Janne Robberstad

Welcome to my site! I work as an eco-designer, an artist, as a teacher and as a researcher, and creating, or ARTING as I prefer, makes me happy! This is both a portfolio of things I´ve made and a blog meant to inspire.

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6 000 000 stitches

By spotogspindel | May 2, 2016


The original idea was to show appreciation for the time, love and effort women throughout the ages have invested into transforming a house into a home, much via textiles. The contribution to society and world history has often been ignored, because it was in different fields. They took care of the “small world”. While the men were out fighting for power and glory, they were the ones actually making the wheels of everyday go around. Mind you though, embroidery is not only for women! A lot of the vintage embroidery I´ve collected has been made by men. On the back of one needle-point it had the inscription: “To Linn on her 30th birthday. From Father-in-law”.

My wish has been to make a versatile exhibition of embroidery. Hopefully you will find both old and new, humor and factual art, pure decoration and food-for-thought. There is both hand- and machine-embroidery. Both originals, lent to us by the public, and redesigned. There is guerrilla-embroidery and there are expressions of faith and beliefs. Hopefully there is something for everyone. There are also a lot of links to the different pieces here, if you want more information.


I will lead you through the exhibition, as if you were walking into the museum yourself. At the entrance, you are greeted by the embroidered go-cart. And a collection of “Home, sweet home”-signs. My redesigned version says “Welcome to the pleasure dome!”

However, the first section is all about faith.


The part of the country I live in is sometimes called the Bible-belt, Christianity is traditionally strong here. I noticed this when I started collecting vintage embroidery. There were a couple of motifs that kept returning. This is one of them. The Bible on the table, the lighted candle in front of a curtained window.


The  prayer carpet is a textile collage assembled of vintage devotional pictures. Faith fascinates me. It is such an incredibly strong human emotion or quality. So many good qualities that inspire. And so horribly misused by men of power through the ages.


I made this russian-inspired icon of the arch-angel Gabriel back in 2002. In many ways, my part of the exhibition is a retro-view of my textile work. It covers several years and several techniques and motifs. Most of my focus has been on freestyle machine embroidery, ever since I first learned about it way back in 1990. So with few exceptions, my work is machine-embroidered, starting with the embroidered undergarments:


My black lace-bra filled with male faces addresses who underwear really is made for: the user or the “viewer”?


Continuing the theme of underwear, I made a couple of “hipsters”. Vintage suspender-knickers from the 60s now have a young, bearded hipster on each hip. And above, Polly and Peter pirate-parrots, who coincidentally color-match the hipsters.


“My life without me”. Here and here. These three pictures were made with the current refugee-crisis in mind. I was thinking of what it would be like if I was forced to leave my life, my home, my friends… Based on photographs from my life, I´ve removed the main person from the picture. Life would go on. I just wouldn´t be there.


The how-to-series: freestyle machine embroidered drawing. I made this textile book as part of the experimenting with the grey  Elisabeth curtain, and thought I´d include it in the exhibition. It explains part of the techniques I use and how I design.


Elisabeth is my two-year old niece. A cute-as-can-be, very active and tough girl! Looking at the curtain with a dark background it appears to be a negative. While with a lighter background, it seems like a positive (like a photo). So in a way it shows an optical illusion, how the same shade of grey can appear very differently depending on the color of the background.


Here´s another photo, with Elisabeth´s big brother playing with the curtain.

The big family-portrait is made of portraits of my large family. All of the descendants from my Grandma, with spouses. I love my family! I mean, of course I would anyway, but they are really genuinely nice people who are fun to be with.



The portrait-gallery continues with my Dad, me, an old Chinese lady I met years ago in small village outside Beijing, my friend Torhild and finally my Grandma. This is what I will look like when I grow old. I might choose other glasses. And the hair might be blue 😉


Many years experience with bow and arrow

It is the black dot in the middle of the target you have to hit, that one, that´s where the arrow should stand and quiver! But right there,  you don´t hit. You are close, closer, no not close enough. So you´ll have to go and pick up the arrows again, go back. The black dot vexes yo. Until you understand the arrow standing there quivering. Here is also a centre-point.

Olav H. Hauge


I first heard this poem years and years ago, and it has stuck with me. I feel it carries a lot of life-wisdom in it. The machine-embroidered silver circle reminded me of a target and therefor the poem, and putting them together made sense to me.


The Elizabethan Gleaner-corset is made form vintage needle-point embroideries. One of my first ideas for this exhibition came to me was this corset. It took two years before I made it, but it was an essential part of my idea-process.

Women have embroidered for centuries, millenias even, and for the upper classes, it was one of few pastimes allowed. And therefore one of very few creative expressional outlets. I´m thinking that in some ways it may have been liberating to have this outlet. Unless you really hated embroidery of course. Then it might have been as constraining as the corset they were wearing…


Suspended above us hags the golden mermaid-net. It is 75 x 330 cm and sewn with gold thread, so you can catch some serious gold-diggers with it 😉


The textile building-blocks, all 25 of them, made with vintage needle-point embroidery. The size is 40x40x40 cm and they have 240 000 needle-point stitches. Each. That makes 6 000 000 stitches all together. And that is what gave name to the exhibition. Six million stitches. Can you imagine all that time and effort devoted to this work? All the love put into making their houses into homes?


Towards the end of the exhibition some of the children finally deared to ask if they could play with the textile blocks. Which of course they could! Huge success! Instantly they turned into forts and towers and tunnels 🙂


Behind the building-blocks is a wall-hanging made from all the remnants from the vintage embroideries used in the blocks. Sewn together in a big textile collage, with the words “JUST ADD COLOR” sewn onto the background. Which I think is a pretty good saying in a lot of different situations. Life, for instance.


The dear-chair with table  looks like it came in handy 🙂


Guerilla embroidered art can be a lot of things. I´ve collected words and phrases typical of our dialect, and traces them onto linen, and embroidering them. These are the only pieces I´ve embroidered by hand. Each piece is 10×10 cm and has 2500 hen-stitches.


Guerrilla embroidered art-wall with works by Trude Grini Olsen and me.  She´s a super-talented textile-lady, with some hard-kicking guerrilla-embroidery. I´m much more diplomatic, it turns out 😉

A matter of perspective“, “Mothers can do anything, know everything, and are always right.”, “Don´t worry, that´s Mom´s job”, and finally: “Are you sure tho is where you lost the car-keys?”


Fabiola, patronage for the outcasts, painted by Jean-Jaques Henner in the 1880s is also part of the exhibition. The biggest picture is an oil-painting. All the others are embroidered versions, and not one of them are the same. A good example of how personal preferences and creativity is reflected in the works.


A few photos from the opening. From left to right: me; Trine Hjertholm who opened the exhibition, former national Art Group leader; Trine Kyvik, productioncoordinator/curator at the museum; Trude Grini Olsen, guerrilla-embroider-champion; and finally Jane Junger, manager at the museum.


A little baby-girl playing with the textile boxes.


An antique sofa filled with pillows old and new. Yes, that is a pin-up you see there. Trude´s work. Gotta love a pin-up-pillow!


Old embroidered samples made by Maria Haldorsen in the 1930s. They are so exquisite, we had to mount them in plexi-glas, so you could see the back-side too. Incredible!


The information-posters made:


_MG_2576_MG_2579 _MG_2581

An overview of the room.


We placed four embroidered rococo-chairs around an antique, round table filled with unfinished pieces, to invite anyone to sit down and have a go.


Some the more valuable and fragile pieces we put in a glass-box. The silk-christeing-gown is from the 1890s, and I bought it in Plymouth a hundred years later. The textile bags beside it, are examples of the gym-bags we had to sew in school when I was a kid. I think my is in the attic, I could´t find it, but luckily we got some to show. EVERYONE over 40 today will remember these.  The tilted square one with the roses on, was a potholder!


We didn´t have room for all the embroidered pieces we wanted to, but decided to make a little booklet of some of them. Also showing the original print of a picture, and a bigger one, finished. At one point in history there were over 120 factories in Berlin printing these. And they hade over 140 000 patterns to choose from.


The museum even made new signs for the restroom-doors. I adore these rococo-signs for this purpose!


Thank you Sunnhordland Museum for co-operating with me on this project! And thank you Sparebanken and Bømlo Municipally for the finical support!

Topics: exhibition, textile | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “6 000 000 stitches”

  1. gail Says:
    May 3rd, 2016 at 00:21

    Oh Janne, what a wonderful exhibit! And so special that people could touch the art, a thing rarely allowed here. I would have loved to see it in person but appreciate the chance to take a virtual tour! 🙂

  2. Tore Says:
    May 3rd, 2016 at 17:00

    Congratulation, Janne, with your new fantastic exhibit. I never thought embroderies could be so fasinating. I wish I could be there.