This really is, a shorter post!
The pictures I have been working from contain a very striking leaf and rose that I have decided to bring to life. They are just fantastic designs that I cannot help wanting to try out.
They’re both taken from an exuberant gentleman’s informal cap held in the vaults of the V&A. Museum number: T258-1926.
This basic bold design might be thought to look quite modern to our eyes:
As you can see, its outlined in stem stitch and filled in with Detached Buttonhole that does not rely on this outline for its structure.
They may have used a backstitch to latch their DBH work round, but in my opinion, it looks as if they did not and simply stitched it into the fabric at the sides.
However, I should point out that I’m not sure which stitch they used to fill the petals as they are hard to see. The silk is very flat and untwisted and if I had to say one way or the other, I think they used Trellis Stitch. If they did, then it is a lot looser than we generally see it.
There is plenty of evidence to indicate Trellis stitch was stitched without a preliminary foundation. (Incidentally, I am now looking at Trellis Stitch again, in the light of what Jacqui Carey has published in Sweet Bags and so I didn’t want to tackle it on this motif.)
I find stitching DBH directly into the fabric sides to be a much faster and easier way of working and as a result of this, new and versatile ways of shaping are occurring to me all the time.
The question of how fast they worked in olden days is something I always think about.
Can you imagine being part of a group of say 6 or 8 people (as there were men doing embroidery then), going from house to house. Knocking on the door and asking if the ‘Mistress had any workes that needed embrothering?’.
If you were left-handed you would be paired with a fellow left-hander, as they worked in pairs. Then set up your mobile workshop, get to work finishing projects that had already been started, or start new projects that the owners would then finish. They would draw, transfer, show off new designs, get out their sample book of completed motifs and leave a quote for the larger jobs.
Then they would pack everything up and knock on the next house… They must have worked at quite a ‘professional pace', don’t you think?
When you think of all the work that survives, can you imagine how much embroidery was in evidence then? Entire bedrooms, wall-to-wall just for starters!
Remember what Pepys says in his diary…something along the lines of (loosely paraphrased here) ‘I come home to an exhausted wife who has been stitching all day to finish our new bedroom panels…’
Where things get interesting
I cannot see evidence on the historic rose to say they did what you are about to read, but maybe they did? because as I mentioned earlier, there is something going on with ‘those tips’ of decreasing DBH, that I can see over and over again and I really must try and work out.
So, this next experiment is ‘just a try out’, but it had very interesting results. Especially if we think about the term ‘raised embroidery’. What did the ‘raising’ entail? Was it shaping in a particular way that made it look raised? Was it stuffing?– but that was later. Or in a more general sense, was it a way a way of describing ‘detached’ stitches per se? Who knows?
I may have mentioned before that there is a particular Pansy on a commemorative wedding panel at the V&A which has always played on my mind because it is clearly not padded but rests on the fabric as delicately as a real flower would. You peer down and can see that the stitched petals would cover a larger area than the design can accommodate, the result is, it appears to be ‘tucked in on all sides, yet because you can view it from above, you can see it is slightly overhanging its place in the design, suggesting it is not padded in any way and actually drooping. ‘What has all this got to do with this rose?’ you might be asking, well in short, the direction the petals took on this next practice flower remind me a lot of the appearance of that Pansy.
Experiments with Another Way of Decreasing
On the image below, you can see the petal in the lower left corner looks comparatively flat. Not only flat, but somewhat squashed into its boundary line.
So after that I decided to try to decrease in a different way…
For the remaining petals I decided to try something new:
In short, I thought I would try increasing 2 into 1 stitch in the middle of each row for a change. You can see above that whilst working this way, it creates a peak in the middle.
Then, as I approached the first tip I could see I was going to get into trouble eventually with regard to decreases on either side.
It occurred to me to try missing out alternate stitches and hopefully it might not look too conspicuous if I did that?
The effect, as you can see, was that it added dimension to the surface of the petal.
I thought that missing stitches in this way would mean the shape would have lumps, on the contrary, it created a slight ‘dome’ effect that looks quite inconspicuous, or even desirous.
The I got to work filling it with 3 into 1 metallic chain stitches in silver.
As the thread was pretty chunky, so everything else had to be. The gold chain stitches are different on the real thing as they used Ceylon stitch, but unfortunately I ran out of gold, so had to economise.
The green stem stitch leaves are also a little too far away from the edge of the petals, oh well, that’s what happens when you decide that 4 chunky chain stitches might look too mean, so you end up making a line that is too long!
It goes without saying that the actual rose is better because apart from anything else, they used a really nice carnation-salmon-orangey pink that is so difficult to find these days. And of course they used lustrous silk instead of cotton. But apart from those minor discrepancies, basically this is what it looks like.
I’ve decided that this is going to be my new modus operandi, in that, instead of making isolated components to explore their techniques, I shall make whole flowers.
The Bag is on hold for the time being because I really want to make a few more flat motifs from this very jolly gentleman’s informal cap…
Leaves next…. must dash !