Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Eighteenth Century Embroidery and all the rest!

So, New Year and new project.

For some time I have wanted to make a sample book of historic embroideries that were actually in use. For a number of reasons - to improve my silk shading and speed up my technique, because I love historic needlework, to see how designs 'flowed' around actual items of clothing....

Having finished the Diploma I told Tracy that that is what I proposed for my new term project. So when I had some spare lesson time at the end of last term I decided to start it.....

...with some flowers from Mrs Delaney's court dress. This was embroidered by a well connected Georgian widow and artist. No pressure then!

Mrs Delaney - Poppy sequence

Sadly, this is the best photo I have to work from, so getting the directional lines is a nightmare and the silks have been in, out and in again. And I was in no mood to share my feeble attempts.

Embroidery in single strand DMC cottons on silk dupion

Finally I've decided to stop being such a wuss! This whole project is supposed to be a learning thing - and as they say practice makes perfect! So I am now just cracking on, rectifying what I can where I 'see' it. Hopefully I will train my eye as I work these samples.

Working the main poppy
Eventually, I will do some silk and gold samples and maybe some Elizabethan and put them all in a book for reference, and to see how I progress as I go along. 

I would love to hear how you think I am going as I work these samples. How do you assess your own work? Is your inner eye your own worst enemy?

PS If you're interested in historic embroidery, Tracy and Nicola Jarvis are doing some workshops in Williamsburg, Virginia for the RSN. You can follow Tracy's sampling on her blog


  1. What an intriguing project. I will certainly look forward to seeing your progress. To me 'reverse stitching' is a natural part of any new design and the beauty of it all is that you never ever stop learning. Enjoy the journey. Anna

  2. Beautiful! I love silk shading but am very much a beginner, hopefully I will get better with practice.

  3. I think you should find that you get your eye in over the course of the piece, but - do you want to do a stitch for stitch copy of Mrs Delaney's piece, or your own interpretation of it? Knowing the shape of the petals should help you with the stitch placement, and beyond that - have faith in yourself!

  4. Thank you all for your comments. Certainly Rachel, learning to have faith and confidence in myself is about as hard as the silk shading and part of this journey I decided to share. :)

  5. I'm reading through your blog backwards, and your finished flower and accompanying flower spray looks beautiful. I'm looking forward to seeing the other samplers, and also more of the Dragon Bird. The swetebag is just gorgeous.

  6. Thank you, elmsley rose. They're all being squeezed in amongst some commissions at the moment! One never seems to have enough time!

    1. We need that extra lifetime, don't we!