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AUTONOMOUS HEMSTITCH panel by Rikke Ruff, 2019AUTONOMOUS HEMSTITCH panel by Rikke Ruff, 2019On Sunday, 19 January 2020, Gillian Vogelsang reports:

We are currently working on Volume 3 of the Encyclopedia of Embroidery (Bloomsbury, London), which is about embroidery from Scandinavia and Western Europe. In particular we have been working on embroidery from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. So I was very pleased last year when we had a visit from Rikke Ruff, Hundested, Denmark, who is a professional embroiderer. 

She has developed a form of cutwork embroidery that she describes as Autonom Hulsøm (‘Autonomous Hemstitch’). It is a lovely form that combines pulled thread work, needleweaving as well as beads and backgrounds in other materials. Rikke has just very kindly donated a piece of her work for the TRC Collection (TRC 2020.0059).

Rikke Ruff describes her work as follows:

As a seminary teacher, in the late 1990s in Copenhagen, Denmark, I invented this innovative colourful embroidery technique and christened it: Autonomous Hemstitch. The technique is a fusion, a further development and an innovative stitching of what used to be fine, white pulled thread work, embroidered with white thread on a tightly woven white linen back. My interpretation takes this traditional work, very popular in Denmark, to another level.

I have chosen to use coarse hessian cloth as a backing, I sometimes use jute rice bags. I have experimented with a variety of differently coloured embroidery threads (silk, cotton and metallic) and small glass beads – just to achieve a more contemporary, fresh and colourful appearance. There are no set rules, the motifs are composed as inspiration emerges.

Apart from the hemstitch itself, I use various other stitches that are worked outside the main area of the hemstitch design, for example to create large trees or flowers. These stitches include the blanket stitch, bullion stitch, chain stitch, fly stitch, and French knots. I also used extra diagonal threads for the arms and branches of the trees in order to achieve a more harmonious, organic and lively image. Behind the autonomous hem stitch section there may be a piece of hand-painted silk fabric.

I have used Autonomous Hemstitch on, among other things, bags, blouses, bottles, bracelets, brooches, dresses, pillows, purses, shoes and skirts.

Gillian Vogelsang adds: The above leads me to another thought, should the TRC actively collect modern examples of embroidery? This would bring us into the world of Art Textiles, rather than those produced for more general, practical functions and in many cases with regional links. The world of Art Textiles is huge (sometimes literally) and one covered by various museums, so is it something we actually need to do at the TRC? Yet there are many (non-famous) embroiderers out there who are producing small, but intriguing and beautifully worked items (rather than elaborate installations), and not getting the recognition for what they are doing. Who will know about their work in fifty years’ time?

All of this brings us back to what is the function of the TRC Leiden and how can we find the funding to dramatically increase the amount of space we currently have for exhibitions, storage, workshops, etc. More to come on these basic questions in the very near future!


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TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -25 June 2020: American Quilts

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