Embroidery, it has been shown, is much of it on the surface of the stuff, not just needle stitches, but the stitching-on of something - cord, gold thread, or whatever it may be. And instances have been given where the design of such work was not merely in outline, but where certain details (Illustration 59 (Couched Outline Work)) were filled in with stitching. Yet another practice, and one more strictly in keeping with the onlaying of cord, was to onlay the solid too, applying, that is to say, the surface colour also in the form of pieces of silk or other material cut to shape.
Patterns of this kind may be conceived as line work developing into more or less leafy terminations, the APPLlQUE only an adjunct to couching (Illustration 63 (Applique - Silk On Silk Damask)); or they may be thought of as massive work eked out with line - the applique, that is to say, the main thing, the couching only supplementary (Illustration 100 (Leaf Treatment In Applique)). An intermediate kind is where outline and mass - couching and applique - play parts of something like equal importance in the scheme of design (Illustration 60 (Applique - Satin On Velvet.)).
Couched cord or filoselle is used in covering the raw edge of the onlay, not merely masking the joints but making them sightly.
Applique must be carefully and exactly done, and is best worked in a frame. It is almost as much a man's work as a woman's. Embroidery proper is properly woman's work; but here, as in the case of tailoring, the man comes in. The getting ready for applique is not the kind of thing a woman can do best. In the East, by the way, embroidery is looked upon as man's work, and so it is in Brittany.
The finishing it may sometimes be done in the hand ; and very bold, coarse work may possibly be worked throughout in the hand, and outlined with buttonhole-stitch (chain-stitch is not so appropriate); but when a couched outline is employed it must be done in a frame, and, indeed, work with any pretensions to finish is invariably executed from first to last in the frame.
To work applique you want, in fact, two frames - one on which to mount the material to be embroidered, and another on which to mount the material to be applied. The backing in each case should be of smooth holland. This is stretched on to the frame, and then pasted with stiff starch or what not; the silk or velvet is laid on to it, stroked with a soft rag until it adheres, and left to dry gently. When dry, the outlines of the complete design are traced upon the one, and those of the details to be applied upon the other. (You may paste, of course, silks of two or three colours upon one backing for this.) The stuff to be applied is then loosened from its frame, the details are cleanly cut out with scissors, or, better still, a knife (in either case sharp), and transferred to their place in the design on the other frame. There they are kept in position by short steel pins planted upright into the stuff, and when you are sure they fit, tacked firmly down, with care that the stitches are such as will be quite covered by the final couching, chain stitch, or whatever is to be your outline.
In the case of silk or other delicate material, peculiar care must be taken that the paste is not moist enough to penetrate the stuff; but an experienced worker has no fear of that.
A firm outline is a condition of applique, and couched cord fulfils it most perfectly. Much depends upon a tasteful and tactful choice of colour for it. You fatten your pattern by outlining it with a colour which goes with it (Illustration 62 (A. Counterchange), B). You thin it by one which merges into the ground. Very subtle use may be made of a double outline or of a corded line upon couched floss. There is a double outline to the ornament in Illustration 100 (Leaf Treatment In Applique): the inner one next to the yellow satin applique is of gold, the outer one next the crimson velvet ground is of white
sewn with pale blue. This gives emphasis to the bold forms of the leafage. The mid-rib there is of silver couching ; the minor veinings are stitched in silk, and are rather insignificant.
The less there is of extra stitching on applique the better as a rule. It disturbs the breadth, which is so valuable a characteristic of onlay. In no case is the mixing of opposite methods greatly to be desired ; and if applique is to be supplemented, it had best be with couching, which is not so much stitching as stitched down, itself another form of applied work.
Applique of itself is not, of course, adapted to pictorial work, but that in association with judicious stitching and couching it may be used to admirable decorative purpose in figure design is shown by Miss Mabel Keighley's panel, Illustration 61 (Applique Panel By Miss Keighley.). What an artist may do depends upon the artist. Miss Keighley's panel indicates the use that may be made of texture in the stuff onlaid.
Applique is especially appropriate to bold church work, fulfilling perfectly that condition of legibility so desirable in work necessarily seen oftenest from afar. Broadly designed, it may be as fine in its way as a mediaeval stained glass window, and it gives to silk and velvet their true worth. The pattern may be readable as far off as you can distinguish colour.
Applique work is thought by some to be an inferior kind of embroidery. That is not so. It
is not a lower but another kind of needlework, in which more is made of stuffs than of the stitches. In it the craft of the needleworker is not carried to its limit; but, on the other hand, it makes great demands upon design. You cannot begin by just throwing about sprays of natural flowers. It calls peremptorily for treatment - by which test the decorative artist stands or falls. Effective it must be ; coarse it may be; vulgar it should not be; trivial it can hardly be. Mere prettiness is outside its scope. It lends itself to dignity of design and nobility of treatment. Of course, it is not popular.
A usual form of applique is in satin upon velvet. Velvet on satin (B, Illustration 62 (A. Counterchange)) is comparatively rare; but it may be very beautiful, though there is a danger that it may look like weaving.
Silk upon silk is shown in Illustration 63 (Applique - Silk On Silk Damask), designed to be seen from a nearer point of view, and less pronounced in pattern accordingly. The strap work, applied in ribbon, is broken by cross stitches in couples, which take away from the severity of the lines. The grape bunches are onlaid, each in one piece of silk, the forms of the separate grapes expressed by couching. The French knots in the centre of the grapes add greatly to the richness of the surface. The leaves are in one piece.
The application of leather to velvet as in Illustration 102 (Leather Applique Upon Velvet), allows, if it does not actually involve,
some modification in the way of execution, and of design adapted to it. Leather does not fray, and needs, therefore, no sewing over at the edge, but only sewing down, which may be done, as in this case, well within the edge of the material, giving the effect of a double outline. The Chinese do small work in linen, making similar use of the stitching within the outline, but turning the cut edge of the stuff under; it would not do to leave it raw. On a bolder scale, but in precisely the same manner, is embroidered the wonderful tent of Francois Ier, taken at the battle of Pavia, and now in the Armoury at Madrid - obviously Arab work. Something of the kind was done also in Morocco; and this points to leather work as the possible origin of the method.
Another ingenious Chinese notion is to sew down little five-petalled flowers (turned under at the edges) with long stamen stitches radiating from a central eye of knots.