This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Jewels and concave spangles are also occasionally employed, and silken cord, sometimes combined with gold thread, is used for stems, scrolls, and outline work. To fasten down the gold thread, horsetail silk is the best, or for basket stitch over cord a coarser make called twofold is required. For sewing silk the best needles are the ordinary round-eyed kind, and for floss silk line, sharp-pointed crewel needles and a large chenille needle is useful for carrying the ends of the gold thread through the material. The greater portion of the old work was always wrought upon a separate foundation of linen and afterwards transferred to the ground of silk or velvet. Pure linen, free from dress or stiffening, is the best to use. Some workers stretch one piece first and paste on a second thickness before working. This plan has much to recommend it, as the work done on linen thus prepared is perfectly rigid and most easy to transfer. In any case, a closely woven linen free from knots and flaws should be chosen.
As to tools, an embroidery frame is an indispensable article. The most practical and convenient kind is of strong wood in four parts, two having a webbing nailed on to them and slits in each end, through which the other two pins pass. Strong pegs of brass wire secure these in the proper place, and the linen is sewn to the webbing. The first step in working is to stretch tightly the linen foundation in our frame; the second, to prepare the design. This should be done by carefully pricking the outline with a fine needle and rubbing through the holes a preparation of chalk and charcoal, and then painting over the pounced line with a camel's hair pencil dipped in Indian ink. As the success of this kind of work depends largely upon its absolute accuracy, the greatest care should be taken to measure exactly every portion of the design, such as the arms of a cross or the sections of a fleur-de-lvs. In the actual embroidery the taste of the individual worker decrees the methods to be employed, always remembering certain fixed rules, such as to begin a leaf always at the tip with one straight bold stitch, working from this down each side to the base. Begin with the lightest shade, lay it closely in stitches of varying lengths, not alternating too regularly. Then stroke the darker shades into this, avoiding any splitting of threads. To cover larger surfaces, the floss silk may be carried in regular perpendicular lines; this is crossed at regular intervals by a single thread of the same or of a twisted silk if preferred; and, lastly, this single thread is secured by small stitches which cross it, and sink into the flossy background. This is a method much used in Italian and Portuguese embroidery; it is simple and effective, and is within the scope of the merest beginner. Brick stitch, the many varieties of basket stitch, and the diaperings which are so important in church embroidery cannot be dealt with in the space of one brief article.
When the different portions of the ornament are completed on the linen, carefully cut out the whole, leaving a narrow margin of foundation by which to sew the design to the silk or velvet. (This, by the way, must be prepared in another frame to receive its decoration.) Secure the ornament in its place by means of pins stuck in upright, and sew firmly all round, working from the centre outwards, that the work may not "puff" as it does if the outer edges are secured first. Now cover the edge with a strand (or more if necessary) of filoselle the colour of the ground, stitched down at regular intervals with the same colour. . This is called '"couching." Sometimes for large designs a card is substituted for the filoselle; but, as a rule, the end to be desired is to cover the inevitable line of the foundation as unobtrusively as possible.
The scrolls and tendrils which occur in most ecclesiastical designs may be made of Japanese gold, gold twist, or gold coloured silk cord. The curves may be marked with a sharp-pointed white chalk, and the cord or twist carried through the material by means of a large-eyed needle, and stitched firmly down with red, gold, or orange silk, and, if thought desirable, a line of orange floss silk may be taken round each scroll; this is done by taking one small stitch after another, or even through each other. In preparing the fabric to receive the finished design - a frame large enough to take the whole size without rolling is necessary - a firm but soft linen should be stretched in it: silk should be tacked on with innumerable tiny stitches, but velvet may be pasted with embroiderers' paste.
Now a few final hints as to the working of gold thread. Sometimes it is sewn flat on the linen and at others raised by means of cords (Macrame is as good as any for this), and always two threads are carefully laid side by side. The gold thread may be sewn down with silk to match, or with red, green, or orange, as required by the design and colouring of the vestment or hanging in hand. The gold thread may be laid either in straight or n wavy lines; the former only requires to be laid close and even and then stitched down at regular intervals to get a simple diaper effect. The basket stitch method is a most effective one and adaptable for so many purposes, and may be worked in the finest sizes for book-markers, sermon cases, and almsbags; coarser for stoles and antependia, and larger still for altar cloths and banners. Later we hope to give full directions for this stitch, with its variations and modifications, and suggestions for the treatment of simple designs such as beginners can attempt without discouragement. Some tuition, much patient striving, and much study of good work are necessary to produce original and satisfying work.