PaintersThreadsHistory 7

The Kreuzberg near Bonn – Canvaswork after a watercolor and chalk painting by August Macke – © BIZ

Tentakulum Painters Threads History

How it all started …

The Tentakulum Painters Threads story is the story of Bärbel-Ingeborg Zimber (BIZ), who has been combining different art forms since her youth. The deep interest Stitching led her to painters who also worked with textile techniques. The artists of the “Der Blaue Reiter” group, including names such as Kandinsky, Klee, Macke and Marc, were particularly inspiring. But artists such as Gabriele Münter and Marianne von Werefkin also accompanied her on her artistic journey. Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of combining art and textiles, characterized by diversity and creativity.

Die Tentakulum Painters Threads Geschichte ist die Geschichte von Bärbel-Ingeborg Zimber (BIZ), die schon seit ihrer Jugend verschiedene Kunstformen miteinander kombiniert hat. Die intensive Beschäftigung mit dem Sticken führte sie zu Malern, die sich ebenfalls mit textilen Techniken auseinandersetzten.
Spanish Sarf
free three-dimensional embroidery
on hand-dyed silk organza
applied to hand-carved soapstone
Before her training in Stitching, BIZ showed a passionate enthusiasm for the Impressionists and tended to rarely turn her gaze to the right or left. This gradually changed during her training, and the Expressionists in particular increasingly came to the fore. The clarity of the shapes and the intense radiance of the colors arouses the creative interest of every needle enthusiast. A decisive turning point occurred when BIZ got hold of a small booklet entitled “Kunsthandwerkliche Arbeiten August Mackes” and discovered embroidery designs by the artist. This discovery fascinated her deeply. Some time later, she was even lucky enough to see an embroidery designed and stitched by August Macke at an exhibition at the Rosgarten Museum in Constance, which further fueled her enthusiasm. At the same time, BIZ came across a passage in the autobiography of C. Lindenberg, a pediatrician friend of Macke’s, which describes how he visited the Macke family shortly after August Macke’s early death. They sat together in an intimate circle and stitched according to the artist’s designs. These discoveries have had a lasting influence on BIZ’s perspective on the embroidery trade.

...became more and more popular...

The first picture that BIZ wanted to convert into a textile technique was “Der Kreuzberg bei Bonn”, a watercolor and chalk work by August Macke (see illustration above). The approach was that the threads should not have uniform rhythms of repeating color sequences, but rather a colorful composition of the colors used. After many weeks of experimenting with various dyeing methods that are available to modern hand dyers today with advanced base materials, BIZ developed the Painters technique to achieve this effect.

This technique fully reflects what the small dyeing manufactory wants to offer modern stitchers: exclusivity and extravagance. It is no longer a matter of conventional dyeing, but of painting the threads using an unusual technique.

After the project was completed, the students from the International School for Textile Arts and other visitors were so enthusiastic about this thread that they wanted to try it out too.

Slowly, the idea of turning this type of hand-dyeing into a line emerged, initially only for use in a series of embroidery kits, but this got stuck in the planning phase, which was concerned with translating paintings into textile techniques.

Somehow, the threads then inexplicably ended up in the hands of cross-stitch designers and won their hearts. The wheel began to turn! BIS was now faced with the joy that this thread has found many friends, but also with the knowledge that this type of hand dyeing does not allow for reproducible results.

However, textile addicts are not deterred by such challenges! So the technique was perfected and series production began. Tentakulum Painters Threads were born! Each color bears the name of a painter (last name like Macke, exception: ClaudeM=color 104) or a painter (first name like Frida).

The colors correspond to those that these artists used frequently or in a very well-known painting. They now have a worldwide fan base, despite – or perhaps because of – the uniqueness of each product.

Many collect the Painters colors and look forward to each new dye lot. And BIZ is delighted that a small idea has become a big movement and that many people enjoy it as much as the inventor of the Painters Threads.

You can find the available colors and links to the information pages about the namesakes here

... and now!

“the multicolored threads with the most natural color gradient ever” (quote from Judith Baker-Montano) are used around the globe!

In the early days, when everything started with just 10 skeins per color and 5 different qualities, nobody would have thought that the company would one day offer over 40 different textile products in a total of 40 colors. But here they are, in the middle of a world in which around one hundred thousand spools and fabrics find their way to all corners of the earth every year, also lending a special touch to the creative works of the students at the International School for Textile Arts.

Of course, this development was not without its challenges. The company had to completely rethink its work processes before and after dyeing. Over the years, they have often had to listen to the question: “Why have you changed the packaging again?” To be honest, there have actually been five packaging changes since production began in 1995…

It was a time full of learning processes and adjustments, as growth also brought with it new requirements. The production of skeins was an extremely time-consuming task that could not simply be “outsourced”. The number of skeins that had to be wound, dyed and labeled eventually overwhelmed even the busiest hands in the company.

Header bags were the first major solution. But sourcing an affordable version was a challenge, as the global economy focuses almost exclusively on bulk buyers. Some of their materials just didn’t fit well in this packaging, such as Soie de Paris and Soie Ovale. Packing was again a task that they could not outsource and was beyond their time frame.

Finally, they came up with the idea of snap spools, which are also being used by more and more suppliers in the hand embroidery sector. These spools can be filled by machine and can be produced relatively quickly. The yarn ends are secure and the materials are less susceptible to damage. The empty spools can also be used for leftover threads to make creative projects such as door curtains or textile jewelry. The possibilities are endless.

The company has now learned a lot about production methods and packaging. They now know that snap spools can be produced in a more resource-efficient way than paper coils, and they source their snap spools from a European production facility.

PaintersThreadsHistory 1

The winding machine was our first achievement. Even after so many years, she continues to support us in our work, even if the wrapping technique has changed in the meantime.

PaintersThreadsHistory 10

Production has become a little more modern in the meantime. Two semi-automatic winding machines are the little helpers here. Still a lot of manual work, but it’s faster….

PaintersThreadsHistory 2

Not much has changed to this day… BIZ still spends hours in the dye shop every week and has fun turning white threads into colorful ones.

PaintersThreadsHistory 11

Beautiful colorful world, even when drying the process is still the same as at the beginning of the adventure.

PaintersThreadsHistory 14

Sometimes, however, it is easier to simply place the materials outside, as here with AMC cards, and hope that no unexpected rain or storm comes up! 🌤️😊

PaintersThreadsHistory 9

Our mix packs also like to take a bath in the tub. Like here, for example, cocoons!

PaintersThreadsHistory 12

Sometimes even the master of the house has to dive into the world of ironing adventure and tame the ironing machine! 🌪️💼😄

PaintersThreadsHistory 8

BIZ has had many spinning jobs in her life, but she particularly likes this one: when the washing machine loses its balance again, she simply puts hers against it and places herself on the washing machine during the spin cycle! It’s always an amusing balancing act. 😄

PaintersThreadsHistory 4

At trade fairs, our trainees had a lot of fun as well as work (like here at the h+h cologne needlework trade fair) – especially when they were amazed at how many men were out and about in suits and ties at a trade fair for needlework! 🤵✨😄

PaintersThreadsHistory 6

Or the trainee is allowed to sort the strands neatly again after a visit to the trade fair. Even though it is spools today, it sometimes feels just as much like a happy Sisyphean task! 🔄😄


Trade fairs are only ever possible with much loved helpers like Manuela from Nadel und Faden in Freiburg at the L’Aiguille en fete in Paris.

PaintersThreadsHistory 13

Or Jan at the TNNA needlework trade fair in Indianapolis (US)

PaintersThreadsHistory 5

It takes an hour or two for our exhibition stands to look like this.

PaintersThreadsHistory 15

We don’t want to withhold this warm picture of two of our trainees from you. You certainly don’t find such loving shipping anywhere! 🌟💕

email us

We are happy to answer
your questions
on hand-dyed threads
by email