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How it all started...

Bärbel Ingeborg Zimber (BIZ) has been mixing different art forms since she was young. The intensive occupation with embroidery made her find more and more painters who also dealt with textile techniques. Above all the artists from the group “Der Blaue Reiter” around Kandinsky, Klee, Macke, Marc. As well as, less well known, Gabriele Münter and Marianne von Werefkin.

Spanish scarf
free three-dimensional embroidery
on hand-dyed silk organza
applied to hand-carved soapstone
© BIZ

Before her embroidery training, she was an enthusiastic supporter of the Impressionists with little inclination, sometimes to the look to the right or left  . This changed very slowly during her training and especially Expressionists pushed themselves more and more to the fore. The clarity of the shapes and the intense radiance of the colors make the fingers of every needle enthusiast tingle.

When BIZ got hold of a small booklet “August Macke’s Craftsmanship” and found embroidery designs by August Macke in it, it was all over her. Some time later she was lucky enough to see an embroidery designed and stitched by August Macke at an exhibition at the Rosgarten Museum in Konstanz “Five hundred years of embroidery in Germany”. 

At the same time, BIZ found a passage in the autobiography of Macke’s friend, the pediatrician C. Lindenberg, which describes how he visited the Macke family shortly after August Macke’s early death and how they sat together in an intimate circle and embroidered according to Macke’s designs.

...became increasingly popular...

The first picture that BIZ wanted to convert into a textile technique was “Der Kreuzberg bei Bonn” a watercolor and chalk work by August Macke (see illustration above). The thread should not be an even rhythm of repeating color sequences, but a colorful composition of the colors used. Long weeks of experimenting with different dyeing methods available to hand dyers these days using modern base materials then led to the one she developed Painters technique that allowed this effect to be achieved.

This also fully corresponds to what the small dye factory wants to offer modern hand embroiderers: exclusivity and extravagance. It is no longer a question of dyeing in the traditional sense, but of painting the threads using an unusual technique.

After completing the project, the students of the International School for Textile Arts and other visitors were so enthusiastic about this thread that they wanted to try it too.

So the idea of making a series out of this type of hand-dyeing slowly arose. However, initially only for use in a series of embroidery kits, which unfortunately has not yet come out of the planning phase, which is about the conversion of paintings into textile techniques.

At some point, the threads fell into the hands of cross-stitch designers in ways that can no longer be traced and conquered their hearts. Now the wheel started rolling! BIZ stood there with the joy that this thread has found many friends and with the knowledge that this type of hand dyeing does not make a reproducible result possible…

Textile addicts wouldn’t be such if they let such a trifle get them down! So the technology was perfected and series production started. The Painters Threads were born! Each color has the name of a painter (last name like Macke) or a paintress (first name like Frida). The colors correspond to those that these artists used very often or in a well-known painting. In the meantime, they have a worldwide fan community, despite – or perhaps because each product is absolutely unique.

Many “collect” the Painters colors and look forward to each new dye lot. And BIZ is pleased that a small idea has turned into a big movement and that many people enjoy it as much as the inventor of the Painters Threads.

The available colors and links to the information pages about the namesake can be found here .

... and finally
has become the current small dye empire!

Where it all started with 10 little skeins per color and 5 qualities, there are now more than 40 different textile products in a total of 40 colors. In the meantime, around one hundred thousand spools and fabrics are on the move all over the world every year and also make the work of the students* of the International School for Textile Arts something very special.

Of course, this also makes it necessary to rethink the work before and after dyeing. We have often been asked why we are changing packaging for the third time in 25 years. Well, to be completely honest, since we started production 23 years ago, it’s actually been 5 changes…

On the one hand, there are many learning processes to be mastered and, with growth, work processes to be reconsidered. The production of skeins is very time consuming and there is no way to “outsource” these tasks. We were no longer able to cope with the mass of strands that had to be wound before dyeing and then twisted and labeled after dyeing.

The next “big attempt” was our header bags, which are still in use. The procurement of an affordable variant is a big problem here, since the global economy is almost exclusively geared towards bulk buyers. Some of our materials cannot be stored in it gently, e.g. B. Soie de Paris and Soie Ovale. The bagging is again a task that cannot be outsourced and therefore exceeded our time frame a bit.

So we finally came up with the snap bobbin… like more and more suppliers, also in the hand embroidery area. Snap coils can be “filled” by machine and can also be made fairly quickly with a simple machine. thread ends are well secured, the materials are less prone to snagging on rough hands or any objects.

The empty spools can be used for leftover yarn, used for creative door curtains, textile jewelry or other decorative projects. Our imagination is also the limit here. We now know the production methods very well and have also dealt a lot with packaging. And we now know that snap spools can be produced using fewer resources than paper spools. Our snap spools come from a European production.

We’ve become a bit more modern when it comes to packaging. Two winding machines are our little helpers here. Still a lot of manual work, but it’s just faster….

Not much has changed here to this day… BIZ still stands in the dye kitchen for hours every week and enjoys making colorful yarns out of white

BIZ has had many spinning jobs in her life… but she likes this one… whenever the washing machine loses its balance, she simply sets hers against it and sits on top of the washing machine during the spin cycle!

Beautiful colorful world, even when drying, the process is still the same as at the beginning of the adventure.

However, sometimes it’s easier to just put the materials outside, like here AMC cards, and hope it doesn’t start raining or storming!

Our mix packs also like to take a bath in the tub. Like here e.g. B. Cocoons!

sometimes the master of the house has to operate the ironing machine

or the trainees sorting the strands back after a visit to the trade fair. Today it’s coils, but it’s also a Sissyphos job…

At trade fairs, our trainees had a lot of fun alongside their work
(here at the needlework show h+h cologne) – for example with the discovery that so many men wear suits and ties at the trade fair…

Always only possible with very nice helpers like Manuela from  Needle and thread in Freiburg at L’Aiguille en fete in Paris

or Jan at the TNNA handicraft trade fair in Indianapolis (US)

We don’t want to withhold this nice picture of two of our apprentices from you. You won’t find such loving shipping everywhere!

If you have any questions about a material, a technique or a course, send us an e-mail or browse through the seminars of the International School for Textile Arts or the information on the pages of the German Embroidery Guild .