On Saturday, I drove two and a half hours to the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, PA to take a class in German Tufted Wool Embroidery. I’ve done needlepoint and crewel embroidery, but tufted embroidery was a new one for me.
The class was taught by Shirley Sacks, a spry nonagenarian, who is a member of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. She is on a mission to keep this technique alive and to pass it along to as many people, both young and old, as she can. She also said that each of us in the class should teach at least one other person how to do this. I think I have the Meyvns signed up. We Meyvns like to keep our grey matter working and learning.
This tufted technique is done using wool tapestry or needlepoint yarn (other kinds of yarn may be used) on a backing fabric. Many kinds of backing can be used, but wool backing is traditional and as a rug hooker, I just might be able to find some wool in my studio.
The embroidery is done as a surface satin stitch over a tin pattern form. The traditional shape is a five or six pointed star, but other shapes can also be used. Once the layers of embroidery are finished, the yarn is cut to release the tin form and the design “blossoms”. It has a lovely puffed look, which can then be trimmed and shaped, if desired.
The Mennonite Heritage Center has a wonderful museum filled with frakturs, embroidery, clothing and other artwork. Until November 7th, there is a display of the most amazing Pennsylvania Dutch 3D dioramas that I've ever seen. They were created in the 1970s by two talented twin brothers, Abner and Aaron Zook. If you are able to get to the museum, you will not be disappointed.
There’s a lot of beauty out there and in the learning and passing along of an old fiber art.