All the Colours of the Rainbow

January 23, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Posted in Embroidery, Patchwork | Leave a comment

I am currently in the process of finishing a project that has been in the works for more than two years. It’s the second in a series that I started after taking a course with Ruth Issett at the Schwäbischer Kunstsommer at Kloster Irsee in 2013. While looking for the post about the first quilt in that series I realized that I didn’t actually ever post a picture of that quilt, and neither have I shown you the things I created at that course! That definitely needs to be rectified. So let’s start with that series I wanted to show you.

The course was named The Puzzle of Colour, and given that title it was no surprise that we discussed the different colours and played with them all week. After returning home, I was full of more ideas to try out, and started to create the bits and pieces needed for this quilt:


You can see that the different rows run through the colours of the rainbow. I layered two adjacent colours on top of each other, created a pattern with running stitches and then cut into the upper layer to reveal bits of the layer below. You can see this a bit better in this detail shot, although I have to admit that this quilt refused to be photographed nicely:


Within the individual rows, the pattern gets larger from left to right. After I finished this quilt, I immediately started to work on another one. This time I was going to explore how the different colours look like with a light, medium and dark background. While it is still a work in progress, the effect is already there:


The coloured fabric is layered horizontally behind the white, grey and black front, and the circles are cut out. While I secured the edges with the sewing machine before cutting them out, this is still basically raw-edge appliqué, and I tidied up those edges with different embroidery stitches. This ended up as another research project, since I tried out many different stitches to see what would work in that function, and what wouldn’t. I’ll go into more detail on my findings in another post. For starters, here’s a close-up of the very first square I embroidered on that quilt:


Thimble (or Money) Pips

January 10, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Other Crafts | 1 Comment

My nieces are not so little anymore, so in addition to their traditional book they tend to get a bit of money from me these days. Since just putting the money in an envelope is boring, I’m always on the lookout for nice ways to package things. Luckily, with enough time left before the holidays, I stumbled over this tutorial for thimble pips.

I immediately realized that those would be perfect to package a bill or two, and I’m sure teenage girls have always a little something to put into a pretty container. So off I went, and here are the results:


Just a few scraps of a pretty fabric are enough to make one of those. They are a bit fiddly, but I followed the tutorial pretty much exactly and they came out great.

First Finish in 2016

January 1, 2016 at 7:10 pm | Posted in Embroidery | 1 Comment

I’m starting into the new year with just a single resolution, but it is one that should influence quite a few areas in my life: I want to get better at actually finishing things. More often than not, projects around here get dropped when they’re 95% finished, instead of moving them out of the way so there’s space in my brain and my apartment for new things.

So, looking around my living room this morning, I saw an almost finished embroidery project that I aquired at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham in 2014, I think. It was the Poppy Bank mini kit from Rowandean, which I bought because of its interesting use of additional fabric layers to influence the colouring of the background. It’s a tiny little thing at about 8.5 x 5.5 cm, and it was pretty much finished. About an hour of stitching later, here’s what I got:

Poppy Bank embroidery

All the stitching is finished, it just needs a frame or something. But for now, it’s one less thing lying around in my living room trying to get my attention. To many more finished projects in 2016!

I’ve Got Mail!

December 19, 2015 at 8:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’ve been following Alison over at Stitches of Time for a long time. I’m adoring all her posts, be it about the great variety of needlework she creates, the gorgeous photographs she takes on her travels or the adventures she has at medieval reenactment events all over the UK.

A few weeks ago she celebrated her blog’s birthday by doing a giveaway, and I was the lucky winner! The mail took a few days to ship from the UK to Germany, but today I had a lovely little package sitting on top of my mailbox. Here’s what was in there:


Three lovely ornaments and a variety of Christmas fabrics for inspiration! I’m starting to amass quite a collection of Christmas-themed fabrics, must come up with a project for next year!

Back to Lace-Making

June 27, 2015 at 6:07 pm | Posted in Lace | 3 Comments

As an expected and very welcome side effect of my vacation exploits looking at lace in Belgium I’ve been back at my lace pillow that had sat unloved in a corner for several years.

Having found over time that I have no use for lace doilies, and keeping the art stuff to quiltmaking mostly, what do you do? Quite a while ago I decided to just make lengths of lace, just like the ones that would have been used for decorating all kinds of things back when machine lace wasn’t invented. I’ve used some of those strips in my lace quilt (there’s one at number 10 in this post), and there was another one on the pillow, which I finished fairly quickly, because I needed the pillow for a new project:

Bobbin Lace Strip Bobbin Lace Strip - Detail

It’s not quite one meter long (which is usually my goal for these strips), and I wanted to practice working with a single thicker thread as accent here.

So, that being out of the way, what’s the new project? Looking through the lace books available in my library’s catalogue, I found a little gem of a book about Flanders lace. It is the German version of Vlaanderse Kant by J.E.H. Rombach-de Kievid. Looking at the internet, this book doesn’t seem to have been translated into English.

This image from the wikipedia article shows pretty much exactly the pattern that’s currently on my pillow:

Flanders-bean” by Poljo – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Another interesting thing I noticed travelling was just how unusual the lace-making setup I grew up with seems to be. I learnt making bobbin lace in the Erzgebirge region, and everybody there had cylindrical pillows mostly suited to making strips of lace. This is how mine looks like:


In Belgium and England I exclusively saw flat pillows, and smaller bobbins where the thread is wound at the front part. My bobbins have the thread at the back, protected by that dark brown sleeve that slides over the bobbin. There was a cylindrical pillow just like mine shown in the entry area of the Kantcentrum in Brugge, and when I asked the lady there about it she said she believes it came from Spain. Interesting. Off to practice some more Flanders lace!

Kantcentrum Brugge – Belgium’s Center for Bobbin Lace

June 6, 2015 at 5:57 pm | Posted in Lace, Museums and Exhibitions | 3 Comments

Brugge was one of the places on my must-see list in Belgium. It is one of those pretty old towns with lots of old houses and lots of water that I was to find several times during my week of traveling around.


Of course that also means the town is full of tourists and souvenir shops, but that’s to be expected. After a while I was taking care not to look into the windows of the souvenir shops, since the displays made me cringe. The lace that’s displayed as “handmade in Belgium” can’t possibly be both, given the prices listed. It has to be either machine-made or imported from somewhere where handwork isn’t as expensive. I wonder how many Asian tourists take home a piece of “Belgian Lace” that’s made the trip the other way round not long ago.

But I was here to see the real thing, after all. The Kantcentrum is located a bit off the beaten track in an unassuming building, so you’re not likely to stumble over it by accident.


The poster advertising lace-making demonstrations is one of the few things you can see from outside. Inside, there’s a nice little museum with old lace as well as new and lots of information packed into a small space. While buying my ticket, I was also instructed to go upstairs to see the demonstration when I was finished with the exhibition. To my big surprise, there wasn’t just one or two ladies sitting there with their lace pillows, but a whole room full! There must have been something like 15 to 20 women there. It seems like the courses they give double as the demonstrations for the visitors. I was able to see different lace pieces in various states of completion – great eye candy for sure.

As a nice lady in Antwerp would be telling me a few days later, the Kantcentrum is the place to go to if you want to learn to make bobbin lace. When gathering my links for this post, I stumbled over the summer courses they give – lots of interesting things, I’d love to go one day.

Twenty Times Lace – the Details Part 1

May 23, 2015 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Lace | 3 Comments

As promised, I want to talk a bit more about the different laces in my 2015 challenge piece. Here’s the numbered detail picture of the left side again for reference:

20 Times Lace left side

  1. This is the lace we got for the challenge, which we had to include in our piece. It is a fairly wide, scalloped machine-made lace.
  2. I already wrote about this piece of Irish Crochet Lace, made by me.
  3. I made this bobbin-lace edging many years ago, and it has been sitting in my little lace collection since then. I think it is put to good use here.
  4. This is technically embroidery, but it is worked very similar to needlelace, just on a fabric foundation instead of completely free. I also wanted to include the literal number 20 to commemorate our anniversary, and this was the best way I could come up with to do so.
  5. A small tatting motif from a German tatting book I had from the library, so sorry for the missing reference, since I forgot to write it down.
  6. A similar motif from the same book.
  7. This actually wasn’t a butterfly when I started with it. The wings of the butterfly are cut out from a bigger piece consisting of lots of those motifs connected by bits of openwork. I got it together with a whole pile of other laces from my mom, and this was the fabric sample for her wedding dress. According to her it is Plauener Spitze, which also fits this kind of lace. I embroidered the body of the butterfly over the lace pieces.
  8. Reticella is one of the oldest needle-lace styles. I designed this heart myself based on historical examples. Here’s the original blog post about this one.
  9. A relatively coarse machine-made bobbin lace.
  10. I made this strip of bobbin lace to practice the little leaf shapes that make up the flowers in the center of the band. They are quite tricky to get right tension-wise.

I’ll get around to the second half of the quilt next time, and of course I’d be happy to answer any questions around this batch.

Textile Adventures in Belgium – Royal Manufacturers De Wit

May 16, 2015 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Museums and Exhibitions | Leave a comment

Sadly, this year’s expedition to the textile treasures of Europe is already over, but there’s lots to tell for sure! After visiting the Netherlands last year, this year I was headed to neighbouring Belgium, which in my mind is inextricately linked to lacemaking. But as always, that’s not the only thing in store.

When looking through my travel guide in preparation for this trip, I came across something of a rarity: there was a destination of textile interest listed … the Royal Tapestry Manufactury De Wit in Mechelen. And this is not just any place, in fact, I had heard of its reputation for conservation and especially cleaning of tapestries before, on the blog of the National Trust’s Textile Conservation Studio, which regularly sends tapestries to Belgium for cleaning. So, this was a place I had to see, with the slight complication that there’s exactly one public tour every week, at 10:30 on Saturdays. Luckily the only other place I wanted to visit that had such restricted opening times was open on Wednesdays, so with a bit of planning and given the fact that Belgium is small enough so travelling around is not a problem, I was able to be there on Saturday. Hidden behind the high walls of a former monastery, it wasn’t very obvious to find, but the sign was clear:

De Wit - sign

Visitor groups meet up in the beautiful garden, which we would later learn houses a collection of plants that can be used for dyeing, mostly for the education of visitors nowadays, I think.

De Wit - Garden

On this Saturday, there were two tour guides, and despite the announcement on the website that the tour would be in a maximum of two different languages, the guides ended up doing two languages each, with one group in Dutch and French, and the group I joined in German and English. Everything took a tiny bit longer that way, but that meant more time for looking at the tapestries, so I certainly didn’t complain.

Having been originally established as a manufactury for tapestries, nowadays the company doesn’t produce any new tapestries, but has specialized in cleaning, conservation and restoration of old tapestries as well as in buying and selling. The showrooms on the ground floor had a wealth of old tapestries, and our guide gave us an expert tour on how to distinguish the different periods and the things to look for. I’m afraid I have forgotten most of it by now. They did have a loom set up in one of the rooms, and a lady came in to give a demonstration. I always appreciate when something like that happens, so you don’t only get to hear the theory!

We also got to have a look into the restauration workshop, where the most impressive feature were the walls filled with threads of all colours. You can see a picture of that on the webite. Under the roof there’s another exhibition area, this time with tapestries from the 20th century, which is quite a contrast to the older ones on the ground floor.

At the end, our tour took almost two hours, and was filled with pretty things to look at and lots of information. If you’re ever in the right place at the right time, go see the place, it is great!

Tatting pattern resources

April 25, 2015 at 6:42 pm | Posted in Tatting | 2 Comments

Last week, a friend of mine asked me to show her how to tat. But what pattern to use? Paging through my usual internet resources, I ended up drawing up my own version of a basic clover leaf for the first try:

Tatted Clover

It’s just three rings, with four double knots between the picots:

  1. ring: 4-4-4-4
  2. ring: 4+4-4-4
  3. ring: 4+4-4-4

A minus between the numbers means a picot, a plus shows where a connection to the previous ring needs to be made instead of a picot.

My friend got this one down pretty fast, but where to go from there? Looking at my blog archives, the previous posts on tatted flowers and tatted jewellery don’t look exactly beginner-friendly. So, back to the marvel that is Project Gutenberg’s Crafts Bookshelf we go. There’s just two dedicated tatting books in there. The flowers in the previous post came from the Bath Tatting Book, which doesn’t have any easy patterns. The second, Étoile dorée in Tatting, has only text descriptions and a few drawings where you can’t see any detail. So, those are dead ends.

However, if you know where to look, a few of the general needlework books have tatting instructions and patterns. Whenever I have forgotten how to tat, I go back to the Encyclopedia of Needlework, since I find the basic instruction in there to be pretty clear to me. For easyish patterns, I like to look in Beeton’s Book of Needlework, which starts with an extensive tatting section. There are some straightforward lace edgings in there that would be good practice for a beginner. Here’s one I’ve made before:

Tatted insertion from Beeton's Book of Needlework

The description for this one in the book is quite clear:

This insertion consists of 2 rows of three-branched patterns which lie opposite each other, and are joined by slanting rows of knots. A coloured silk ribbon is drawn through these rows which join the patterns. Each of the 3 branches of 1 pattern consists of 9 double, 1 purl, 9 double, and must be worked close to another. When the 3rd branch is completed, fasten another piece of cotton on to the middle branch. Work 12 double over this 2nd piece of cotton, and then work without the 2nd piece of cotton a 2nd three-branched pattern like the 1st.* Fasten the 2nd piece of cotton on to the middle branch of the just-finished pattern, work 12 double over it, then again a three-branched pattern; in this pattern as well as in the following ones, instead of working the purl of the 1st branch, fasten it on to the purl of the 3rd branch of the preceding three-branched pattern of the same row, as can be seen in illustration. Repeat till the strip of insertion is sufficiently long.

Instead of fastening another piece of thread to the work after finishing the first set of rings, I usually leave the ball of thread attached after filling the shuttle. The thread going towards the ball can then be used as the second thread.

Here are a few more edgings from the same book that I think would be beginner-friendly:

Tatted edging from Beeton's Book of Needlework

Tatted insertion from Beeton's Book of Needlework

So, that’s what I found just by looking in the most obvious place for me. I’m sure there’s much more to be found around the internet. I’d be happy to hear about any beginner’s resources you particularly like.

Twenty Times Lace

April 15, 2015 at 10:19 am | Posted in Lace, Patchwork | 5 Comments

To celebrate our twentieth exhibition this fall, my quilt group has come up with a special challenge project this year. As part of a fabric donation, we got a considerable length of lace which we decided would be the common material to use. In addition, the colour scheme used should be natural colours from beige to brown, making a nod to the 20th anniversery traditionally being the porcelain anniversary, and our lace having a beigish colour anyway. To top it off, the number 20 should play a role in some way, and this was the part that got me into trouble, since the size requirement of 40×40 cm hadn’t been changed.

Being interested in lace of all kinds, you can’t give me some lace and not have me think “I’m going to use 20 different pieces of lace here!” Collecting materials, I acquired my mom’s collection of mostly machine laces, looked which of my collection of handmade samples would be useful, and then tried to figure out how to put 20 different pieces into 40×40 cm. Turns out in order to not run out of space, I would have to keep things fairly simple. My original ideas where much more elaborate, with lengths of lace interweaving between the horizontal and vertical directions. But as is often the case, constraints ended up making it all better: the simple layout leaves space to show off the laces themselves, which was supposed to be the point, after all. So here’s the finished piece:

20 Times Lace - finished

And since it’s the laces themselves that are the interesting part of this piece, I’ll do a detailed writeup of what you’re seeing here in the following couple of posts. As a teaser, here’s the left side all numbered so we know what we’re talking about.

20 Times Lace left side

Which lace do you like best, and why? Which one would you like to know more about? Mind you, since some of it has been gifted to me, I may have not much information on it either.

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