Originating in Germany in the early 1800’s, Berlin wool work spread to England and then to America by the mid-1800’s as a popular form of needlework. It was among the first amateur needlework techniques to become all the rage for the middle class women in Victorian England.
Relying on “point paper” (graph paper) charts made more accessible thanks to innovations in colored printing, and using a soft, thick wool that took dye well (hence, it was available in many colors), Berlin work relied primarily on tent stitch to fill the needleworker’s canvas. Floral designs were popular, and often abundantly lavish – abundant lavishness in decor being something the Victorians managed quite often.
Berlin work began its demise with the advent of the Arts & Crafts Movement, which moved needlework in totally a different direction.
Berlin wool work is the direct predecessor of today’s canvas work and counted cross stitch.
This piece of needlepoint is not necessarily “Berlin wool work” proper (from the 19th century), but it has the same look. It’s not new, but I have no idea how old it is. I need to explore it further to figure it out.
Black backgrounds in Berlin work became popular in the mid-1800’s, and they’re still popular on many needlepoint canvas designs today.
The whole needlepoint piece is approximately 27.5″ wide and 28.5″ high. The black stitches extend 5.5″ out on each side, 4.5″ up from the top of the design area, and 3.5″ at the base of the design area, so it isn’t framed exactly in the center.
With about 11 stitches to the inch, the whole piece sports about 95,000 stitches.
Needless to say, someone, somewhere, at some point in time, put a lot of time and effort into tent-stitching this canvas.
So how did I come by it? Well, I found it on Craig’s List, under antiques. But I didn’t buy it for the needlepoint, or “tapestry” (as it was listed). I bought it – at a steal, for just over $100 – for the “frame” surrounding it. It was my Christmas present to me, and quite worth it.
I haven’t taken any photos yet that quite do justice to the “frame.” This piece deserves a better setting than my workroom, so once I set it up in a better location, I’ll show you the whole thing!
In the meantime, can you guess what type of “frame” this is in? It’s not a regular frame-frame. It’s more like a piece of furniture, in a way. I’ve been looking for one of these for a Very Long Time, but they aren’t widely made in the US anymore, and when you do find them in solid wood, suitable for this type of needlework display, they are prohibitively expensive and not as decorative or attractive as this particular one. Any guesses?
I’ll reveal all next week, I promise! And then we can bat around some ideas.
In the meantime, if you have an ideas, input, suggestions, comments, or what-have-you, about the needlepoint – or if you can guess what it is displayed on – feel free to leave a comment below!
See you tomorrow!