Graduate of the Royal School of Needlework, London

Talking About Painters

Figure above: the first color.... Macke (big field left under the house)
Design: BIZ - Version Christiane (DE)

How it all began...

Since her youth, Bärbel Ingeborg Zimber (BIZ) has repeatedly mixed different art forms. The intensive occupation with needlework 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 known, Gabriele Münter and Marianne von Werefkin.

Spanish scarf
three-dimensional embroidery
on hand dyed silk organza
applied on hand carved soapstone

Before her needlework training she was an enthusiastic follower of the impressionists with little inclination to look to the right or left. During her training this changed very slowly and especially expressionists pushed themselves more and more into the foreground. The clarity of the forms and the intense radiance of the colours make the fingers of every needle enthusiast tingle.

When a little booklet "Arts and Crafts of August Macke" found its way into BIZ' hand and she found embroidery designs by August Macke in them, she was done for. Some time later she was even lucky enough to see an embroidery designed and embroidered by August Macke at an exhibition of the Rosgarten Museum in Constance "Five hundred years of embroidery in Germany". 

At the same time, BIZ found a passage in the autobiography of C. Lindenberg, a paediatrician friend of Macke's, which describes how he visited the Macke family shortly after August Macke's untimely death and how he sat together in a familiar circle and stitched according to Macke's designs.

...became more and more popular...

The first image that BIZ wanted to transform into a textile technique was "Der Kreuzberg bei Bonn" a watercolour chalk work by August Macke (see picture above). The thread should not be an even rhythm of repeating colour sequences, but a colourful composition of the colours used. Long weeks of experimenting with different dyeing methods, which are available to hand dyers today with modern basic materials, then led to the Painters Techniquewith which this effect could be achieved.

This corresponds in its entirety to what the small dye factory wants to offer modern hand embroiderers: exclusivity and extravagance. It is no longer a matter of dyeing in the conventional sense, but of painting the threads with an unusual technique.

After completion of the project, the students of the International School for Textile Arts and other visitors were so enthusiastic about this thread that they wanted to work with it as well.

So slowly the idea was born to make a line out of this kind of hand dyeing. At first, however, only for use in a series of needlework kits, which unfortunately has not yet come out of the planning phase, which is about transforming paintings into textile techniques.

At some point, the threads fell into the hands of cross-stitch designers in a way that is no longer comprehensible and conquered their hearts. Now the wheel began to roll! BIZ stood there with the joy that this thread has found many friends and with the knowledge that this kind of hand dyeing does not allow a reproducible result...

But textile addicts would not be such addicts if they let themselves be defeated by such a little thing! So the technique was perfected and serial production started. Painters Threads was 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 on a very famous painting. Meanwhile they have a worldwide fan-community, despite - or maybe just because - every product is absolutely unique.

Many "collect" Painters colours and look forward to each new dye lot. And BIZ is happy that a small idea has become a big movement and that many people enjoy it as much as the inventor of Painters Threads.

The available colours and links to the information pages about the namesakes can be found here.

... and finally...
has become the current little dyeing empire!

Where once everything started with 10 small skeins per colour and 5 qualities, today there are more than 40 different textile products in a total of 40 colours. In the meantime, about one hundred thousand small and large spools and fabrics are on their way all over the world every year and also make the work of the students of the International School for Textile Arts to be 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 change the packaging for the third time in 25 years. Well, to be honest, since we started production 23 years ago, there have been 5 changes... On the one hand, there are many learning processes to be mastered and, as we grow, work processes to be rethought. The production of skeins is very time-consuming and there is no way to "out-source" these tasks. The mass of skeins that had to be wound before dyeing and turned and labelled after dyeing could no longer be handled by us alone. The next "big experiment" was our header bags, which are still in use for some products. Here, the procurement of an affordable variant is a big problem, as the global economy is almost exclusively geared towards bulk buyers. Some of our materials are not easy to store in them, such as Soie de Paris and Soie Ovale. The bagging process is a task that cannot be outsourced and therefore exceeds our time frame. 

That's how we finally got on the snap spool... as more and more suppliers do, also in the needlework sector. Snap spools can be "filled" by machine -even though still mechanical machines where each spool has to be put on and taken off manually. Thread ends are well secured, the materials are less susceptible to getting caught on rough hands or any objects. 

The empty spools can be used for residual threads, can be processed into creative door curtains, textile jewelry or other decorative projects. Our imagination is the limit here too. In the meantime we know the production methods very well and have also dealt a lot with packaging. And we now know that snap pools can be produced in a more resource-saving way than paper spools. 

String winding

Here Heike is already at the "3rd stage", a semi-automatic winding machine, built by a toolmaker on the motor of a potter's wheel. Before that, we wound the skeins individually over a cardboard box and then "automated" stretched the cardboard box onto a winding device...


Not much has changed here until today... BIZ still spends hours every week in the dyeing kitchen and enjoys making colourful threads out of white ones

Slinging job

BIZ has had many spin jobs in her life... but this one she likes... when the washing machine loses its balance, she simply puts her weight against it and places herself on the washing machine during the spin cycle!


Beautiful colourful world, here too the process is still the same as at the beginning of the adventure.


Sometimes, however, it's easier to just put the materials, such as the AMC cards shown here, outside and hope it doesn't start raining or storming!

large hanks

This is what it looks like before the strands are sent to our very special "winding room" for spooling...

Bathing in a different way

... or when we use the bathtub to mix cocoons.


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

Fair - after glow

or the trainee had to sort the skeins after a visit to the show

away from home

At trade shows our trainees had a lot of fun besides their work
(here at the needlework trade show h+h cologne) - for example with the discovery that there are so many men wearing suits and ties at the trade fair mainly meant for women...

Always only possible with dear helpers* like Manuela from Nadel und Faden in Freiburg here at the L'Aiguille en fete in Paris

and even further away

or Jan at the TNNA trade show in Indianapolis (US)

We would like to share this nice picture of our two trainees with you. You'll not find more love put into shipping anywhere....

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