Summer months pass quickly and now it is already August. Late summer. In July I visited the beautiful county “Värmland” in the west of Sweden. Together with four very dear old friends (in fact from my teens) we hired a small cottage for a few days. Värmland is a quintessential Swedish county with forests, open meadows full of wildflowers and an abundance of lakes. Farming is still common with grazing cows and sheep. Houses are typically made of wood painted in red with white corners. This is a county where storytelling is traditionally practised and many famous Swedish authors come from here among them Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf. It is a land of trolls and fairies and fairy tales.
Among other things, we visited a genuine craft fair “Gammelvala”. Held every year in a small village most of still practised crafts where shown. For example the complicated production of linen from flax, the beautiful blue flower. This has been very important for many hundred years.
The crafters were dressed in clothes from the nineteenth century. Plant-dyed wool skeins on a line:
I have also visited a childhood friend. We are three friends from early childhood who meet once every year. We now visited the one of us who !ives in the countryside with her family. They have a chicken farm in the middle of Sweden. A life very different from mine! They grow most of the fodder for the chicken and needed more land. And then an old castle with lots of belonging fields neighbouring their farm happened to be for sale. So now they happen to be castle-owners! The oldest son is now restoring the interior to be able to live there with his family. A huge project that will take a long time. It is a historical castle from the seventeenth century called “Rinkesta” It was very interesting and exciting to see.
Now to my crafting:
I have completed a cardigan that I began knitting when I was in Portugal. This one I think I will keep for myself for a change. As usual patterns inspired by Alice Starmore.
New silver from the bench:
And finally, my son and I have bought a rolling mill. It is an economy mill, but good enough for our needs, for example to make filigree wire. We will have to fasten it firmly to the bench with bolts, something we haven’t done yet.
I have told before that I am planning to set up a small webshop for my jewellery. Just in a small scale as my production is not big.
There have been midsummer celebrations, that as usual we have shared with friends in the Stockholm archipelago. My grown-up children have spent all their childhood midsummers there and we keep up with the tradition. Lots of food and people around a big table in the light summer night. I can’t think of a more beautiful place at this time of year.
One thing that surprised me was that the catch of fish in the archipelago has gone down to almost nothing. Traditionally we have a delicious fish lunch on midsummer day. Now we got only two perches from six fishing nets. The reason for this is not only pollution and over-fishing by humans. The main reason is a substantial increase in seals and cormorants. In my youth, we hardly ever saw any seals, and they were said to be on the brink of extinction. And now they are seriously competing with humans for fish. Interesting that not only humans can cause ecological imbalances.
One of the guests is a breeder of Cavalier spaniel and here is a photo of some of those cute dogs.
Back home in my suburb, with its typical architecture from 1960:s. The concrete houses are not considered to be very picturesque, but around the corner you have nature. We have a nature reserve with walking paths along the lake. Above the lake, there are a few meadows full of wild plants and flowers. There are no grazing cattle to keep them open but they are actually scythed by volunteers a couple of times every summer. Isn’t that nice!
Close to Stockholm but no houses
This meadow is scythed in the old way every summer
Wild flowers from my neighbourhood
StJohn’s wort with bumblebee
This is close to Stockholm but there are no houses here. Wildflowers from the meadows. The close up is St Johns wort with bumblebee.
From the bench: a pendant with labradorite, a necklace with boulder opal. And a ring with labradorite, one of my favorite gemstones.
A weekend in May I had the opportunity to be a guest crafter at Vintervikens organic gardens close to Stockholm. It is a nonprofit organization with a beautiful garden, a vegetarian cafe and a craft shop among other things. It is so nice; if you are in Stockholm pay it a visit! Now I got a table where I could show my jewellery, so exciting! And in spite of bad weather ( hard wind, rain and thunder at times) and a payment system failure for some hours there was plenty of people and I actually sold quite a few of my jewels. Having only sold to friends and relatives before, this was a new encouraging experience. And best of all, I discovered that people seemed enjoyed and happy with their new jewels when they left. I hadn’t realized that my work at the bench, which I do for fun, could bring that.
Here some pictures of the making:
I am now considering the possibility to start a webshop, we wait and see.
In a recent post, I praised the beauty of Lisbon, deservedly. But, if I raise my eyes I have to say that I happen to live in a city of unusual beauty, especially in this time of the year. The architecture, all the water, the stunning parks. One of my favourite spots is Långholmen ( long island) where I like to stroll. A former prison island, now a place for crafters, garden allotments, marinas, cafes, a hostel and even a beach ( yes the water is clean).
Garden alottment with a little wooden shed where the gardening tools are kept
A garden alottment with a little wooden shed where the gardening tools are kept.
The Bellman museum, about the 18th-century troubadour.
Now to another stunning island of Stockholm: Djurgården. There is another of my favourite museums: Thielska galleriet. Ernst Thiel was a rich banker and art collector who donated his house to the Swedish state. The house and garden is a piece of art in itself.
I visited an exhibition about Lisbeth and Gocken Jobs, two sisters who worked in ceramics and textile with mostly floral motifs. They became very popular and made Swedish homes blossom during the post-war period.
And at last, we do have some street art in Stockholm too, but not by far as many as in Lisbon.
Spring is early this year and the cherry blossoms have started since a couple of weeks, even in my own backyard, beautiful!
I have knitted a sweater “on demand”. It is my daughter’s boyfriend Simon who wanted a warm alpaca sweater to use when birdwatching in our cold climate. I knitted from my Alice Starmore book with patterns from various countries and I made a mixture but mostly Norwegian. This is the result:
Not long ago I bought a jewellery tumbler and I am so happy with it! Half an hour’s tumbling with a stainless steel mixed shot, some water and soap makes the silver shine with a gloss that is difficult to achieve in any other way. The tumbler reaches every corner and is so gentle that even delicate filigree comes out undistorted.
I like dragonflies and I know it has great symbolic value in other cultures. Here are a pendant and a pair of ear- pendants:
Other things I have made recently, rings with labradorite and bracelet of chrysocolla:
I have bought soldering clamp strips made of titanium, very neat. You bend it to the shape you prefer and it can be used to hold items in place during soldering. Titanium is a metal with unique features: solder doesn’t stick to it, it stays strong when red. It transfers heat very slowly and it doesn’t interfere with nearby joints and parts. I have a titanium solder stick which I can hold in one end when red hot at the other end. Very useful when it comes to “pick soldering”.
My favourite art museum in Stockholm: Prince Eugens’ Waldemarsudde has two ongoing exhibitions: its: Grez-sur-Loing – Art and Relations and Björn Wessman, an excellent colourist. GsL was a legendary French village with an artist colony with artists mainly from Scandinavia and Anglosaxon countries in the late 19th century. This exhibition focus on relationships and highlights both women and men, for example the marvellous Julia Beck. Björn Wessman, a contemporary Swedish artist is inspired by the nature in Stockholm archipelago. Many of those paintings have not been exhibited before. These paintings are breathtaking and no photo can show the colours properly.
Last spring I visited Lisbon on a short filigree course but stayed only four days and got just a glimpse of this beautiful city. So now I returned in late February and early March for two weeks. The plan was that my son with girlfriend should join me but their plans changed so I spent my stay in Lisbon on my own. It was much of an escape from the Swedish winter, which is nice around Christmas but is far too long too grey, windy and freezing cold. You never get used to it, on the contrary, it is harder and harder to endure as the years pass by.
I had hired an apartment in the district of Alfama, which is the old town of Lisbon, much-loved by tourists. The view from my windows is to die for and I start with some photos from my apartment during various hours day and night. There is the river Tajo, some anchored ships, the rooftops of Alfama, the São Miguel church, orange trees at the stairs. I saw fireworks and a children’s carnival from my windows among other things.
Day temperature 17-23 °C.
Alfama around my apartment: 66 steps up is the Largo Santa Luzia full of life all day long, street music, cafés the breathtaking view from Portas del Sol. A lot of steps down the São Miguel church, Largo São Miguel, winding narrow alleys ( beco in Portuguese), beautiful houses, many tiled, and some a bit neglected. Laundry on lines.
You can’t talk about Lisbon without mentioning tiles, azulejos, a heritage from the islamic rule. Many, many houses are tiled in amazing patterns, so common I think people living in Lisbon don’t think much about it. But it is a real treasure. One of the joys of strolling around Lisbon (as I did a lot) is admiring the tiled walls. Here is a little collection:
Lisbon is full of outstanding museums and I made a strict selection after all the time was limited to two weeks. The museum of filigrana was an obvious choice. A small museum but a very interesting and I got a personal guiding. With roots from prehistoric times, it was practised among farmers in the north of Portugal in their spare time. They worked in gold and it is only the last decades that silver is more common. Unfortunately, there are no books on this fascinating subject.
Another really important museum that should be a must for every tourist is Museu da Aljube Resistência e Liberdade. A whole museum dedicated to all men and women who worked in the underground resistance movement under the fascist dictatorship under Salazar. Incredible bravery and sacrifice who finally led to liberty in 1974. Very thought provoking and gives a background to understand Portugal today.
Another museum I have to mention is the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Exquisite is the word I want to use to describe this museum with selected objects from Ancient Egypt to modern art and everything in between. Gulbenkian was a rich engineer and businessman from Armenia who ended up in Lisbon during world war two. His love for art made him buy the very best of the best and build this outstanding collection. After his death, a museum was built exclusively for his collection, an interesting concrete building from 1969 situated in a beautiful park.
Fado can be heard from bars and restaurants everywhere around Alfama, and the district also hosts the Fado museum. Of great importance for Portuguese identity, this museum tells the story of the fado, and you can listen to recordings of all the famous artists as long as you like.
A street painting with fado musicians
The iconic yellow trams of Lisbon are still in use, built in 1930:s. The engines and brakes were replaced in 1990:s. No new coaches were found on the market who could manage the sharp curves and steep hills of Lisbon so they kept the old ones. I spent half a day travelling with trams. Very picturesque but I have to confess that I prefer the metro: fast, cheap and comfortable.
A real treat in Lisbon is Street art. I am very interested in street art and Lisbon appeared to be one of the best street art cities in the world. One reason could be that Lisbon has quite a few rather derelict buildings and Lisbon city council is said to encourage artists to decorate them. Street art has become a big tourist attraction and all guided tours were full for weeks ahead. Instead, I found an app that guided me to Street art around Alfama and I spent a lot of time hunting to find them. I can’t say what it is in Street art that is so exciting and fascinating. It has something to do with the rebellion side of it, and the contrast between derelict and run-down sites and the bright and stunning colours of art. Here are a few of my finds:
In Cascais, a coastal town 40 minutes from Lisbon by commuter train, I appreciated a break from the hustle and bustle and to stroll along the sea. Cascais has both beaches and rough cliffs, a spot called ” Boca da inferno” ” the hell’s mouth”.
The entrance of Lisbon is guarded by five lighthouses. One of them is the “Farol da Santa Marta” in Cascais. Being an old sailor, l have a special affection for lighthouses. They are often beautiful buildings and represent safety and reliability. This lighthouse is both a working lighthouse and a museum.
I visited Cascais twice, the second time was my last day in Lisbon. Two weeks went by quickly. The last I saw of Lisbon was when the aeroplane lifted from the airport early in the morning, white houses with terracotta roofs shining in the sun, the Atlantic sea glittering in green-blue. Goodbye Lisbon and many thanks for this time!
Christmas has passed. I had made a silver pendant with an oak leave motif (our family name) for my daughter wich was much appreciated.
I got a few tumbled stones as Christmas present and it is new to me to work with irregular shapes. It is more difficult than for example cabochon shape and I got some practise in claw setting. The stone here is azurite I also made a pendant with chrysocolla stone and granules.
My latest knitting project: a sweater in Fair Isle style inspired by Alice Starmore. Knitted in finest alpaca yarn that of course is not typical for Fair Isles. My son spent Christmas in Bolivia and brought me two huge balls of non dyed alpaca yarn. Inspiring, let’s see what will become of that.
Winter is coming, though so far more “English” than “Swedish”, that means mild, misty, rainy and windy. And I don’t mind, I am not fond of blizzards, slippery roads and chaos in public communications. But of course, we usually don’t have the wild storms and flooding that England suffers too often. But now to: what has happened in my little workshop? In fact I have mostly used leftovers of yarn ans scrap silver this month. My passion for mittens resulted in a new pair of mittens, pattern from Alice Starmore.
The beauty of autumn/winter inspired me to this necklace. I used a boulder opal from Queensland in Australia, where 90 % of opals come from. This is a cheaper stone because the opal is mixed with ironstone. I think it has a rough and rustic beauty. The chain is made of square wire.
From scrap silver, pieces of wire and granules that I melted from scrap pieces I made those rings and ear pendants.
Next project is a “crazy” Fair Isle knitting from Alice Starmore. I write crazy because it is very complicated with lots of colours, but lots of fun! I have just started and it will be very time-consuming I’m afraid.
This colourful month I have been inspired by the autumn in the forest. Walking, picking fungus and breathing the fresh cool air gave me impressions that resulted in a couple of weeks of intense stitching. This is some of what inspired me:
The red fungus is poisonous but beautiful so it was just shot and not eaten. Back home the stitching started. I made two projects, one almost nonfigurative with the autumn colours and the other is inspired from the master needlepoint artist Elian McCready. She was working many years for Ehrman’s tapestry and in my view she was the best. It took many, many hours and many times I thought about the big differences between embroidery and silversmithing. The latter is quicker and in a way more exciting, there is always an element of the unpredictable about it. Stitching is full control, and it is more challenging your patience than your courage. The rewarding thing is the use of colours, I love to combine different colours and see what works and what doesn’t. Colours can sing together in stunning harmony.
Whilst autumn is slowly setting in, I have been busy with a few new items. Another amber ring, this time a little thicker silver and some small balls soldered on. My old torch had started to leak gas ( scary) so I bought a new smaller one which is easier to use with the left hand. Good to have the right hand free to hold the piece in place and to correct it with the solder stick if needed.
The next project has been to make a necklace with the three little lapis lazuli cabochon stones I bought a while ago. Lapis lazuli is a favourite of mine, beautiful midnight blue colour. This time a made the chain from jump rings from 1 mm silver thread. Well necklace completed why not sew a matching blouse? I went to the best silk fabric shop in Stockholm (Sidencarlson) and bought a piece in likewise lovely blue silk. With such expensive and delicate fabric I dare not but sew by hand, it gives more control than the sewing machine. A little embroidery along the neckline, in fact I started with that before cutting. The blouse design is super simple, it is the fabric that makes it all.
Last week I visited a friend who lives in the Netherlands, in Friesland but she came down to meet me in Amsterdam. Together with her two sisters we explored some of Amsterdam and the Hague. I had made these gifts for her and for her little grand-daughter:
In Amsterdam there were the canals, pretty old houses, and a lot of new tall buildings growing everywhere. After some travelling the last years I have noticed a rapid change of the skyline in many cities in Europe. Development is generally good, bit is this really necessary? Coming back to Stockholm I realize how comparably modest this city is when it comes to construction projects and keeping the skyline low. And this in spite of being one of the most rapidly growing capitals in Europe. I am thankful for that. Having said that, both Amsterdam and the Hague are still very enjoyable cities.
I knew that the Hague is known for hosting international courts, but I had not realized the scale of it and how much it defines the city’s identity. “The city of peace and justice” has several courts, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and Hague Academy of International Law. The Hague has a history of peacework long before the UN was formed and monuments over this are still manifested, here the World Peace Flame:
You can’t go to the Netherlands without looking at art. One fascinating painting I had not heard of before is the Mesdag panorama painting. Hosted in a house built for the purpose it is a huge circular painting of the sea village of Scheveningen in 1881. With foreground of real sand and natural light from the ceiling it gives a perfect illusion of really being there. Beautiful!
Another wonderful museum in the Hague is “Mauritshuis” full of paintings from the golden age in Dutch art, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens, Frans Hals and other. Some of my favourites:
At last two pictures from Stockholm, one from my place, a nature reserve 15 minutes walk from my home. The other from the city, one of the bridges of Stockholm.
Two weeks ago I attended a 5 days summer silver smithing course in “Helliden folkhögskola” in a lovely 19th century setting in southwest of Sweden. The school is hosted in a castle with a beautiful park and a view over wooded hills far away. Truly an inspiring environment for creative work. The “folkhögskola” concept is in itself a special treat for making people do their very best, with its including and encouraging atmosphere where everyone is welcome.
Looking back on July I realize how industrious I have been with my silversmithing this period. Despite an unusually long-lasting heatwave that has been going on since the middle of May with high temperature and sustaining drought or maybe because of it, I don’t know…
Long lasting high pressure produces imposing thundery squalls This one went on northwards and didn’t give any rain where I live, unfortunately.
I have forgotten to mention that I have actually tried blacksmithing! It is very different from the delicate silversmithing I am used to. It is hot, heavy, noisy and dirty. In May I had the opportunity to go with my son to his very good friends living in Lima in the north of Sweden. As many in this region they have a farm that has been in the family for centuries. Keeping old traditions alive goes well along with a modern, tolerant and broad-minded lifestyle. One tradition to keep alive is blacksmithing and they have a forge which my son borrows from time to time. With some assistance from him I managed to make a hook from iron. I am proud!
The result of my bold efforts
My son in the forge
The result of my bold efforts and my son in the forge.
Now to the production this month. Nothing in textile just jewellery. The trip to Lisbon gave me new confidence in filigree, and the understanding that the seemingly impossible is not, it is just a matter of patience and determination.
Ear pendants in filigree.
Ring with turquoise and a pendant with Swedish blue slag, nice together with denim.
A pendant with granules and a beautiful stone called chrysocolla and a filigree pendant.
A bracelet in viking chain style, the simple tools that are used is shown on the uppermost photo with the almost completed chain on the stick.
And finally a pendant with a sodalite and an amber ring in a more modern style. That’s all for now!
A few weeks ago I completed an amber pendant for my daughter.s graduation. Amber is her favourite stone, very beautiful but also very soft. It makes it nervous to set, it can easily crack. This pendant has a more clean and simple design than the more elaborate things I usually make. But I like it too!
Now my filigrana piece from Lisbon is done. I see it as a practise object and I have really learnt a lot. Patience, patience, it is possible to make a construction where the wires are stuck before soldering. After popping out ten times it eventually works. The design gains on a dense pattern, necessary with those incredible thin filigree wires.
After frequent e-book reading the cover for my Kindle was really worn out. It gave me an opportunity to make something useful in vadmal and wool embroidery. I attached a little silver clasp. just for fun.
June 2 to 3 I attended a short course in filigree, filigrana in Portuguese, in the wonderful city of Lisbon.
Portugal is famous for excellent filigrana so this was very exciting for me. As the information about the course was in English it was a big surprise to find out that it was held in Portuguese and I was the only foreigner! But, with some translation from the teacher André and a lot of help from fellow students I got the most of it, I think at least.
Filigrana has a very long tradition in Portugal with work both in gold and silver. André had learnt his skills from a master in the town of Gondomar in the north of Portugal, the hottest district in filigrana. It takes several years to really master filigrana, so of course this was just a short introduction.
It was very nice to be surrounded by Portuguese and we had an enjoyable time, laughing a lot when the very tiny filigrana wires popped out all over the place. Filigrana is not easy and it takes A LOT of patience! We got a frame structure already soldered and done and our task was to fill it with filler wires. We were taught three different shapes commonly used in traditional Portugese filigrana: s-shape, escana aberta and cartäo. When we had (hopefully) secured a section of shapes, the piece was dipped in water to make the solder stick, then sprinkled thinly with powder solder, last step was heating with a torch a few seconds until the solder flowed . No pickling until the piece was finished.
As I have a workshop I didn´t stress to make my piece finished as i can continue back home. This was as far as I got:
I took more time studying my fellow students work. Many of them were incredibly good, Look at this work, made by a young girl who had never tried filigrana before. She sawed her piece in two and made those beautiful ear pendants:
The finishing process was: first put the piece in hot pickle to remove any oxidation. Instead of polishing this magic took place: heat with yellow flame to provide a soot layer, than heat with blue flame and it will turn white and beautiful. Finally clean with water and soap with a brass brush. Done!
Before leaving I bought some filigree wire and powdered solder (almost non-existing on the market) a black workboard and a special tweezers. The latter sadly got seized by the security control at the airport as it was considered too dangerous to take on an airplane. It felt a bit sad to say good bye to those nice people I met on the course.
I had a few days in Lisbon to explore this gorgeous city. You have to wear shoes with a good grip and be quite fit to walk the numerous steep hills though. But the beauty! Here is a jakaranda tree in bloom:
Good bye Lisbon until next time! Hopefully there will be a continuation course in filigrana.
Recently when I visited a gemstone shop in Stockholm I came across a find. Among all beautiful stones there was an extremely blue one, a colour similar to the sky in fair weather. I was told it is called “Bergslags-slagg” and it is not a real gemstone at all. In this specific part of the world, Bergslagen in Sweden, iron production was widespread in the 1800 and 1900th centuries. Due to a specific smelting method during this period this blue slag was a by-product. In recent years it has become a much appreciated stone for jewellery making. Of course I bought the stone and I hope that I will find more stones later on.
I went home and made a silver pendant, now a favourite of mine.
First I tried to use an ancient method to fuse the small balls, granules, to the silver backing. You put pieces of iron and copper in warm pickle together with the silver items you want to fuse together. The silver will become copper coated and so far everything went well. The copper is supposed to lower the fusing temperature and make it possible to fuse the pieces together without solder. Well this didn’t work for me and I had to solder as usual. Probably I dared not reach the right temperature in fear of melting the silver.
Anyhow I love my Blue slag pendant and I use it a lot.
Eventually spring is here with bright sunshine, dry leaves, brown grass and small buds and spring flowers suddenly popping up. On my kitchen window sill seeds are slowly growing to plants. Hope has returned!
From the workshop: I have made a pair of ear-pendants for the first time. This time I took photos of the work progress so it is possible to follow step by step. I used 0,5 mm fine silver threads for the ear hooks, 0,3 mm (28 gauge) filigree wire fine silver, 2mm bezel strip sterling silver, 0,8 mm square wire sterling silver, beads in fine silver. Beads are easily made, if you melt a small piece of silver it will form a perfect ball. I make beads from scrap silver. The stones are rock crystal.
On the knitting front I have knitted an alpaca sweater which first was meant for my son but ended up fitting my daughter best so she got it. I have also knitted a pair of mittens. Why do I knit mittens all around the year? Because I like to knit patterns and that suits small items like mittens. Pattern from Alice Starmore´s.
I have to tell about my visit to Carl Milles museum in Stockholm. Carl Milles was a sculptor, very well known in Sweden. His museum has a park with his own sculptures which is very interesting but now I was there to see the exhibition “Weaving silk” . It was spellbinding! It describes and shows the history of silk production in Nanjing in China from several thousand years ago up till today. Apart from a lot of wonderful silk fabrics from various periods in history the most interesting thing was the loom from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) which was operated by master weavers from Nanjing. The loom is nothing but a technical miracle. From a painted picture the weave is set up with a transmission to a code of knots on ropes. It has a resemblance with the binary system used in computers. It had taken three months to set up the weave we saw. It takes two persons to weave, one is sitting on top of the loom operating the ropes which decides the turn of the warp. The weaver sitting at the floor level has numerous spools of silk in different colours. Unbelievable skills! This is another example of how textile techniques have been in the forefront. In the 18th century punch cards were used in Jacquard weaving, hundreds of years before computers.
It has been a while since my last post and I have been quite busy with my projects. This very long, harsh, cold and snowy winter has not inspired me to much outdoor activities I am afraid. Colourwise it is a grey time. Note that the photo above is a colour photo. Winter is not my favourite season but nestling indoors gives me plenty of time for crafts making. Which is a good thing!
One week now in March there was a blizzard that lasted several days on end. In the heavy snowfall I found this little creature on my balcony. The squirrel seemed to be searching for something to eat among my frozen plants, poor little fellow.
From my little silversmithing workshop: a filigree pendant with knitted thread chain. Handmade lock and finding.
The chain is made of fine silver thread 28 gauge (0,32 mm) and the other parts are sterling silver.
These are the simple tools you need to make a knitted chain:
I will later show more in detail how you make it. The pin with copper thread allows you to start the knitting. The draw plate with holes in various sizes is used to smooth the chain and make it straight and even when knitted. It is funny and not very difficult.
The lock and chain fitting was more complicated for me. First I fastened a ring one cm in to the chain. A tiny cylinder with a top on one side was soldered with a hole drilled in it. The ring was flattened and chain with ring pulled in to the cylinder, flattened ring through the hole. Last step was to widen the flattened ring to a loop. The clasp is a simple s-shape, but it works very well. Not simple to describe in words but a photo will do better I hope:
I have paid a new visit to the art museum Waldemarsudde which seems to be the current leading museum of modern textile in Stockholm. There I saw some wonderful tiny silk embroideries by Suzy Strindberg “Fine threads”. She gets her inspiration from nature and here is a motif from autumn. The size is about 10 x 15 cm.
I also have to say a few words about the exhibition “Sigrid Hjertén- A Masterly Colourist”. She had her breakthrough in the 1930:s but in my view her best paintings were made at the end of her life when she sadly suffered from mental illness. The colours are breathtaking and reminds me of van Gogh. It you have ever seen his paintings in real life you will never forget it. It amuses me to learn that Sigrid Hjertén started her career as a textile artist. I think that textile trains your sense of colours because textile colours have a special glow.
Next project has taken unbelievable many hours to complete. It is a cushion with a needlepoint embroidery combined with rya technique. This is something I have planned for a long time to do. I wanted to stitch a motif with flowers in bright light with a dark background. Around it I wanted a more fluffy texture in rya technique in colours from nature. Step one : I bought a nice bunch of tulips and took a photo of it in the evening with electrical light to obtain the natural dark backdrop. Then I processed it in an app that made it look like a painting. It reduced the amount of shades and stylized it. Step two: make a rough pencil sketch with contours on the canvas and select the colours of yarn that I wanted.
I prefer to stitch directly from the processed photo which I had on my tablet. It took many hours to complete but I was quite pleased with the result. Next step was the rya knotting. I bought a lovely grey yarn from Gotland and added colours from the embroidery. The rya knots were made on a fabric called aida tissue.
Another period of patient and industrious work and finally, it was done! The only remaining steps were to mount the embroidery on to the aida fabric with miniscule stitches, and cut the rya in a relief pattern. Then sow a backing of my favourite grey felt fabric called “vadmal”. Upholstering it with a down pillow and it ended up as a cushion that has its unique look, quite what I wanted.
The last photo is of my cushion in the promising bright late winter sunshine. After all, spring is around the corner. Hope you got some inspiration from this to your own projects!
When I was in London in October I bought an embroidery kit in Victoria and Albert museum. They sell embroidery kits with motifs from their collections, in this case tile patterns from Burlington. I decided to stitch the proper way this time in contrary to my usual habit of stitching one row with stitches pointing to the left and the next pointing to the right. This makes perfectly right-angled pieces with no extra effort. I know this is unorthodox but it works well for me. But for now, this is how the embroidery looked when done:
It is heavily distorted as I had feared. Now the struggle starts to force it back to shape. First trial was to tie the piece to a wooden frame with strings after being damped with water. When dry it was still out of shape:
Ok, don’t give up, next trial damp again, and this time use knacks which allows the cloth to be hard stretched. Now the result was eventually acceptable. As the last step I made it to a framed wall hanging. But, now on I will stick to my own method. Why all this fuss just to have the stitches in the “right” direction?
A close up photo to show my “unorthodox” stitching:
I have recently bought a ring mandrel, a tool to facilitate forging perfectly round rings.
My first attempts: two rings made from square wire with some filigree filler wire and a few granules. The ring to the right has a 4 mm opal setting. 4 mm is a very small stone and my greatest concern was to not drop it on the floor. In that case I feared I might not find it again!
I read and think a lot about textile in various respects. In scientific areas textile has a great significance. Victoria and Albert museum has the largest collection of textile in the world. In Paris one arrondissement is called “Les Gobelins”, there is also the name of a metro station. It was here the famous tapestries (gobelins) for the Versailles palace was made. It is now a museum which has an attached workshop where tapestries are woven in the old way. Historians know that textile objects were considered among the most valuable in former civilisations. The manufacturing of textile took a long time and demanded great craft skills, from weaving to dying, sowing and embroidery stitching. Textile is not very durable over time and a lot is lost. But fragments of linen has been found in Egyptian pyramid tombs, so delicate that no one today can figure out how it was made!
Textile is needed in everyday life for clothing, bed linen, towels, curtains etc. The first industry was the textile industry, “Spinning Jenny” is known from the history books.
In recent years, I seem to see a rising interest in textile methods in art. Annika Ekdals exhibition in Waldemarsudde was both recognized and popular with a lot of visitors.
But now I wonder: where are the men? In the courses I have attended, the museums and exhibitions I have visited men has been virtually non-existing. Why this total indifference, disregard and insensibility to something so obviously important? In my dark moments I suspect it has something to do with fear of being connected with anything that could be in any way feminine and thus inferior and contemptuous. Things are slowly changing I know but we can’t talk about gender equality before we can share interests without prejudices.
It is Christmas time, or “the festive season”, or the “yule tide”. The latter is actually Swedish, pre-christian pagan. Funny that it is used in the English language. Anyway it is a busy time and I have been knitting a sweater as a Christmas present. And doing so I have had many thoughts about time. When I stopped working last summer I thought I would have oceans of time, then almost a bit frightening. But the truth is that time is short, and crafts are very time-consuming. And although while working it takes most of your time, you find that without work time is not long enough for all the projects you want to do! If that is a good or a bad thing I don’t know. The resolution for me is to take care about your time and use it well.
The pattern I found in this little book bought in ” The museum of fishing and smuggling” in Polperro. It is one of many small museums in Britain run by volunteers. The fishermen used sweaters called “Guernseys”. The yarn used is baby merino wool, a wonderfully soft yarn that can be machine washed.
Last Sunday I visited one of my favourite museums in Stockholm, “Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde”. If you ever go to Stockholm a visit here is a must! The photo above is from the lovely park that surrounds the museum in autumn colours. Some colour combinations start to “sing” in my mind if you understand what I mean. This was a good start to what was to come. I got a guided tour of the exhibition “Woven Image Worlds” Textile artist Annika Ekdahl creates a world of her own, so full of details that you could spend weeks discovering new things all the time. Simply unbelievable! She uses a late-medieval tapestry method that allows such rich and detailed works. The size is amazing, could be up to 3×3 m. One tapestry usually takes a year to complete. The guide said that Annika has thoughts about the similarity between woven tapestry and digital pixels. Hm, interesting.
I have not learnt to weave since it is too complicated for me and requires expensive and spaceconsuming equipment. But how I love tapestry and how I admire skilled weavers. Party I like needlepoint because it looks like tapestry. A few years ago visited “Manufacture des Gobelins” in Paris. There tapestry is woven in the medieval way and I saw wievers in action. It has supplied the French monarchs since Louis XIV. Unfortunately the guiding was in French and I was so sorry that my French was not good enough to understand more than a small part! Another textile artist that I have admired for many years is the Swedish-Canadian weaver Helena Hernmark. The way she uses colour is remarkable like this details tulips in backlight. Truly inspiring!