, but it turns out that the brand-new cable sockets are empty. Not good when you have cable internet :(. They also needed to completely re-do our brand-new wastewater pipeline and re-install our wrongly installed toilet. Oh, and I have an oven that I can't use, or we lose power in the whole building ... Yep, the joys of modern construction. Just imagine I would run my embroidery company the same way these builders run theirs :). On the upside: my husband has an ultra-short commute to work. A five-minute walk through the snow is much nicer than a 20-minute drive! So, let me show you where I live and what my workspace now looks like.
With a little over 60 sqm, our apartment is rather small. When you come in through the front door, there is a bedroom on the left. It also has my husband's workspace in there. Straight on from the front door is the bathroom on the left and a galley kitchen on the right. And on the far right is our living room with my workspace. As our apartment is on the first floor, we have a south-facing balcony running along the full length of our apartment. Timmie the cat loves the balcony. Especially as he can visit our nice neighbours on either side. And there is plenty for him to see. To the left of our building is the monastery's farm. To the right is Ettal Abbey. And right in front of us is the cheesery. Local milk is delivered there each morning and turned into delicious cheese, yoghurt, quark and butter.
Ettal is a small village which basically evolves around Ettal Abbey. It currently has 724 inhabitants dispersed over three hamlets. Apart from the cheesery, there is a very fine bakery, but we don't have a village shop. Most people living here either work for the Abbey or are employed at Linderhof (one of the palaces of Ludwig II). The population is rather internationally diverse. The monks currently run a small refugee home (next to our building) and have turned a wing of the monastery into accommodation for Ukrainian refugees. The vibe is quite different from Bayersoien where I used to live.
Squeezing my large studio into a corner of our living room was no small feat! Luckily, we have a dry and warm basement box where I can store my Lowery stands and magnifier lamps that I use when I teach on location. Sorting through all my stash and embroidery stuff turned out to be a good thing. It was the perfect opportunity to give away things that I knew I wasn't going to use anymore. It was also a good time to throw away any WIPs that had been lurking in cupboards for too many years. Everything is now orderly packed away in IKEA's Ivar shelving system. I can set up my trestles or Lowery stand in front of the balcony doors to take advantage of the natural daylight. The dining table doubles as a computer workspace and filming area.
As my apartment is so small, I do not have the opportunity to teach here. Nor do I have the space to stock embroidery items for my webshop. This means that my webshop will be confined to selling digital products, workshops and courses (with maybe the occasional piece of fabric and gold thread). I am currently preparing two weekend workshops for August and September. More details will follow early next year.
Just returned, but already taking the next blogging break :). As we are moving into the holiday season, I am taking a break from blogging again. My next blog will be on the 9th of January 2023 with details of my upcoming workshops. Wishing you all a lovely Christmas and all the best for 2023!
You have until midnight CET on Monday the 7th of November to snatch up my embroidery kits and my embroideries for half price! This will be your last chance. Anything not sold will not be on offer again. As getting a landline and internet connection at my new place takes a while in Germany, I will be offline from the 10th until the 28th of November. During this time, I will have very limited internet access. I'll hope to return in early December with a fresh blog post!
Sale: 50% off on kits and embroideries
Yuhuu! I finally know when we are moving. It is all going to happen in the first half of next week. For the first time in my life, I will have a new kitchen. It even has something we won't use: a dishwasher. We are not dishwasher people. But I feel very grown-up now that I finally have one :). As the new apartment is about 32 sqm smaller than the current one, I have been sorting through everything I own. I was lucky to be able to find new homes for almost everything. Now is the final push. You'll get 50% off on my remaining embroidery kits and finished embroideries. Read on for details!
Over the years, I made many class models. Some were pretty enough and got framed and put up for sale. I also made some thread studies to get acquainted with needlepoint embroidery threads generally not available here in Europe. And I made some small embroideries in Schwalm and Stumpwork techniques to sell to tourists when I was still part of a local group of craftspeople. None of that is me anymore. So the remainder is up for sale. Anything not sold by midnight CET on the 7th of November will go to a charity shop.
After I have moved and have fully settled in my new surroundings, I will start developing new embroidery kits and courses. Both in-person and online. These will all be based on medieval techniques and historical examples. I have therefore decided to retire my petite needlepoint series of embroidery kits. These are full material kits with downloadable instructions. Instructions are available in English, Dutch and German. The winter version is even available in French. All kits contain hand-dyed full bobbins/skeins of silk and cotton threads by House of Embroidery and full packets of Mill-Hill beads. So even when you do not stitch the design, at half-price, the materials included are a steal! Any kits not sold by midnight CET on the 7th of November will be absorbed into my stash.
As always: the above as long as stock lasts! As my webshop checkout is not able to very precisely calculate shipping costs for multiple items, please do contact me when you get the feeling that you are overcharged (that's indeed mostly the case, it will not undercharge). In any case, regardless of what shipping costs are stated at the checkout, I will check that you get the best deal. It might also throw a tantrum when you try to buy a kit and an embroidery due to the downloadable instructions. Please put in two separate orders and I'll sort you out with a refund for the extra shipping costs.
The golden vestments in Bern
A huge thank you to all who responded to last week's trestles and maschinenstock giveaway! All pieces have found good new homes and will be shipped as soon as the extra-large shipping boxes arrive. As with everything logistics nowadays this seems to take a bit longer than normal. Please be patient. And for now: let's visit some gorgeous medieval goldwork embroidery from Lausanne Cathedral and currently kept in the Bernisches Historisches Museum in Switzerland. When medieval embroidery is your thing, this is a museum you definitely want to visit. Apart from the vestments from Lausanne Cathedral and many others, the museum also has the Grandson antependium from the 13th-century on permanent display.
The set of golden vestments from Lausanne Cathedral consists of a cope (inv. 307, now on display), a chasuble (inv. 39) and two dalmatics (inv. 38 & 40). The embroidery was made between 1513 and 1517, probably in Brussels, Belgium. This expensive set of vestments made with Italian fabrics and very high-quality orphreys from the Low Countries was commissioned by Bishop Aymon de Montfalcon of Lausanne. Aymon clearly had deep coffers! As Mary is prominently displayed on many of the orphreys it becomes clear that the vestments were always intended for Lausanne Cathedral which is dedicated to Our Lady.
The design drawings on the linen underneath the embroidery were made with black and red ink. The correct shading is also indicated with the ink. There is not a full-colour drawing beneath these embroideries. It is more or less sparse monochrome-shaded drawing. Enough so the embroiderer was aided during his work, but not so strong that it obscured the weave of the linen fabric and made the actual embroidery harder. It is important for the embroiderer to still be able to see the weave of the fabric as the silk shading is more akin to Chinese silk shading (very orderly and counted) than it is to the type of silk shading taught at the Royal School of Needlework (which is random).
Although all orphreys on all four vestments clearly belong together and were thus made around the same time in the same place, they do differ slightly in the execution of the embroidery techniques. I am sure you can separate out several different embroiderers when you study these orphreys in depth. The designs also differ quite a bit stylistically and were clearly inspired by several contemporary painters such as Gerard David, Bernard van Orley and Cornelis Engebrechtsz.
Simple 'one saint' orphreys from the Low Countries often consist of two or more pieces sewn together: a separate saint appliqued onto an embroidered background (of which some very dimensional elements might also be slips). The more complex orphreys of the golden vestments are mostly worked as one piece with only some figures being worked as slips. This is probably easier (and thus quicker) when you have many partly overlapping figures in a single scene. The backs of the orphreys have been stiffened by gluing used paper onto them (letters, invoices, etc.).
Interestingly, true or nue is absent from these orphreys. Instead, most figures are stitched in a form of silk shading. The main figures in the foreground may have parts of their clothing stitched with goldthread. However, the horizontally laid goldthreads are couched in a bricking pattern using gold-coloured silks. The folds are accentuated with some simple line stitches in coloured silks. I have coined the term 'pseudo or nue' for this specific embroidery technique. It is often seen on orphreys from Germany, but rare on orphreys from the Low Countries. True or nue can create fantastic shading and suggest three-dimensionality. Pseudo or nue cannot achieve this. The floral frames around the orphreys are also unique. So far, I have not come across a similar pattern with coloured flowers. This might have been a trademark of this specific embroidery workshop.
If you would like to learn more about the golden vestments from Lausanne Cathedral then please buy the museum publication "Himmel und Hölle in Gold und Seide" by Annemarie Stauffer. There is also a French version available. The book has detailed pictures and descriptions of the orphreys of all four vestments. The introductory chapter is also very well written. You can order the book (22 Swiss Francs) directly from the museum shop by sending them an email. Please remember: when you order from the museum directly you help them financially. Something museums can really use after the many closures during the pandemic!
Trestles to give away
All gone; thanks!
In a couple of weeks, we will be moving from our current 90 sqm apartment to a smaller one of only 65 sqm. This means that I will no longer have an embroidery studio where people can come to learn to stitch. It also means that I have to let go of some embroidery-related inventory. On the upside, we are moving to an apartment right next to Ettal abbey where my husband works; no more commuting in the dark with snow. As the apartment is smaller, it is also cheaper. And it will soon be energy autark and more or less off the grid. Not a bad thing in times of soaring energy bills. In the meantime, I have trestles and a Swiss Maschinenstock for you!
When I ran the Rotterdam Royal School of Needlework satellite, I had four pairs of beech wood trestles made (height: 91 cm). Handily, they can be taken apart for shipping. You can get a pair for packaging + shipping costs only. This means that when you live in Germany, you'll only pay €18,49 for a pair of trestles. When you live elsewhere in Europe (sorry, I am not allowed to send them to the UK due to Brexit), you'll only pay €29,99. For the US it is €86,99, for Canada €60,99 and for Australia €70,99. This includes tracking.
And then I have my spare Swiss Maschinenstock (height: 96 cm, 28 cm hoop). These are traditionally used for Appenzeller whitework. Thanks to the ball joint, you can position the hoop any way you like. And it stays there. The hoop simply unplugs from the hole in the ball joint so that you can access the back. As the Maschinenstock is less heavy than a pair of trestles, the shipping costs are less too: €15,99 Germany, €24,99 Europe, €56,99 USA, €46,99 CAN and €54,99 AUS.
Giving away these four pairs of trestles and the Maschienenstock is on a first come first serve basis. If you are interested in acquiring one, please send me an email. I will then send you a PayPal invoice (sorry, I cannot accept credit cards, bank transfers or checks) with payment instructions. Your item ships as soon as the shipping boxes arrive (should only be a couple of days).
Last week, I attended the CIETA conference at the National Museum in Zurich, Switzerland. A direct train connection between Munich and Zurich made attending very easy. We had three days of excellent talks on archaeological and historical textiles and fibres. The topic ranged from Neolithic bark shoes to the medieval graves of bishops to Dharma transmission robes (Google this as it is fascinating!). On the fourth day, we had the possibility to attend one of four different excursions. I went to Bern and to Riggisberg to visit the Abegg Stiftung. More on that in next week's blog post. Let's start with the National Museum in Zurich. I discovered something familiar there!
But let's handle this in chronological order. Here you see a chasuble with an embroidered chasuble cross made in the last quarter of the 15th-century in the South of Germany. It was once part of the textile treasury of the Rheinau Abbey. Although now very damaged, the silk, gold, and pearl embroidery once must have been exquisite.
Damaged as it is, we can actually see the splendid underdrawing with monochrome shading. This would have helped the embroider fill in the design correctly. This chasuble cross is also a rare example in which the sunny spirals of the background have actually been drawn onto the fabric. By now, I have a feeling that when these sunny spirals are worked very regular and neat that there probably is an underdrawing present. When the sunny spirals are more haphazard, the embroiderer probably used the fingers as a measuring tool. Both approaches totally work but give slightly different results.
Although outside my scope of research, I also found this depiction of an embroiderer. It is part of a wall hanging made in 1601 in Konstanz or Eastern Switzerland. The lady depicted is Luiga Morrel who likely stitched the whole piece. She was a member of a wealthy family and decided to stitch her family members doing everyday chores.
And last but not least, I discovered another 17th-century linen vestment from Tyrol! The chasuble has those characteristic bold flowers stitched in flat silk. The stitch is a kind of Bayeux stitch, but with a twist. To achieve very sharp tips on leaves and petals, the laid silk is often sculpted into place with the couching stitches. If you would like to know more check out my blog post. And if you would like to learn even more and start stitching these beautiful silken flowers yourself, then please buy my eBook on linen vestments from Tyrol!
When archaeological textiles and fibres are your thing, do consider becoming a member of CIETA. You do need to send in a formal application, but I have been told that membership is almost never denied. It just takes a little bit of effort and time. The conferences are open to non-members as well. And honestly, I have attended many conferences throughout my academic career, but this one was by far the best ever. The participants were very kind, and everybody spoke to everybody. Students discussed with professors. Makers talked to researchers. And free-lancers spoke with curators of large collections. It was an amazing event!
Two weeks ago, my husband and I visited the Handwerksfest in Seefeld in Tirol, Austria. I mainly wanted to go as there should have been a gold embroiderer. Unfortunately, the weather was really bad and not all artisans were present. So, no gold embroiderer. But I did see a Federkiel-embroiderer and the even more ancient craft it replaced. Something I had never seen before. I have written about Federkielstickerei before, so do check out that blog post. Let's have a look at my new discoveries!
First up is Federkielstickerei Seiringer. This is a small family business where both the father and the son are embroiderers. They were happy for me to take pictures and shoot some video footage. And I was able to ask some questions about the embroidery technique. Here you see Herr Seiringer work on a small piece of embroidery. The leather piece is fastened into an ingenious contraption that lets the embroiderer work with as straight a back and neck as possible.
In this short video, you can see how the embroiderer makes a small hole with an awl in the leather and then feeds the stripped peacock feather through the hole. How this stripped peacock feather "yarn" gets produced exactly, is a trade secret. But I did ask how he prevented the strip from twisting during stitching. Herr Seiringer explained that the way he places his awl determines how the stripped peacock feather lies. That's pretty cool, don't you think?
Next up, we met Wilfried Weiss. He picked up tiny little pieces of metal with tweezers and positioned them onto a leather belt. We were fascinated by his work, and he started to talk a bit about his craft: the making of Zinnstiftranzen. To prevent the underbelly from getting hurt by a bayonet, knife or bullet, the men in the Alpine regions of Bavaria, Tyrol and Slovenia wore these thick, broad leather belts decorated with tin tacks. These belts first appeared in the late 17th-century and the designs became more elaborate as time went on. Alas, many belts were destroyed during the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815) when the metal was used for bullets. The technique completely vanished from memory and Federkielstickerei took over. Wilfried Weiss re-discovered the technique and now produces his own tin tacks to make the designs with. The design gets copied onto the leather belt and each hole of the design gets pricked. Then the tin tack gets put into the hole with the help of tweezers. The head of the tack stays visible on the front of the belt and forms the design. The 'leg' of the tack sticks out on the back and gets bent over so the tack is secured. Do check out Wilfried's website to see some beautiful examples of this lost art!
Book review: The Bologna Cope
Today I am going to introduce a new book on Opus anglicanum to you. One of my students posted about it in the Medieval Embroidery Study Group. As the book is written in English, the language used by most people in the international embroidery scene, these books are too important to ignore. They have the potential to become gospel. At € 125 + shipping, the book isn't exactly a bargain. So, let's explore its contents together so that you can make an informed decision as to whether to buy it or not.
The Bologna Cope: Patronage, iconography, history and conservation is edited by M.A. Michael and is the second volume in the series "Studies in English Medieval Embroidery". The book can be ordered through Brepols publishers. As the Bologna cope is held in an Italian museum, the book's chapters are mainly written by Italian scholars. But as the editor is from the UK, the book is published in English. Italy has many splendid medieval embroideries and a large body of literature about them. However, it is all published in Italian. Not a language most of us are fluent enough in.
The book starts with a general introduction to the subject. Those of you who went to see the Opus anglicanum exhibition in the Victoria & Albert Museum a couple of years ago, probably remember the Bologna cope as it was displayed right at the entrance. This first chapter also briefly introduces us to a few other embroidered vestments held in Italy. Neither the iconography on these pieces nor their embroidery techniques are described. The pictures are mostly not detailed enough to fill in the blanks.
The second chapter is by M.A. Michael himself and mainly deals with stylistic comparisons between the design of the cope and several other works of contemporary art. It does have a rather good overview of the historical sources containing references to the makers and dealers in Opus anglicanum. However, a lot remains unclear as the dealers can often not be confidently separated from the makers. If you want to know more about the makers of Opus anglicanum, this chapter is not going to add much.
A large chapter is devoted to the iconography of the cope. It is illustrated with many pictures of the embroidery. However, as many of the scenes are quite large, the pictures are mostly not detailed enough to learn more about the embroidery. Only a hand full provide enough detail.
The next two chapters will not be of interest to most embroiderers. One chapter deals with the possible references made to this cope in the inventories of the Friars Preachers in Bologna. And the other chapter deals with the publication and exhibition history of the cope.
The 6th chapter sounds very promising: "Textiles and Embroidery in Italy between 1200 and 1300". Unfortunately, the majority is on the fabrics and not on the embroidery. And don't be fooled. We are not getting an overview of embroidered pieces made in Italy in the 13th-century. It only briefly explores the remaining textiles associated with Pope Benedict XI (donor of the Bologna cope) and his predecessor Boniface VIII. Are there no other 13th-century Italian embroideries? There are! They can be found in the Victoria & Albert Museum, in the Domschatz in Aachen, in the Keir Collection and in the Museo Episcopal Vic. As I don't read Italian very well, my research into Italian medieval embroidery is slow and far from complete. This chapter should have been an excellent opportunity to thoroughly introduce a non-Italian reading audience to the topic.
But it is the last chapter that really has me fuming: "The conservation of the Bologna cope". This chapter should contain a section on the materials and techniques used to create the embroidery on the cope. It doesn't. We are only told that the embroidery is executed on two layers of linen. Count, please! The gold threads are made of silver gilt foil wrapped around a silken core. Composition of the metals? Spun directions? Colour of silken core? Thickness? Any details of the silken threads used for the split stitch embroidery? Length of stitches? The chapter does contain a few close-ups and a few macro images (no scale!). But that is all. What a missed opportunity.
All in all, this book is, at best, a coffee table book. The research essays are not brilliant. For the embroiderer, this book is a huge disappointment and a missed opportunity. No information is added compared to the catalogue entry in "English Medieval Embroidery" from 2016. Should you buy the book? Only if Opus anglicanum is really your thing and you have the cash to spare. Instead, save up for the publications of the Abegg Stiftung and perhaps take some German lessons?
Browne, C., Davies, G., Michael, M.A. (Eds.), 2016. English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum. Yale University Press, New Haven.
Michael, M.A. (Ed.), 2022. The Bologna Cope: Patronage, iconography, history and conservation. Studies in English medieval embroidery II. Harvey Miller, London.
New design for an (online) class
A couple of years ago, I saw the so-called Wolfgang's chasuble at the Diocesan Museum Regensburg (you can read my blog about my 2015 visit). It had this lovely embroidered cross with birds and a four-legged animal amidst scrolling foliage. Although the goldwork embroidery is quite damaged, it is clear that it was once a very high-quality piece of medieval goldwork and silk embroidery. Its design would make for a lovely (online) embroidery class. I've asked my husband to clean up one of the bird designs and this is what he came up with.
The original embroidery was made shortly after AD 1050, probably in Regensburg. A royal residency at the time, Regensburg likely housed the royal workshops when the court was in residence. The way this embroidery, and indeed the whole garment, was made differs markedly from most contemporary pieces. Those pieces are usually all over embroidered and the embroidery is directly worked onto a precious silken fabric or a linen fabric. Good examples of these are the Imperial Vestments, the Uta chasuble and the vestments from Saint Blaise now held in St. Paul im Lavanttal. Many heyday Opus anglicanum vestments also fall into this category. Not so Wolfgang's chasuble. This one has a strip of separately worked embroidery adorning the precious silken vestment. This would become the way forward for the rest of the medieval period and beyond. It is essentially the birth of the orphrey. These smaller pieces of embroidery were far more manageable and could be prepared in advance. Goldwork embroidery could move out of the specially equipped royal workshops and into, probably smaller and simpler, commercial workshops in the emerging towns.
But we can clearly tell that the process of 'how to make an orphrey' was not yet set in stone. In this case, the embroidery seems awfully complex when it comes to its backing fabrics. What had the embroiderer done? It started with a piece of natural coloured silk twill/samite on top of a fine linen. All goldwork embroidery (and probably the stem stitch outlines) was worked that way. Then the piece was backed again with an extra layer of linen before the fine silken split stitches were worked. Curious don't you think? I was told that you back your embroidery when the stitching is particularly heavy. That would be the goldwork and not the silk. Just imagine the sore fingers from pushing a fine needle with silk through three layers of fabric... But I have an idea why the extra layer of linen was added: stiffness. Later, orphreys were routinely backed by gluing recycled paper on the back or simply stiffening the back with a layer of glue.
As I am trying to get hold of the right-ish kind of fabrics for this project, I cannot tell you yet when this design will become available. What I can tell you is that it will be a pre-recorded class that you can work at your own pace. You can start whenever you like, and you will have access to the class videos for at least a whole year from the date of purchase. The class fee will include a full kit. You will have various kit options to choose from. This mainly involves different qualities of gold threads. I will also likely teach this design as a weekend-long class at Glentleiten Open Air Museum next year. How does that sound? Do let me know in the comments, please!
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