Painters Threads Chats


Painter's Chats
How it all began...

Since her youth, Bärbel Ingeborg Zimber (BIZ) has always mixed different art forms. Her intensive occupation with embroidery led her to find more and more painters who also worked with textile techniques. First and foremost 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 needlework
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 BIZ got hold of a small booklet entitled "Kunsthandwerkliche Arbeiten August Mackes" and found embroidery designs by August Macke in it, she was hooked. Some time later, she was even lucky enough to see design by Macke that had actually been stitched by August Macke himself 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 the paediatrician C. Lindenberg, who was a friend of Macke , describing how he visited the family Macke shortly after August Macke's early death and how they sat together in a cosy circle and embroidered according to designs by Macke .

...became more and more popular...

The first picture that BIZ wanted to convert into a textile technique was "Der Kreuzberg bei Bonn" a watercolour crayon work by August Macke (see illustration above). The thread was not intended to be an even rhythm of repeating colour sequences, but a colourful composition of the colours used. Long weeks of experimenting with different colouring methods available to hand colourists today with modern basic materials then led to the Painters technique she developed to achieve this effect.

This also fully corresponds to what the small dyeing manufactory wants to offer modern hand embroiderers: exclusivity and extravagance. It is no longer dyeing in the conventional sense, but 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 also wanted to try it out.

So the idea slowly arose to make a series out of this kind of hand dyeing. However, at first only for use in a series of needlework kits, which unfortunately has not yet come out of the planning phase, It is all about translating paintings into textile techniques.

Somewhere along the way, the threads fell into the hands of cross-stitch designers and won their hearts. Now the wheel started to roll! BIZ now stood there with on the one hand the joy that this thread has found many friends and on the other hand with the knowledge that this kind of hand dyeing does not make a reproducible result possible...

But textile addicts wouldn't be such people if they let a little thing like that get them down! So the technique was perfected and series production began. The Painters Threads were born! Each colour has the name of a painter (surname like Macke) or a woman painter (first name like Frida). The colours correspond to those that these artists have used very often or in a very 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 colours and look forward to each new dye lot. And BIZ is pleased 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 information pages about the namesakes can be found here.

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

Where once everything started with 10 skeins per colour and 5 qualities, today there are over 40 different textile products in a total of 40 colours each. In the meantime, around one hundred thousand spools and fabrics are sent all over the world every year, also making 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 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 cope with and work processes to rethink as they grow. The production of skeins is very time-consuming and there is no way to "out-source" these tasks. The mass of hanks that had to be wound before dyeing and twisted and labelled after dyeing was no longer manageable by us alone.

The next "big trial" was our header bags, which are still in use partly. Here, the procurement of an affordable version is a big problem, as the global economy is almost exclusively geared towards bulk buyers. Some of our materials cannot be placed gently in them, such as Soie de Paris and Soie Ovale. Bagging is again a task that cannot be outsourced and thus has stretched our time frame a bit.

That's how we finally came up with the snap spools... like more and more suppliers, also in the hand embroidery sector. Snap spools can be "filled" by machine and can also be produced reasonably quickly with a simple machine. Thread ends are well secured, materials are less prone to snagging on rough hands or any objects.

The empty spools can be used for leftover threads, made into creative door curtains, textile jewellery or even other decorative projects. Our imagination is the limit here too. We now know the production routes very well and have also done a lot of work on packaging. And we now know that snap spools can be produced in a more resource-friendly way than paper spools. Our snap spools come from European production.

In the meantime, we have become a bit more modern when it comes to making up. Two winding machines are our helpers here. Still a lot of manual work, but it's faster now....

Not much has changed here... BIZ is still in the dye kitchen for hours every week and enjoys turning white threads into colourful ones.

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

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

Sometimes, however, it is easier to just put the materials, like AMC cards here, outside and hope that it doesn't start raining or storming!

Our mix packs also like to take a dip in the bath. Like Cocoons here, for example!

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

or the apprentice sorting the threads after a visit to a show. Today they are spools, but it is just as much of a Sissyphus job...

At trade fairs, our trainees had a lot of fun besides their work
(here at the handicrafts trade fair h+h cologne) - for example, with the discovery that there are so many men walking around in suits and ties at the trade fair...

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

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

We don't want to deprive you of this nice picture of two of our trainees. You certainly won't find such loving dispatch anywhere!

If you have questions about a material, a technique or courses, write 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 Embroiderers Guild.