Margaretha Helm deserves attention

In my last post, I shared some of the back story of one my new patterns, The Death of Susanna Jayne.  Today, I want to introduce to you Margaretha Helm.

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Margaretha’s Flower Basket is actually the second pattern I have put out in tribute to Margaretha’s work, so for those of you who have watched my videos or who have been following my design work since before this blog, you may recall this pattern, Margaretha’s Flower Jugs, coming out this past summer.

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I think common theme that may be apparent in my search for design inspiration is a sense of looking to the past, in looking through history.  I am fascinated with old (and I mean OLD, like centuries old) pattern books that are now available to be seen online because they are a part of museum collections.  They are such treasures because not only are they glimpses into what embroiderers worked with in centuries past, but also allowing a connection between the past and the present.

Last summer, in another of my many searches of such books, I came to learn about Margaretha Helm.  There truly is not much to be found about her online and most of my knowledge comes from one particular journal article from the Journal of Design History from 2010.  (If you have access to Jstor, perhaps through a local library, you can read this academic article – just do a google search for it.)  The title of the article alone speaks volumes:  “Deserving Attention:  Margaretha Helm’s Designs for Embroidery in the Eighteenth Century.”

Margaretha (1659-1742) has three known pattern books to her name.  Do you know how rare that is?  A woman of her time getting her name on a pattern book?  Most of her working life was spent in Nuremberg, which was, at the time, a lively center of craftsmanship of all types.  There is some data from that time period that shows only 4% of registered craftsmen (or should we say craftspeople?) were women.  And then, to have her designs published, under her own name.  So unusual.  (There is no way to know how many pattern design books out there are filled with designs created by women but published under the name of men.)

Most of the designs in Margaretha’s books are either for home textiles (think draperies, linens, etc.) or decorative parts of garments (think cuffs, edgings, etc.)  But, there were a few that caught my eye, that connected with the modern look of cross stitch, that made me think that they could be given a second life almost 300 years later.  Obviously, these books were all printed in black and white and the colors that I have suggested in my patterns are simply just…well, my suggestions.  With a smile of amusement, I’ve gone with the “antique” range of colors.  That is to say, antique blues, antiques violets, antique mauves (as DMC names go) and I consider these two pieces as companion designs because of the color schemes.

Oh, how I would love to find some antique textile in a museum collection somewhere that features one of these particular Margaretha designs on it!  (There are examples of some of Margaretha’s patterns from her books on textiles, just not these two that I have chosen to recreate as cross stitch patterns.)

Margaretha’s Flower Basket as a paper pattern to be mailed to you can be purchased in my Etsy store here

Margaretha’s Flower Basket as a pdf pattern to be instantly downloaded can be purchased in my Etsy store here

Margaretha’s Flower Jugs as a paper pattern to be mailed to you can be purchased in my Etsy store here

Margaretha’s Flower Jugs as a pdf pattern to be instantly downloaded can be purchased in my Etsy store here

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