Sunday, February 26, 2012

Goldwork-Embroidered Petticoat: Progress and Candy Colors

Working with the afternoon sun behind me...before the
embroidery frame eureka moment.
Hack, bellow, cough, cough, couuuuggghhh, stoop down the hall to find another set of tissues, breathe hard and shallowly, feel elephant walking on the chest. Stop in the middle of the hall to rest. Ardently desire to sit down, no, to lay down, and remain prone all day. Call forth reserves from heaven knows where to attend to the boys and to do what must be done. Food unwanted, sleep fitful, memory hazy and task followthrough iffy...oh, I only filled the steamer halfway? Huh, I was sure it was full. Thank heaven for a loving husband and mother and kind family.

That's been life with viral pneumonia these last days, but now I am on the mend. So, such a pleasure it was, this afternoon, to sit and work embroidery once again. Curte was a sweetie and let me sleep today, taking the boys after church to his parents for the afternoon. They were treated with my pasta Bolognese upon their return as deep thanks.

At this point the goldwork swags across the bottom of the petticoat are halfway complete, and the design for the chenille and flat silk embroidery that will interweave with the gold is underway.

Then too, in a fit of make-do creativity, I invented an embroidery frame that allows me to work easily with both hands on each side of the work, so very helpful when couching purl and simply essential when laying silk ovale -- a filament silk thread with low twist that when satin-stitched, creates the incredible glow and glorious rich color of many an eighteenth century embroidered piece.

Progress Report

Ta-da! Here is what we have so far...okay, actually I've done an additional motif since.

This covers have of the front of the petticoat. It was common during the era to decorate just those areas which were to be seen. Gold and silk were expensive, for one thing: such a petticoat, executed in the types of gold then available (meltable for cash!) was a garment for the haut ton. Second, goldwork is in relief, and the tiny metal threads are easily disturbed and stretched or pulled: even couched well, tiny sharp ends of metal can catch at fabric and be pulled. Why subject precious embroidery to such treatment in the sides and back where it isn't even seen under the gown atop? Even so, I think I have some 55 inches to cover in total, so I am but 20-odd inches along.

The Next Step: Silk and Chenille Embroidered Swags to Interveave with the Gold

Yes, yes, some months ago I claimed that the next part of the embroidery process would wait for another year, buuuuut, this project is such fun that other plans -- excepting that spencer! -- puh, I blow them away until this treat is done. After all, I embroidered for years before ever realizing costuming existed. Working it is like a fun afternoon with an old friend.

So what's the design? Augh, I mustn't tell you yet; it's a surprise. Okay, so actually only the concept is clear: an interweaving of small floral swags into the goldwork swags. The central plan is a take-off from the man's waistcoat pocket that produced the goldwork swags, but filled out with ideas from drawn patterns kept at the Victoria and Albert for petticoats. The tone, the feeling? The lightness, airiness, spareness of the Neoclassical 1780s, which held into early 1790s, according to Eighteenth Century Embroidery Techniques, a few extant examples, and fashion plates.

Floral swags were popular in chenille and silk embroidery throughout much of the 18th century. Here's a sleeve from a mantua, 1775-85, from the Victoria and Albert.

Mantua sleeve 1775-85, Victoria and Albert

Luscious, rich, 3-D!

Here's a man's suit pocket, chenille mixed with goldwork, 1760-1769. A little heavier in style, but the best I can find for the hour available to spend on this particular post. My old computer died, taking with it a few months of collected images and research that I'd not had time to back to the cloud server. What a horror!

Man's suit pocket, Victoria and Albert
 Finally, a duck of a muff, 1785-1810, from Colonial Willilamsburg, in chenille, spangles, bullion (purl) and paint, on gauze. Here are sprigs swagged into a repeating pattern.

Muff, 1785-1810, Colonial Williamsburg, 1958-25. Historic
Threads exhibition

Tempting Candy Colors

Probably because it's Lent and sweets are off limits, some colors just make me dream of food, especially petits fours and Easter cookies. Feast your eyes on these and see if they make you hungry. Yes?

You are looking at Au Ver a Soie silk ovale from Hedgehog Handworks, on the left, and silk chenille thread (fine), from Hand-Dyed Fibers.

You can get an idea of how low twist, how glossy that filament silk is. It will form minute satin stitched blossoms. The chenille, which will be couched down, is very thin, the color rich, light-catching, and just bewitching. I want to pet it.

So there we are. Wait, you say, if you're not fatigued already, where's this fancy new embroidery frame?

That, my friends, is for next post. Sleep calls.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Goldwork-Embroidered Petticoat: Progress Report

Slow but sure progress has been made on the goldwork-embroidered petticoat. A quick look.

I've added two more complete swags in check purl, flat spangles for the bows, and cupped spangles with a tiny transparent gold-colored glass seed bead nested into each one. Beads were used, if not copiously, at this period, for a little extra color. In the original there is a cupped spangle with a tiny piece of purl nested into it: I went for the gold beads instead for a change.

You will see I've made progress in learning to backstitch down spangles on the bows. The leftmost bow at the top of the first swag was improperly done, while the second and third were done as they should be. A properly backstitched spangle shows the thread on both sides of the spangle, so it's held down on two sides. That means the spangle is doesn't flutter like the spangles on the leftmost bow do. Less shine, but sturdier. It was popular to either add a length of purl to the backstitch to hide these threads or to couch passing thread down atop the threads, but many pieces do not show this extra step, and I have opted here for the simpler effect.

Today I leave you with something silly. Christopher and I folded laundry Monday morning. After folding some pants and napkins on his own, the boy hit on a new way to get the laundry out of the basket.