This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
The conventional "white embroidery" is the most appropriate decoration for white altar linens. Great care should be taken in selecting designs for this work, for a mistake in the matter of svmbolism, or the use of a device where it would be out of place, is not so pardonable as an incongruity in house decoration.
The cross is the symbol most used on altar linens. Its position on the fair white linen cloth is in each corner on the surface, before the cloth falls over when it covers the entire altar, having its sides fall nearly to the floor all round.
When the scarf is used, and this is the general form, the cross may be in the centre of the ends as they hang over the sides or in the four corners, about one inch from the hem. In the first case, the cross may be six inches in size; in the latter form, half an inch to three inches. The triangle and trefoil are often combined with the cross; the circle, too, is frequently used around the centre. In these combinations the slant of the stitches is of much importance. The trailing vines, the thorns, and the lilies are less suited to the conventional expression given by this stitcherv. The crown is sometimes used above the cross, but as it is quite separate in the best arrangement, it does not complicate the direction of the stitches. Wheat and grapes can be worked with beautiful effect.
Hoops should be used if the work is to be perfectly executed, and the linen must be tightly stretched. The frame should be balanced on the table edge, and the embroiderer should work with both hands up and down.
The "filling in" or first work which raises the forms needs to be as carefully clone as the covering. The.' outline must be kept; it must not be covered or lost in the first work, and should be just visible all round it. No matter how much you intend to raise the design, you should do it with carefully directed stitches, and with a thread not more than twice doubled unless you are covering a wide space - an inch, for instance. Suppose you are going to embroider a cross a quarter of an inch wide, your first tilling stitches should run parallel with its iines from the top, bottom, or end of an arm just to the centre and down the middle. Lines parallel with the outline may always he the first stitch direction. These should be confined to the centre of the space-between two lines, which will in this way be raised higher than the edges. They should be crossed with stitches slanting at an acute angle; these may be in turn re-crossed at an opposite angle, and still again, according to the height you wish to raise the design. Three series of stitches are usually enough. It is well to confine all this "filling in" work with a finer thread before covering it. Be sure that it is everywhere even in thickness and true to the edge, for the after-work is as dependent on it as the expression of a draped figure is dependent upon the artist's knowledge of anatomy. This work done, you may cover it at right angles with the outline - always at right angles is the rule for "French work," whether the forms are curved or straight. It is a very simple rule, and so mechanical that the work may be absolutely accurate when the worker has had some practice. More difficulty is experienced in the case of curves than of straight lines, but the principle is that of a marching line, which makes a turn and yet keeps straight - a long step on the outside and a short one on the pivot end. That is, you make these stitches wider apart on the outer curve and crowd them on the inner, and yet so gradually that the process will not appear, but only the perfectly formed curved line. The stitches should be placed very close together, but should never lap even in turning. It is sometimes a help, as you draw down the thread, to place the stitch with the point of another needle, but it will generally fall true on straight forms. No great speed is likely to be acquired in this work, but fortunately one seldom attempts to cover large spaces with it. Every stitch should be exact, for one out of place shows very prominently. The thread must never be knotted; it should be started from the top in the " filling work," and cut close after a few stitches have been taken. By using a little thought and care in this point, and in the fastening off, the wrong side may be made almost as perfect as the right. It should not, however, be very much raised, as the "filling work" should be kept as far as possible in the upper side by bringing up the needle very near the point at which it goes down. L. B. Wilson.
It requires some skill to work the centres of crosses successfully. There are a number of ways of managing them in general ecclesiastical embroidery, but the best way in "white work" is to make the diagnosis of the square formed in the centre by two intersecting stitches, which, taken from the corners, shall bisect each other exactly in the centre of the cross. "Filling" down into these points within the outline made by these stitch lines is a careful process. Each of
Crosses suitable for Stoles.
(For suggestions for treatment in " White Work," see p. 209.) these four punts should be finished clown to the centre with their sides touching each other. It is easier to both fill and cover one at a time. It is always a good plan to finish the parts of a design as you work, both because the change of work is restful, and because you keep the proportion and general effect more surely in mind. When the spaces are wide the work has a finer effect, and is more elaborate if a line is drawn through the centre and the work is done in two rows.
Monograms are especially suited to altar decoration. The Ihs and the A and ii are often used together on the white linen frontal. The words "Holy, Holy, Holy" may be beautifully worked. "In Remembrance of Me" is also a script decoration. These letters should be from four to six inches high. It will be acknowledged that " white work" is most effective when these words are so raised and embroidered that they can be read from the end of a long aisle. It may seem almost superfluous to say that different styles of letters should not be combined or used even separately on the same piece of embroidery, but this is sometimes done even in the elaborate silk ecclesiastical embroidery. It is not only very inharmonious, but shows a total lack of study in the matter of composition. The Old English letters are much used; the German script, too, is rich and heavy, affording good lines for the embroidery.
Wheat and grapes require careful work. The fruit in the middle of the bunch should be raised higher, and the "filling" should, in each grape, be kept firm in the centre. The wheat kernels should be well rounded up, but, as always in such small spaces, the stitches must be judiciously placed, so that each one shall mean something, and the ground material may not be worn more than is necessary by the needle. The coveting stitches in both wheat and grapes should be horizontal. The entire head and bunch should be kept in mind, and all the stitches should be parallel. If they vary in this, the absolute conventionality is lost, and so the spirit of the style. The strands of the wheat beard should be worked over a single laid thread, the stems over a double thread laid the full length. It may be confined on a curved line by an invisible stitch. This fine work is often less difficult than carrying a wider line; indeed, the wider the spaces to be covered, the more difficult is it to keep them firm and even. The grape tendrils should also be worked over one thread.
It is necessary to speak of the laundering and pressing of this work, because until it is pressed it is not complete. This fact, as well as the method, is in direct opposition to what should be taught of embroidery in general. " W'hite work," when finished. is, from the soft quality of the cotton, not likely to be perfectly clean. It should, therefore, be dipped up and down into very hot water. This brightens both linen and cotton alike. Now lay it wet, face downward, perfectly smooth on soft white flannel which is folded half an inch thick; cover the embroidery with a bit of fine linen or muslin, and press it firmly into the flannel with a hot iron. Of course, it should not be hot enough to scorch, but the work should steam and dry quickly. These embroidered linens will be as new as ever after laundering, and there is nothing so pure and fresh for altar use. The symbols and letters so worked and pressed may be made, even on fine lawn, to look as though carved in ivory.
L. B. Wilson.
Crosses specially suitable for Embroidering on Linen.
The Stole Design, by Mr. Audsley (Supplement B), is suitable for a white festival stole, em broidered on plain corded silk. The lilies anc leaves should be worked in floss silks, and outlinec with Japanese gold, the latter being carried pas' the crown to form the scrolls below. The crown laid in Japanese gold and outlined with purl The cross and surrounding ornament should be worked almost entirely in gold, but with a little green silk introduced here and there, and the circle; might be padded and worked in satin stitch, and afterwards outlined with a fine gold thread.