Connecting the worlds of embroidery people – the Needlework society interview
With all the modern technologies we have nowadays, it’s easier than ever to stay connected and find likeminded people. Still, there is the language barrier that keeps us from learning about others beyond pretty photographs. In September, I met up with Paula and Alice for a cup of coffee in Berlin. It was a great experience to meet like-minded embroiderers and chat.
Paula and Alice originate in Brazil and moved over here to Germany – after a long journey of traveling the world each on their own path. During my talk with them, one thing became very clear: they love to connect with the embroidery people around them, no matter where they are. It’s the connection that’s often missing when you are doing a craft that is done alone in a room most of the time.
Needlework society carries the spirit of building a bridge between the different realms of modern embroidery. Enjoy the needlework society interview:
Hi, Alice and Paula, I’m so glad to have both of you here! Could you give us a short introduction so my readers know who you are?
P: My name is Paula, I’m 29 years old and I’m from São Paulo – Brazil. In 2015 I moved to Frankfurt with my husband and cats. I have two rescued cats that were adopted when I was living in São Paulo, and they were brought over with us when we moved. I believe I’m a cat lady because I’m also the person behind Black Cat Kustom – my hand embroidery brand. Embroidery is one of my favorite hobbies, but I also like tattoos, collecting old pictures and listening to audiobooks while I’m embroidering.
A: My name is Alice, I am 28 years old and recently moved to Berlin with my husband and dogs. I was born in a small city close to São Paulo, Brazil and grew up there. I am the girl behind Cut and Rum and Needlework Society – Needlework Society along with Paula.I always love to travel and I’ve been doing it every time it is possible. I graduated in Literature and Languages back in São Paulo and I taught kids for 6 years. Embroidery is not only my hobby but one of my job as well. Besides embroidering I enjoy reading, working out and cooking.
How have you two met each other?
P: We met back in 2016 when Alice and her husband were traveling around Europe. Since I lived in São Paulo, I always wanted to get a tattoo done by her husband, but I never had the time to set an appointment with him. When I found out they were going to stop close to Frankfurt, we made an appointment for a tattoo. We met in Luxembourg, exchanged embroideries and couldn’t stop talking for the few hours we were together. Even after we met, we were in touch and talked almost every day. It is funny to think that for many years we lived in the same city and never got in touch, and only when we were living in different continents we had the chance to meet.
A: I don’t remember which one of us proposed the embroidery trade but I always say yes for trading and meeting up other artists, I was very glad to meet her during my Europe trip. As Paula said, it is incredible that we lived nearby for many years and never met but since we met in Luxembourg we couldn’t stopping talking to each other and then we decided to do something together… we were not really sure what we would do back then and after couple of months of brainstorming we came up with Needlework Society.
How did you find your ways to embroidery? Did you learn it from a family member?
P: My grandma used to make beautiful crochet pieces. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to learn crochet with her, so I took some crochet classes, and very soon I found out I’m not good at it. I switched to embroidery because I found fascinating how many different techniques are involved in one craft. Most of the things I know about embroidery I learned by myself. I read some books, watched many hours of videos on YouTube and researched a lot. After some time and experience, I was able to start exchanging experiences with other embroiderers. I know there is a lot more to learn out there and I wish I had the time and resources for that.
A: Yes, I first learned cross stitch with my grandmother when I was 7. I really liked to learn it but soon I switched to embroidery and I felt it had more possibilities than cross stitch since I learned embroidery I’ve never done cross stitch again. I gave one of my cross stitch pieces to my other Grandma and after 20 years she still has it. I also learned many things from other embroidery artists and also from online videos.
Both of you are currently living here in Germany. How did you come to the idea to move over here?
P: I moved to Germany because I had the opportunity to switch offices at the company I work at. It still amazes me how different the culture, people, language, food, weather and a lot more other things are. One of my favorite things about living here is seeing the seasons coming and going. So far, my favorite season is the fall.
A: I always loved to travel. I don’t really remember how or from whom I heard from Berlin the first time but I just knew I should come here. I saved money for 2 years and traveled to Berlin in 2008. Since the very first day, I fell in love with the city. It was (still) so genuine in many aspects – I was 18 and getting into involved in punk rock, vegetarianism so I was not hard to be in love with Berlin scene. But I left to live in Canada with my ex-boyfriend and ended up there for a couple of years. I visited Germany 3 times since 2008 and I was always looking for the right time to move here, this year my husband got a job opportunity so we packed our things and flew here.
The Needlework society is a relatively new project you brought to life. Can you tell me a little bit more about what the needlework society is?
P: We started Needlework Society with the idea of bringing up together different people, from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds that shared something in common: needlework. We have our monthly newsletter, where we share some tips about embroidery, feature needlework artists and share a monthly design to be stitched along with us. The project is quite new, but we already met so many incredible and nice people along the way.
I love that you are showcasing embroidery artists from the Portuguese speaking countries. Also, you publish everything in Portuguese and English. What is the motivation behind this?
P: When we started, the idea was to share all the information we had on our mother tongue and in English, so we could keep in touch with our Brazilian fellows. But with time, we were developing much more content than we expected, and we could not keep up producing contents on both languages. This is unfortunate because the audience in Brazil is huge and we would like to still have a connection with them. But since both of us are living in Germany, it made more sense to go full English. We try to bring up some Brazilian artists to be part of our newsletters so the whole world can see how creative and talented are the people from where we come from.
Let’s dive into the embroidery related things!
Many embroidery people are struggling with storing their embroidery threads. What’s your system (or non-system), would you share your secret-sauce with us?
P: I keep my threads in a toolbox where they are divided by colors. So far I have a section for red/pink/purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, brown and so on. I wrap them up on plastic bobbins, and I keep the threads’ color reference paper wrapped with the thread, so if I run out, I know which color I should buy. For the ongoing projects, I keep the threads I’m working with in a smaller box, where I carry everywhere with me.
A: Well, let’s say I am not an example to be followed. I don’t like to wrap my thread around bobbins because I think it leaves a mark to the thread that I particularly don’t like. So, I keep them in the way I buy them in plastic boxes and I try to separate them by colors/tones. I keep my needles and scissors in a needlecase I did myself. Hoops and fabric in another box. Everything is basically boxed, I think it is easy this way and when I need to put my things away I just put it inside the boxes and close it. For my designs, I have a huge folder with most of the drawings.
Do you have favorite embroidery stitches or techniques you enjoy doing over and over again?
P: My favorite stitch is the satin stitch. I think I like it because it is almost like printing on the fabric. My husband jokes and says that I’m a human printer when I do satin stitch 🙂
A: My favorite stitch varies from time to time, it depends on my mood, what kind of work I am doing… but I would say split stitch, french knot, and satin stitch are my favorites of all times because I can have many textures with them.
I’m a notorious beginner of new things and it’s what I enjoy the most. What part of the embroidery process is your favorite?
P: Definitely when it is done and I can see the whole end result. I also like when I remove the sketches lines. I normally use the Pilot Frixion pen to draw directly on the fabric, so I like watching when the lines go away with the heat of my blow dryer.
A: I truly enjoy every part of it – designing, planning, picking colors, embroidering, packing and taking photos of it. I don’t like finishing the hoop when I am done. I am just kind of lazy to do it but I always do in a nice way.
Which embroidery project was the most challenging one you have ever encountered?
P: A long time ago I had a custom order to make the Lord of the Rings Middle Earth map. It took me a lot of hours to stitch all the small details from the map. I remember I would come back home from work and sit hours stitching and seeing no progress. By the time it was done, I was so happy with the result.
A: I was asked to do an embroidery piece to celebrate the one-year-wedding anniversary of a couple. I was asked to embroidery on linen and I was only using cotton that time so it was very tricky to work with linen for the first time. It was much more delicate than what I was used. It took me more time than usual but I loved the final result.
There are so many embroidery techniques and materials out there. What would you love to try out one day that you haven’t done yet?
P: I would love to learn some Goldwork. I heard a lot of embroiderers say it is very tricky to get it right, but the result of the work is so beautiful! I would also like to learn how to paint with the thread, so I could make beautiful portraits of my cats 🙂
A: I would like to learn more stitches, the more the better. I’ve been into embroidering on paper lately. I haven’t posted anything yet because I am still trying new things but I will be posting some progress soon. I would love to learn how to work with beads, it so beautiful and has different textures.
If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self who has just started to embroider that you wish you had known back then?
P: Don’t stress too much and try to have fun with the whole process. If you are stuck with something, like: which colors should you pick, which stitch should you use, how to improve a certain stitch… Don’t feel afraid to ask other embroiderers you admire. We are a big online community and most of us are willing to help our embroidery fellows.
A: I taught for many years, it doesn’t matter what it is my advice will always be the same: be patient and practice. Help other girls – nobody needs to compete against each other, we are stronger together. I know some people won’t have access to all kinds of material – for instance in Brazil would be impossible to find good hoop seat stand, some kind of needles, different brands of thread – don’t let it hold you back. Embroidery is a timeless and simple craft, you can do good with little!
Thank you for taking the time answering my questions! Where can we find you on the internet to find out more about the needlework society and your personal embroidery journey?
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April 2, 2019