Many believe that the fashion for ribbon embroidery is entirely new, but our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were adepts at this kind of work, and many are the dainty work-bags and scented sachets to be found among our treasured relics of the past. The work done by our ancestors imitated garlands and posies, in delicate rococo designs. Such exquisite work was done by them, but, even if we could imitate it, we would scarcely give the time or fatigue the eye by so much detail. The productions to-day, however, are larger, bolder, and more decorative, and even wearing apparel, pillows, and portieres are often decorated in this effective way. Coarse stitchery is now introduced in addition to the ribbon work. The fine china ribbons were the only kinds used long ago for this kind of work, but nowadays we run the gamut of pompadour, rainbow, shadow, silk, and heavily corded ribbons, as well as many varieties of fine silk ribbons. With this great quantity of material from which to choose, it is not difficult to make very effective schemes, and many designs sold for crewel work can be utilized for ribbon embroidery.
Our illustration shows a cushion of heavily corded silk, with a bold design of hollyhocks, shaded from deep red to pale pink. In the centre of each flower a space is left, in which is inserted a small barrel button, covered with yellow silk. Some coarse stitchery outlines the silk surrounding the button. The width of the ribbon forms each petal, and is turned in at the end - coarse corded shaded ribbon is used. The leaves are embroidered in shaded green crewel wool; the ground forms the centre of the leaf. The cushion is outlined with a moss-green silk fringe, matching the colour of the leaves. The stalks are also worked in crewel.
The hollyhock seems the favourite flower for this kind of work, for not long ago a very effective portiere was made of this design. The ribbon used was wide, and the edge was gathered tightly in the middle and secured on the outside with invisible stitches. A raised button finished off the centre of each flower. Eight flowers, without any leaves, forming a stripe, decorated the top part of the portiere. The four groups of flowers were separated by a heavy stem in crewel stitch, which was terminated at the base of the curtain by some broad flat leaves, a dark and light leaf alternating. The work on this portiere was very effective, and yet did not take many hours to do.
To be a good ribbon-worker, great care must be taken in handling the work, so that it is kept clean and fresh while it is being made. The special charm of ribbons is that they may be tinted to imitate faithfully the delicate forms of leaf and flower; even a crumpled petal or a withered flower may be suggested. Spontaneity of effect must be striven for, as the moment the work looks laboured its effect is lost. It is well to have some natural foliage and flowers to copy similar to those the worker wishes to reproduce in ribbon; thus she can detail carefully and far more beautifully the characteristics and features of the natural objects. After the work has been carefully copied from nature, vigour of line and curve can be aimed at, when the delicate nuances of colour will at once be apparent. Touches of embroidery are of importance, and give finish to the work. Stems must be embroidered in stem stitch, and centres may be worked in French knots or a button covered with satin stitch for the heavier work. Filoselle, or embroidery silk or lustrine, may be used to embroider with.
Apple blossom is very effective when worked, and is a simple flower to copy. A thin silk taffeta ribbon should be selected, about half an inch wide. The five petals are formed by gathering in the centre, and turning under at the end of each petal. A large French knot is in the centre, and the nine lines radiating from it can each be terminated with another French knot extending out of the petal. Each leaf can be made like the petal, using a dark green for some of the leaves, and possibly two paler greens for others, so as to give variety. The flowers may be of cream or pale pink, but in any case the buds must be a deep pink. The stems can be formed by heavily embroidered stem stitch. Many people admire dainty, finicky work, but others think it a waste of time, and very ineffective. In ribbon work especially big effects are to be aimed at, and tiresome little work avoided.
Since the revival of ribbon embroidery a few years ago, there have been many new adaptations of this fascinating kind of needlework. None, however, have given such good results as the present fashion of broad massing of colour. The distinctive feature of the present embroidery is that, instead of dragging the ribbon through an expensive material, the points of the leaves and petals are overcast, gathered, and neatly turned under and held in place with invisible stitches of fine silk, which must, of course, match the colour of the ribbon exactly.
The advantage of doing the work in this way is very obvious, for very broad ribbons can be used, and those of much heavier quality give the work a richer and bolder effect. An illustration shows a handsome pillow of ivory bengaline. The flower is made of one of the new shaded ribbons, and tones from pale pink to deep red. The same corded ribbon is apparently carelessly tied round the stalks, and held in place by invisible stitches. The leaves are made of quite a dark green ribbon, which is about an inch and a half in width, and the leaves are shaped with the needle. Stability is given by the entire leaf being veined with embroidery silk stitched through to the • background. The stems are made with very narrow ribbon, which is rolled and neatly sewn to the background. The thorns add to the decorative qualities of the pillow. The centres of the flowers are worked in embroidery silk and French knots.
This kind of embroidery lends itself not only to all kinds of pillows, but is particularly well adapted for ornamenting screens. The rapidity with which the work can be done, and the effective results obtained, make this kind of ribbon embroidery a very popular form of needlework.
There are many kinds of ribbon sold for doing this work. Some are of heavy ribbed silk, while others are soft like Louisine, which has enough body to prevent its crushing as it is being drawn through the work. Ribbosene has a smooth surface, but it is rather flimsy and perishable, and is not used as much as it was. Ombre, or shaded ribbons, sometimes called rainbow, are also sold, but care must be taken when using these so that the light will come where the brightness strikes the flower. Beautiful effects can be obtained by carefully arranging for a good play of light and shade. The ribbons sold for doing the work come in several widths and many shades. The work must be done with a crewel needle, and the ribbon must be cut into small pieces not more than from 6 to 12 inches in length, or it will get stringy by being pulled through the material too many times.
Conventional Flower Motifs Are Most Effective For Ribbon-Embroidery.
In making a flower petal, begin the work at the base, bringing the thread up at this point and putting it down to the wrong side at the top of the petal. The leaves should also be worked in the same way. It is best to get ribbon wide enough to fill a leaf or a petal at one stitch. Hold the ribbon in place at the back, with tiny stitches of silk matching the ribbon exactly, each petal or leaf being outlined with embroidery stitch. It is best, as I previously mentioned, to embroider the stems in stem stitch; centres are worked in French knots, or raised satin stitch. Tendrils should also be embroidered.
In making this delicate work an important point to be borne in mind is that all handling of material should be done as lightly as possible, and the work should not be stiff, but free. Individuality is given to the work by making original designs. Imitating from nature, as before suggested, is the best possible way. Endeavour to catch something of the innate charm in the natural flowers and other objects, and freshness, vigour, and withal a delicacy will be the result in the design formed. Conventional natural forms, however, if well treated, are in excellent taste. A study of the design of the pillow will illustrate my point. If the embroiderer cannot make her own designs, a study of fine old needlework will give fresh ideas, and many of these can be traced from patterns supplied by art needlework stores, and successfully used in ribbon embroidery.
Very little has been done in using figured materials with designs ornamented by ribbon work, but for the girl who is not able to draw a wide field is open, as all sorts of cretonnes and dimities, or even materials where the colour is in one tone, and the pattern woven by a mercerized process, can be brought into service for effective ribbon embroidery. Some of the bold designs sold for applique are particularly well suited for ribbon work, and as ribbons can be found of every width and every description, there is practically no end to the variety obtainable for those who wish to develop this beautiful art to its fullest extent.
Cushion Of Heavy Corded Silk With Hollyhocks Shading From Deep Red To Pale Pink.