Judit Gummlich – Celebrating Wool Embroidery
Judit Gummlich can pinpoint a moment when everything feels perfect. It happens about an hour after her workshops have started. Judit has shown the different embroidery techniques to the participants and the needles and yarns have come out. It is completely quiet for a moment with everyone immersed in their own project. Then someone says: “Wow, I really like this” or “This is easier than I thought!”
“This is the moment when the participants have gained confidence and their creativity awakes: a spark bursting into flames. To me, the feeling is magical,” Judit says.
Judit Gummlich (@ku.ni.ber.ta) is a multi-talented German crafter who is known for bringing traditional wool embroidery – stitching with and on wool – to the present day. She is also a seamstress, a knitter, a yarn dyer, a beekeeper, and now, a brand-new craft book author.
This autumn, Laine Publishing publishes Judit’s debut book Embroidery on Knits, which introduces readers to the techniques of wool embroidery on knits. At the same time, the book brings Judit’s creative world to life. A world where an embroidered dragonfly decorates the front of a sweater, warm woolly hats are embellished with bright flowers and mittens have decorative plants climbing up the back of the hand.
Judit gets inspiration for her making from nature, art and her own garden. She lives in Northern Germany, near Hamburg, where she works at the costume department of a theatre. Creativity and crafting are the common thread that travels through every aspect of Judit’s daily life – and not by coincidence.
Slow-living alternative family
Always working on something. That is what most of the women were like in Judit’s family: they baked, fermented, knitted, mended clothing, made jam… All the things that are now associated with the trendy lifestyle of slow living, but back then made Judit’s childhood home seem slightly different and alternative. Little Judit was especially close to her maternal grandmother, who was trained as a home economics teacher and who had mastered many craft skills through her profession.
“No one was specifically teaching me these things, but I learned by watching the women in my family and following their example. To us it was simply the normal way to do things,” Judit says.
Judit learned to truly appreciate the example set by her family in her twenties. First she found herself studying to be a seamstress, then taking theatre and literature studies at a university. As a student, she also worked in haute couture studios.
All of this delivered the perfect combination of practice and theory, which Judit puts to good use in her job, working in one of Germany’s largest theatres. On her days off, she works on her own craft projects.
“Crafting is my way of continuing the traditions of my family.”
Judit says she leads “a simple life close to nature”. She lives in the countryside by the Elbe river with her husband, her bees and two cats. Their small house, surrounded by a garden, used to belong to her husband’s great-grandparents, and now it is filled with books, plants and yarn.
“Awareness and respect, towards nature and human beings, are important values to me. I like to consume and network locally and give back where I can.”
Especially with crafting, it is important to Judit to appreciate and understand the materials being used, their origin and their impact on the environment. She wants to make the hobby accessible to all and likes to emphasise that buying expensive materials and tools is not always necessary. Instead, you can buy them used, borrow them, or swap materials with a friend.
“Crafts can sometimes feel like a privileged and intimidating hobby, but they don’t have to be. My aim is to welcome beginners and fellow crafters, support and encourage them in every possible way. Knowledge, time and supplies should be valued, used and shared.”
Judit came across wool embroidery about ten years ago when her niece was born. She wanted to knit something as a gift for the baby and also add something personal to the clothes she had made – something that would please the eye of the child. Judit was very much inspired by the blogger Dottie Angel’s unique style of wool embroidery called “woolly tattoos”.
Slowly, after some trial and error, Judit found her own style and improved the techniques for embroidery on knits that she now teaches and presents in her book.
“I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Adding the finishing touch
Adding embroidery onto a knitted fabric is a traditional technique that has been used, for example, on national costumes across the world. However, Judit’s style is different: a contemporary interpretation of the textile tradition. It is joyful and creative, sometimes opulent and wild.
Judit gets her inspiration from nature, flowers and insects, but also likes to use simple graphic shapes. She reads a lot about and studies costume history and crafting traditions. The contrasts she creates and the unexpected combinations of colours and materials are what make her work unique.
“I might mix silk with rustic wool, for example. Compared with traditional embroidery, my stitches are bigger, freer and more expressive.”
Judit is fascinated by the personal, finishing touch that wool embroidery gives to hand-knitted garments. She compares embroidery to jewellery: both can be used to express personality and emotions.
“Embroidery is also a good way to upcycle garments.”
Judit hopes that her embroidery book is like a box of treasures, which the reader can return to again and again. The book contains all of the expertise Judit has gained over the years and the experience she has amassed in her workshops. Detailed tutorials guide the reader through the techniques of wool embroidery.
Judit has always sought in vain for particular explanations in embroidery books, so she aims to cover all the details she would wish for. She has also hoped to see pictures showing the back of the work, so one or two of those is included as well.
“My goal is to take the readers by the hand and lead them to the many possibilities of embroidery on knits, make them feel confident enough to walk on their own, find their style and give inspiration to become creative.”
Text: Maija Kangasluoma
Photos: Simone Hawlisch
The full-length version of this feature was published in Laine issue 12.