Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Berlin Work: Creating Needlework Using Antique Patterns

Isn't this a wonderful piece of petitpoint?  The frame is a wonderful old birds-eye maple, the glass is wavy and has seeds in it here and there.

A closeup of the stitches shows meticulous detail.  There are 360 stitches per inch.  The work is a combination of cotton and silk on a linen background.

I love the subject--3 doves on an urn, with gilt bronze handles.  Wouldn't you love the urn too!

I do needlepoint, and can't understand why people do all these modern designs when history is loaded full of beautiful designs.    I did so many projects as a teenager and gave them all away.  After I had "the empty nest", I decided that I wanted to do needlework based on historical designs. 

At the time, all I could find was Elizabeth Bradley's work.  I've done alot of her Victorian animals.  

A kit.  I modified the colors a bit.

Another kit.  It's a really great piano stool used at a desk.

A design from one of Elizabeth's books.  I made up the border from another kit.  
I had a friend with terminal cancer who picked out the design, and looked forward to my
visit every week to see my progress.  I have to work like crazy to have some "expected" progress.
I was happy to finish it before she passed away.  I don't walk by it without thinking of her!

This Elizabeth Bradley sampler was made by my daughter.
The urge to do something while sitting  goes to another generation..
This is another sampler kit I found.  You can buy it here on Ebay for under $10
By Permin of Copenhagen
Anna Thies 1859
So you can imagine my joy when I found A BOOK that describes exactly the kind of work I like to do and collect.  It is by Rafaella Serena.  She wrote 3 books in all.  The one below is "Embroideries and Patterns From 19th Century Vienna"

Back Cover

Pattern of above doves, From "Embroideries and Patterns from 19th Century Vienna"
Rafaella goes into detail about the style of the times--covering more than just needlework.  She talks about the influence of Empire and Biedemeier on needlepoint designs.  It is fascinating and worth reading.  It helped me hone my collection and what I am looking for.
Yes, I made the framed needlework of the doves.  I made the decision to make the roses pink, because of project #2, pictured below.  I also changed the center of the urn color,  I had trouble finding the right color to match that in the pattern.  This was about 10 years ago, and now there are all sorts of wonderful threads, silks, etc, thanks to the internet.  Lately, I've been using alot of Trio, and Silk & Ivory by Brown Paper Packages.

The linen used was special linen for samplers, about $75/yard.  It was a colored linen, and this time I didn't mess with dying it with coffee or tea to give it a more aged or stained look.  That is popular.  I am always on the hunt for period frames and glass, as I like to use them for my projects.   Sadly, I just broke a large piece of wavy glass in a frame in my move.  So a spare picture frame is always nice!

However, I'm off on other things.  I'm in the middle of two projects, and I'm scoping out the next two projects.  I think the dove picture needs a mate:
"Someday" Project #2:  This is the mate that I plan on doing next.  From "Embroideries and Patterns from 19th Century Vienna"

If you want to find out more about Rafaella Serena, she has a website here. She sells some kits and patterns.

You can find her books on Amazon, Ebay or Bookfinders, sometimes at incredible deals.  

She wrote about the Nowotny Collection.  There is a store in Vienna that sells some fine needlepoint going back in time to that original collection.  They have a website.  I'll be sure and go by the shop if I'm ever in Vienna!

My family didn't have any treasures passed down through generations.  Wars and running for your lives has a way of making that not very relevant.  After collecting other families heirlooms, I think I should make the effort to share something for future generations in a thoughtful way. 

Either that, or someone will have a great $20 buy at my estate sale someday.
Do you have a favorite designer who does antique reproduction needlework designs?


  1. Just went to and bought the Animal Embroideries and Patterns for $5! Great Deal! 143 pages of color pictures, can't wait to get mine in the mail!

  2. What a great deal! It is published by Antique Collectors' Club which always does quality work. It's a great book and an incredible bargain. Even if you don't do needlework, and just want to understand the antique designs, it's a wonderful book!

  3. I love all your pieces. I have an old dog piece simular to the kit. When they were first on the market, I did a couple of the kits for people to make money. Of course I was much younger and had better eyes. I just love your posts. Thanks, Richard from My Old Historic House.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this...I used to do needlepoint and embroidery many years ago, but left it a while back.
    I'm only just now trying to get back into it yet seem stuck.
    I was searching the internet for reasons why I should..(it's such a lost art nowadays, it seems, with everyone beading or scrapbooking) and came upon your article.
    Those beautiful photos and descriptions of yours were very inspirational and lovely to behold.
    They breathed new life into me to begin again in needlework.
    Thank you so very much.

  5. Hi Richard--Wow, doing kits to make money! That's creative. So glad to have you visit.

    Hi Irene,
    My daughter read my post and picked an embroidery out--I hope to post her progress soon. The great part about embroidery is that you can pick up a project you've ignored for years and finish it! It's not too late to start another. Simone

  6. I just found your blog, I have all 3 of Rafaella's books and they are fantastic, I have done 2 of her charts so far, one on 58 count silk and one on 60 count silk for 12 scale miniatures, there are photos on my blog of them all. I love antiques but on a small scale now, the real house can't absorb anymore. Your needlework is wonderful!!!

  7. Hi Elga,
    I can't wait to check out your blog. I am currently working on another chart from Rafaella's book. I can't wait to read your blog. I saw my first miniature room in Chicago this summer--wonderful exhibit of the Thorne Miniature rooms.

  8. 360 stitches per inch? No way, it's too much. It can be worked on 35/36 count linen, but since it's stitched over 2 threads, it's 18 spi.