|Test number one: linen thread. Boo. See below.|
(Awww, Muffin is back. This time she's gone under the skirted table where I am typing and has settled on my feet. I can sense her purring through the fabric.)
Well, the machine was only a few feet away, I had a span of hours when housework and other musts were must nots. How rare is that, eh?
So I tried it. Starched a square of lightweight muslin, drew a few motifs common to the Regency period on it, eased an embroidery hoop under the needle bar, and threaded the machine for embroidery. On the Wilcox and Gibbes, you draw on the back side of the fabric, place that face up, and sew that way, because the chain shows underneath, while the top looks like a straight stitch.
To embroider, you move, twist and turn the embroidery hoop by hand to "draw" the shapes. It's all freehand -- on a treadle there's no computer guide. So a sure, slow hand is essential or you get dreck and the thread breaks, too.
|Try number two: silk thread. Better but not good enough. For reference,|
the motif is four inches long by two inches wide.
- The stitch lacks the subtle puffy quality that hand tambour has; the machine stretches the thread to an even tension each time and it's a little less round, a little more elongated than handmade work.
- The needle creates visible holes in the fabric and the silk thread can't quite cover them up. Sure, a tambour needle is big too, but you can use fatter thread. Here we're pretty limited to needles size three and four.
- The stitches are all the same length, and so small motifs with tight round curves don't work all that well, even when I hand-turn the wheel and lift the presser foot to shift the fabric. That's what you do on this kind of machine to radically alter direction -- you swivel on the thread, not on the needle. Wide curves and spikey shapes are better. So vines and carnations and to some degree, acanthus, shape decently; those tight rounded curves found in roses and spriggy leaves leave too many poorly tensioned stitches.
As you can see in the detail shot below, the thread tension goes wonky on curves. By the way, that is supposed to be a four-petaled flower, each of those petals is supposed to have three lobes. However, the lobes proved so difficult to do on the scale of 1/2" or less each that I decided to see how larger curves would appear.
Naturally, I could change up the design, introduce multiple rows of stitching to outline spikier forms, where smooth tension reigns, but the fact remains that the results are so obviously machine-made that the juice is not worth the squeeze for Georgian/Regency-era work. The embroidery still won't look real enough. At least real enough to me. Back to the tambour hook...
Those of you who want to do nineteenth or early twentieth century work? Give it a try! Any style that favors large, bold designs may give you just dandy results, and the machine-y look will be just like what they produced, since this sort of machine embroidery was coming into its own.
So that's that. The dream of oh, three-plus years went poof. Oh well, it was a thought.