From Pen to Needle

Heike Gerbig’s textile art


Heike Gerbig weaves. Not in the traditional sense of weaving fiber into cloth, but weaving words into poetry or a storyline. Which is perhaps not surprising when you learn that for many years she enjoyed the challenges of being an author and editor.

But when she hit 50 her writing career began to unravel. With waning writing and editing assignments, Gerbig decided it was time for a dramatic change and started to contemplate sewing. Although she remembered “the uninviting and uninspiring sewing lessons at school,” and had not touched a needle for decades, “things suddenly and without much effort changed – with a library book on quilting.”

Drawn to the book’s photos of quilts, she was inspired to sew. “As a writer, I was weaving words and embroidering them over and over, so the step from one way of expressing myself to another came astonishingly easy – with a lot of trial and error, of course, since I didn’t know a thing about sewing.”

Gerbig compares creating textile art to poetry, in which storytelling plays an important role within her work. Her textiles include an abundance of writing that is hand-stitched and machine-stitched. Her mixed-media work incorporates paper from old books. Her goal in producing her textile art is that it should have a calming quality that’s interesting, informative and inspiring, but she also enjoys obscuring the meaning of its narrative where there’s neither a distinct beginning nor end.

Inspiration comes from many outlets—including blogs and Flickr photo streams. Early on in Gerbig’s blogging efforts, she discovered Jude Hill’s Spiritcloth (, which proved to be a valuable source. “As for influences, there’s another similarity to writing—I’ve always found it useful to not look too closely at what others do. I’ve been self-taught with almost everything I ever did and I try to limit my Internet time.”

Gerbig’s current projects are with mixed-media, which blends fabrics using various methods: hand stitching, paper, machine embroidery; machine sewing, and even painting.  It’s an adventurous exploration of how she can express herself, one that blends various influences from different periods in her life.

And when it comes to saying good-by to her work, Gerbig admits that she has a difficult time parting ways with it. “I guess it’s similar as with a book one has enjoyed reading—I want it close at hand for a while. I often feel I’m still practicing, so I want to keep certain pieces around, for orientation, and as seeds of inspirtion.”

For more information about Heike Gerbig, please visit her blog To view her online photo album, visit; to purchase her textile art, please visit or




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