Cross stitch was the gateway drug into my fiber arts obsession. It was not, technically speaking, the first thing I was exposed to, but it was the thing that hooked me. I took Home Ec in Jr. High because for some reason it was either that or shop class. The prevailing opinion at that time was that shop was for losers (I know, how very Breakfast Club), so I signed up for Home Ec without much enthusiasm. In retrospect I think I would've enjoyed learning wood-working in shop class!
The "cooking" part of Home Ec (is it really cooking if all the ingredients are pre-made, like a cherry pie with store-bought pie filling and store-bought crust? I think this is more like "assembling," but I digress) didn't grab me, but our teacher (who was also, oddly, a track coach) taught us to cross stitch for a Christmas decoration. I loved it and forthwith embarked upon a career of cross-stitching things for my grandma, aunt, etc. as gifts.
This is all just back story :) The real post is about my new purchase: a cross stitch book of patterns from the Ecomusée in Alsace.
Here are some of the pieces from the book that I love.
The recreated pattern is on the left and the extant piece is on the right. The original piece is 150 years old, according to the book, and its central motif was worked 8 times.
A table cloth:
A Tree of Life:
A Christmas tree garland:
So inspiring! I don't think I'll be tackling a table cloth just yet though.
This book also talks about a traditional fabric in Alsace called 'kelsch.' I had never heard of it, but it's basically a plaid or a check pattern that is woven from hemp or linen. The fabric was designed to be used as bedding or in the kitchen. It was also hung in front of alcoves to separate off the bed from the rest of the room. There are apparently hundreds of versions documented, with various styles having nicknames, etc. Here's a photo from the book to give you an idea. Sorry it's not a great quality image:
Needless to say, I am smitten. There are still craftsmen out there who make this fabric. There's even a guy not far from T's village, in Muttersholtz: Tissage Gander. Unfortunately it's quite expensive (like 36 euros a metre!) so I won't be buying some any time soon.
Here's a better image which is from the Tissage Gander website:
Apparently sometimes the kelsch would also be embroidered. There's an example in the book of a blue and white check cloth with red cross stitch worked directly on the fabric. It was too dark to photograph so you'll just have to imagine it! And I guess I better save up my pennies so I can buy some ;)