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My name is Tanja Berlin and below is my personal background explaining how I got to this point in my life in which embroidery is my career and life.

CHILDHOOD: 1971 - Onwards

I was born in May 1971. The first 18 years of my life I lived with my parents and my sister in a country house in a beautiful location.

My parents rent a house in the farming country side of Dorset in England. Our house backs onto a Beech wood and looks over rolling fields. In the distance is a ruined Roman church and streams that my sister and I used to swim in. I was very influenced by my surroundings and I would spend many hours walking in the woods, looking for rabbits or pheasants and smelling the wild flowers, and of course climbing trees. Some would say I led a sheltered life, while other teenagers were crazy on the current pop band, fashion and make up, I was more interested in peeping into pigeons nests, making tree houses and doing cross stitch embroideries.

SCHOOL: 1980 - 1989

During my school years I found my interests lay in the needlework class in which I made stuffed toys as well as in the art class in which I very much enjoyed drawing still lifes. In A-level art course we focused on the Renaissance art which gave me a great foundation for drawing in perspective and a good knowledge of colours and form.

During my upbringing, my mother was a great teacher and influence to me, helping me to produce embroidery and other crafts. She started me of on cross-stitch kits and needle-point kits, she also taught me embroidery stitches. There was never a time at home when my mum or I did not have some form of embroidery on the go.

My mother - Beppy Berlin also makes a living by teaching embroidery techniques and has amassed a large collection of embroidery pieces. She has produced much original work, some of her unique stump work etui boxes can be seen in Thomasina Beck's book - Embroidered Gardens. A few of the counted thread designs and Modern Jacobean designs viewed on my site are from my mothers original design, colours and patterns have been changed by myself to make them my own.

My father Paul Berlin was also an inspiration as he was always available to give good critical advise of my work.

I would like to give thanks to my parents for helping me reach the standard of work that I produce today.

ART COLLEGE: 1989 - 1990

After school I took a one year art and design foundation course. In this course we touched on all types of different art techniques and in the third term we specialized in one subject. I chose textiles to concentrate on.

In the art course I felt a little out of my depth. I had come from a rigid art A-level course in which we did not have to use our imagination to do our own art designs, (everything was copied from still lifes) to a completely free art course in which we were to experiment with all different types of materials and threads. I was very weak in this area and rather than struggling on and staying at the bottom of the class in this field, I decided I wanted to do something that required perfection and realism, which I was good at and knew I could excel at.

My first thought was to become a restorer, so I contacted the Victoria and Albert museum in London to find out if they had a course that I could enter into. They informed me that I needed to have a degree in Chemistry but they did know of a place called the Royal School of Needlework that teaches all aspects of hand embroidery, in a three year paid apprenticeship course. They also have a work room in which commissions, restoration and conservation embroidery pieces are worked.

I thought this sounded fun, being paid to do embroidery which I love.

THE ROYAL SCHOOL OF NEEDLE WORK: 1990 - 1995

The Royal School of Needlework was founded in 1872, and specializes in the restoration and conservation of all textiles including Military and Masonic banners, uniforms, tapestries, chair covers and alter frontals, using traditional hand embroidery techniques.

The school's main aim is to pass on the art of ornamental needlework to ensure that traditional skills are continued and passed on to the next generation in the form of a three year apprenticeship course.

I was an apprentice at the Royal School of Needle work from September 1990 - September 1993 and then stayed a further two years in the work room doing restoration, conservation and commission work plus teaching in embroidery.

To be accepted to the apprenticeship course I had to attend two interviews. The first interview was with the principal and the second with the principal and a group of teachers from the Royal School of Needlework. At the interview I showed them some of my art work and embroidery. I was accepted into the course which began in September 1990. 

The first two years of the apprenticeship course was divided into three terms. I had to be at school from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm for embroidery instruction and spent time in the classroom learning many different types of embroidery techniques and time in the workroom gaining first hand knowledge of the conservation and restoration of antique textiles and the development of new embroidery commissions.

When we were learning embroidery techniques in the classroom, we would also have to do 3-5 hours homework per night.

During my first two years at the Royal School of Needlework I covered the following embroidery techniques: Embroidery stitch sampler, Mounting embroideries, Canvas stitches, Canvas flower, Canvas painting, Canvas stretching,  Jacobean crewel embroidery, White Work (Pulled Work, Hardanger, Embroidery Angles, Drawn thread, Mountmellick,  Fine White Work). Blackwork, English and Italian quilting, Smocking, Tassels, Cushion making, Modern (Goldwork, Smocking and Shadow Work). Construction (Boxes), Appliqué, Silkshading (Needle painting), Shadow Work, Goldwork and Bothsides alike.

My third year at the Royal School of Needlework was spent in the workroom gaining further experience by working on all types of embroidery pieces.

See below for some of the apprenticeship pieces that I worked on.

Year 1: Surface Embroidery Stitches - Learning Piece

Surface embroidery stitches worked in Appleton's crewel wools on closely woven fabric. The stitches were worked in the most basic form to learn the technique and then the stitches refined in future projects.

Year 1: Canvas Work Stitch Sampler

Canvas Work Stitch Sampler - A range of canvas work stitches worked in Appleton's crewel wools on 18 count mono canvas.

Year 1: Canvas Work - Rose

Canvas work Rose - Appleton's crewel wools worked on 18-count mono canvas in continental tent stitch. The needle point rose is worked from a colour photo of a rose.

Year 1: Canvas Painting - Fruit

Canvas Painting -  Fruit painted onto 18 count mono canvas using oil paints.

Year 1: Drawn Thread

Drawn Thread - 25 count linen fabric, DMC and Anchor floss's used to whip bars.

Year 1: Hardanger

Hardanger - Number 5 and Number 8 white peal cotton worked on 22 count Hardanger fabric.

Year 1: Pulled Work

Pulled work Giraffe is worked in DMC embroidery cotton on 25 count linen fabric.

Year 1: English Quilting

English Quilting - A backstitch is worked along the lines of the design working through the top layer of silk fabric and the bottom layer of thick wadding (batting) creating a padded design.

Year 1: Italian Quilting (Trapunto)

Italian Quilting also know as Trapunto - The design is drawn on to a piece of silk fabric backed with a piece of cotton fabric. Two parallel rows of running stitch are worked along the lines of the whole design forming hollow columns. From the back soft cotton is threaded through the columns using a bodkin (large needle), between the silk fabric and the cotton fabric creating a relief effect.

Year 1: Smocking

Smocking - The pleats were hand sewn into the fabric first and then the smocking patterns were worked across the pleats in DMC embroidery floss'.

Year 1: Blackwork

Blackwork Embroidery - The background was painted first. The blackwork is worked in black threads on 32 count linen fabric.

Year 1: Jacobean Crewel Embroidery

Jacobean Crewel Embroidery - Surface embroidery stitches worked in Appleton's crewel wool on natural colour Jacobean linen twill fabric.

Year 1: Silk Shading

Silk Shading - The background was painted first in silk paints on silk Dupioni fabric. The fuchsias were worked in long and short stitch and satin stitch in silk embroidery threads.

Year 1: Goldwork: Pomegranate, Crown and Fleur-de-lys

Goldwork

The Goldwork: Pomegranate, Crown and Fleur-de-lys is a set design by the Royal School of Needlework and should not be reproduced due to RSN copyright.

Pomegranate - Padded with felt. The leaves are worked with Elizabethan twist, the petals are worked in Japan Gold and the heart of the pomegranate is worked in red silk thread.

Crown - Padded with felt and string. The crest of the crown is worked over with chips of Bright Check Purl, the center of the crown is worked in Japan Gold and the base of the crown is worked in brown silk threads.

Fleur-de-lys - Padded with string and worked over with Japan Gold and outlined with a red cord.

Year 2: Double Sided Embroidery: Laurel Leaves, Tudor Rose, Thistle and labels

The Double Sided Embroidery is a set design by the Royal School of Needlework and should not be reproduced due to RSN copy right.

Double Sided Embroidery is also known as 2-Sided embroidery or Both Sides Alike.

The embroidery is worked on one piece of banner silk fabric and worked in satin stitch, padded satin stitch, long and short stitch and stem stitch. The embroidery is stitched in a specific method so that the back is as well executed as the front. The ends of the thread are hidden under the stitching so the that the embroidery is completely reversible.

Year 2: Double Sided Embroidery: Crown - Front and Back

The Double Sided Embroidery is a set design by the Royal School of Needlework and should not be reproduced due to RSN copy right.

Double Sided Embroidery is also known as 2-Sided embroidery or Both Sides Alike.

The embroidery is worked on one piece of banner silk fabric and worked in satin stitch, padded satin stitch, long and short stitch and stem stitch. The embroidery is stitched in a specific method so that the back is as well executed as the front. The ends of the thread are hidden under the stitching so the that the embroidery is completely reversible.

Year 2: Animal, Cross and Saint

Animal, Cross and Saint are worked on one piece of linen fabric.

Hare - The Hare is worked in natural long and short shading using embroidery cottons.

Cross - The cross is worked in applique, goldwork, Or Nue and silk shading.

Saint Giles - Saint Giles is worked in tapestry long and short shading using embroidery cottons and metal thread embroidery.

Year 2: Applique

Applique

The fish is worked by applying silk, organza and metallic fabrics to a silk ground fabric using small anchoring stitches around the edge of the fabrics. Some of the fabrics are applied over padding. Some of the edges of the applied fabric are left bare and some of the edges are outlined in couching or cords. In other areas surface embroidery stitches are worked.

Year 2: Goldwork: Wheat, Laural leaves and acorns

Goldwork

Wheat-ears - Padded with felt. The wheat-ears are worked in beads of check purl and smooth purl. Some of the wheat-ears husks are outlined with pearl purl.

Wheat leaves - Padded with felt or felt and string. Each leaf is worked in a combination of different gold's. Gold's used are passing thread, pearl purl, rococco and gold purls.

Laurel leaves - Padded with string and felt. The laurel leaves are worked in beads of check purl, smooth purl and rough purl. S-ing down the center of the leaf is worked in rough purl.

Acorns - Padded with carpet felt and felt. The head of the acorn is worked in broad plate gold and the base of the acorn is worked in beads of check purl.


After my three year apprenticeship course I spent another two years at the Royal School of Needlework completing work on some amazing antique embroideries and creating some wonderful new embroideries. I have a deep respect and appreciation for the training I received at the Royal School of Needlework and look back with enjoyment at the five years that I spent at the school.

During my five years at the Royal School of Needlework I had quite an active social life as well. I was a member of the Kingston University Scuba diving club and a member of the caving club. I became a diving instructor for the dive club and spent many weekends away with the diving and caving club. Towards the end of my five years my appetite for new adventures was growing and it was time for me to move on.

On July 6th 1995 I flew to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia for the start of my three year travelling adventure.

TRAVELLING: 1995 - 1998

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur on my own in July 1995 and found accommodation in Chinatown, beginning my travelling experiences around southeast Asia. I met many other travellers on my trips but in general I moved around on my own from place to place. I spent a month in Malaysia, two months in Thailand and then travelled back to Malaysia and spent another month there and then back to Thailand for another two months. In January I flew to Hong Kong and worked as a bartender in Delaney's Irish bar from January 1996 until August 1996.

In August I flew to the Philippines and spent a month travelling through out the country. I then flew onto Sydney Australia. I travelled up the east coast. In Brisbane I worked at a local carnival for 6 weeks. I also embroidered a picture of two Japanese ladies in needle painting for a woman who was importing silk threads from China and wanted a sample of the threads worked into an embroidery.

I moved to Childers and stayed at the Palace Backpackers where I secured a job picking tomatoes and snow peas. It was here I met my future Husband - Russell Morash from Calgary, Canada.

We travelled on together hitchhiking and camping along the east coast, across the North and down the west coast to Perth. 

In September 1997 we flew from Perth to Auckland New Zealand. We travelled around the north and south islands of New Zealand in a tiny little camper van. We also stayed with my friend Jo Dixey and her boyfriend, Kit, from New Zealand. Jo studied at the Royal school of Needlework at the same time I was there.

We left New Zealand in January 1998 and went to Los Angeles, California, we travelled through America for a month up to Coots Crossing and into Canada. Russ's parents picked us up in Lethbridge and we went to Calgary.

I stayed with them for a couple of weeks and then flew home in March to visit my family and friends and to work.

CANADA: 1998 - Present

I came back to Canada in August 1998 and lived with Russ for a year, returning home to England for a month and then back to Canada in August 1999.

Russ and I were married on 4th December 1999. In March 2004 I became a Canadian Citizen. We are settled in Calgary and have our home in the Northwest where I run my business and teach private classes. I enjoy working my new embroidery projects in the living room in the company of Russ and our rabbit "Scampy" and dog "Buster".

Tinker 2003 - 11th February 2009

Scampy May 2003 - February 2012

Buster Born June 1st 2009

Monty Born June 4th 2011

Russ and I enjoy the out doors and partake in canoeing, camping and hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. We also enjoy our garden where we have many bird houses and dabble around planting flowers and tending the lawn. Below are pictures of Russ and I on the West coast trail and camping in the Kootneys and the two of us with the dogs.

During my years in Calgary I have built up a collection of different embroidery techniques that I teach on a regular basis.

I have taught across Canada from Vancouver Island in the West to Newfoundland in the East, USA and Australia. To see a history of my teaching appointments visit my Credentials and Teaching History webpage.

Please see Classes for the subjects that I teach. I also give a interesting slide show and talk about my apprenticeship pieces worked on at the Royal School of Needlework, workroom pieces and the embroidery that I am doing today. For more information go to Lecture/Talk at the bottom of the page of classes.

I have also completed a number of embroidery commissions since I have been here. See Commissions for examples of pet portraits, wedding dresses and other pieces.

The kits that I sell on this website are designed and embroidered by myself and are original. There also are a few designs by Beppy Berlin (my mum). I hope that you will find a kit that will inspire you to embroider.

Hand Embroidery Kits

2-Sided Embroidery   •   Applique   •   Assisi   •   Beginners Kits   •   Blackwork   •   Blackwork with Goldwork   •   Carrickmacross Lace   •   Counted Thread   •   Crewel Embroidery   •   Cross-stitch Meets Blackwork   •   Etui Box Kits   •   Featured Designer   •   Free Embroidery Designs   •   Fine White Work   •   Goldwork   •   Hapsburg Lace   •   Kit of the Month   •   Modern Jacobean   •   Mountmellick   •   Needle Painting   •   Projects for Groups   •   Pulled Work   •   RSN Gold   •   Schwalm   •   Surface Embroidery   •   Shadow Work   •   Traditional Jacobean   •   What is Hand Embroidery?   •   Whats New?   •   White Work   •   Wholesale

Embroidery Merchandise

Acid Free Products   •   Blackwork  Supplies   •   Books   •   Carrickmacross Lace Supplies   •   Embroidery Accessories   •   Fabrics   •   Frames   •   Gift Certificates   •   Gift Ideas   •   Goldwork Supplies   •   Kid  Leather   •   Magnifiers   •   Metal Threads   •   Merchandise   •   Mountmellick Supplies   •   Needles   •   Needle Painting Supplies   •   Needlework Boxes   •   Organizers   •   Scissors   •   Threads   •   Tools and Supplies   •   Tools For Design Transfer   •   Whats New?

Services

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Tanja Berlin © Berlin Embroidery Designs  

Address: 1481 Hunterbrook Road NW, Calgary, Alberta T2K 4V4, Canada Telephone: (403) 274 6293  Email: tanja@berlinembroidery.com