There are no days-long courses as part of the Vesterheim Textile Tour this year, only a couple of mini-courses. The first was at Greve Museum, south of Copenhagen, in beautiful historical farm buildings with thatched roofs.
I spent a humbling two hours learning a basic component of a beautiful Danish embroidery stitch, udklibshedebo, or Hedebo needle lace. The instructor brought small cylinders of beeswax to use on the linen thread–from her own bees!
This stitch is an important building block of larger pieces, like the one below. It is a (tiny!) circle of linen threads, completely sewn around tightly with a buttonhole stitch, and then filled with stitches, otherwise embellished, and sewn together in a larger composition.
Of course, today we accomplished only one tiny circle. There are two types of buttonhole stitches in Europe, and only one commonly taught in the US. As a further of course, I had to learn the other one. I hunched and concentrated on my approximately one-inch circle, confident that I could make it perfect. Ummm, no. Below, the example is on top, and my circle is on the bottom. You’ll see that my “pyramid” on top of the circle is not nearly as pretty.
Below is an elaborately-embroidered collar on a folk costume, totally bordered with the small pyramids that I did not execute very well on my first try. I am glad no one will be locking me in a room and forcing me to complete such a collar. But it is SO BEAUTIFUL.
I was happy to be in the group that took the course first, because viewing many beautiful white-on-white embroideries in the afternoon made me even more appreciative of the work.
At lunch, I browsed through the various embroidery books. There were scholarly historical and how-to books about the beautiful white-on-white embroidery, but I was most taken by the book Kunsten at Brodere (The Art of Embroidery), which used the traditional stitches in very contemporary ways.
Our tour leader was Jytte Harboesgaard; she was knowledgeable and inspiring in her enthusiasm. When I discovered that she wrote the book I liked, I had to purchase it. I will not be spending a year embroidering a long runner, but I may occasionally make embroidered circles on other projects. I think Jytte’s circles on this paper pyramid are inspiring. See many more of her inventive embroideries on her website.
The perfect antidote to cramping concentration was a walk on the beach when we reached our hotel in Køge.