Those workers took a pride in their work; and while many of them did needlecraft for a livelihood, they were artists who worked for more than that mere livelihood. Their handwork stood to them for something much more dignified than a moment's superficial show, to be thrown away again without hesitation at the caprice of fashion. The needlework of the past was often too beautiful for those who used it to get tired of it; like all real art, it was beautiful for all time; not a bit of clap-trap for the moment only, and you will realize this if you study the needlework in the museums in England and on the Continent.
But this does not mean that it was all very elaborate. Some of the old needlework was quite simple in design. But whether it was plain or ornate, when the workers put into it the best that they were able to do, and worked with a humble sincerity of purpose, they invariably achieved beautiful lasting results that we -in this enlightened age-have not been able to improve upon, indeed have seldom succeeded in equalling.
I want to urge those of you who have any time to give to needlework to remember that this is as much an art as painting and music and architecture. You can be blunting - or elevating - your artistic sense (and that of other people) by the type of work you produce and display, just as much as by the type of picture you hang upon your wall. You will be lowering your ideals by doing shoddy work and false work, just as you will be raising them by doing work that is thorough and conscientious.
What do I mean by "false work"?
I mean the sort of work that strives by cheap tricks to look like something that it isn't ! I recently saw a blouse that a girl had trimmed with some indifferent, machine-made coarse cotton insertion, which she had embellished with coloured wool and a little gilt thread run in and out around the pattern. She told me she had done it herself, and asked if
I didn't think it had a rich Oriental effect!! She said she had got the idea from Paris - as though that necessarily stamped it as artistic and desirable!
Sometimes it is very hard to be kind as well as truthful! I didn't want to hurt her feelings by telling her exactly what I thought: viz., that it utterly vulgarised her blouse and revealed a deplorably "common" streak in her personal taste ! I did the best I could under the circumstances by saying that I thought the blouse material (which was a pretty, simple pattern) didn't need the trimming to set it off.
This serves to show what I mean when I speak of " false work; "there is a tremendous amount of it about nowadays, and it is all of it rotten. It is having not only a detrimental effect on our national taste, but also on our morals.
The girl who will don badly-machined, ready-made underwear, gaudily trimmed with cheap imitation lace, and garnished with bows of papery ribbon, is not only wasting her money in buying such garments, but is actually pandering to dishonesty, and encouraging herself to tolerate and condone what is false and bad -hopelessly bad.
The girl who takes a pleasure in making her own things (if she has the time) as nicely as they can be made (whether by machine or by hand), putting fine, even feather-stitching and such-like work into them instead of the "cheap and nasty" imitation lace and ribbon, is fostering a love of truth and sincerity, as well as cultivating a sense of beauty and fitness.
Such matters may seem trivial and of little account to the superficial mind: but they are of grave importance in the formation of character; and the girl or woman who puts good work, careful work, thorough work, finished work - no matter how simple - into her personal wear and her household furnishings, is having an influence for good on her day and generation. She is helping to mould the taste of those who see or handle the things she has made; and above all, she is following the command: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do&8222; do it with thy might."
Mosaic filet lace is a novel idea in fancy-work, In this the design is worked with very narrow ribbon somewhat like be'be' ribbon, but finer and softer. It is about 1/16 -inch in width and made in all the principal colours, as well as striped and shaded. Use an ordinary darning needle, or a crewel needle, and work the design by running the ribbon in and out through the meshes, in plain darningstitch. Twice will be suffi-ci en t for each row of the meshes, that is just up and down. Cross from one point to a n o t h e r when desirable on the back of the work behind the stitches, running the ribbon, now and then, under one of the strands of the net to be seen behind the part you wish to cross
A FLORAL INSET.
AN EFFECTIVE DESIGN FOR A CU8HION-COVER.
Lacet braiding cannot be written of as a new idea, but it may well be revived as an effective means of embroidery. In conjunction with the various stitches used in fancy-work, practically any article can be decorated.
The lacet braid itself is of French make, and costs Id. a bundle. The colours in which it can be had are white, red and dark blue, and are best used on a contrast.
As the braid washes, it is as well to have the groundwork of a similar nature. Linen, either white or coloured, is one of the best to use, and there are several kinds of holland-like s t u ff s for embroidery which are suitable, although not so lasting. Often one can purchase centres and such-like at fancy-work shops with a pattern ready traced upon them. Not every design, however, willsuit the lacet braids. Natural groups and sprays of flowers are best avoided, as they mean, in most instances, too many curves, and large flowers require more than a braid outline. A conventional design should therefore be chosen, with fairly close lines.
Curves can be negotiated without puckering the corners, but in all cases where practicable, it is as well to fold the braid over, both sides being alike. Fine cotton (No. 80 for preference) is used to stitch the braid on to the lines of the design, and naturally only small stitches must be made or the braid will not lie close and flat. Sufficient braid to cover a few lines of the design is cut off, and then threaded through from the back to the front of the material, with a needle large enough to take the braid. Then it is sewn down evenly with the fine cotton, until a point is reached where the braid must be taken through to the back of the material, to be brought up again at the nearest point.
It is not possible to do all the braiding of a fair-sized piece of work without a break, as the braid is liable to become stringy after it has been pulled through a few times. The ends of the braid must be sewn down neatly on the wrong side of the work.
In cases where the lines of the design come closely together, one row of the braid is laid over the other,and the end finally taken to the back through the same hole.
There is a certain danger of puckering the work when the braid is being sewn across the material when it comes on the cross, but this is practically the only point on which extra care must be taken. All the braiding is done before any embroidery in silk or mercerised thread is introduced.
Although the braid may well be used alone, yet the addition of some embroidery stitches between the lines is a great improvement. In this, herring-boning on a close scale fills up the spaces of the flower and stalk; the leaves are left plain for contrast's sake.
A DESIGN FOR A BAG IN WHITE BRAID WITH HERRING-BONE FILLING.
Here the braid is used both in straight and curved lines, and the spaces are filled with different stitches.
The lower part is outlined with blanket stitching, and the next small space filled with French knots. Each small square is crossed with 6 threads, fixed in its centre by 1 French knot.
A DECORATIVE MOTIF IN WHITE BRAID WITH FANCY STITCHES.
The "bows" and "buckle" are treated the same way in their centres, and in their outer spaces filled in with Oriental stitch again.
Red and white lacet braids may be employed together for some marking purposes. A "framework" may be made of any shape and size to take 1 or more initials, which could be worked in red or white mercerised cotton. The French knots make a great improvement to the appearance of this form of marking.
AN INITIAL FRAMED IN RED AND WHITE BRAID AND FRENCH KNOTS.
Marking in red only cannot be recommended for much more than towels, and huckaback is the best medium on which to work the braid. A central initial and a design on either side is quite sufficient. This is a suggestion which can be easily copied. Darning stitch in red cotton is here used to fill up a few spaces.
A CONVENTIONAL design in red braid WITH DARNING STITCH.
AN END FOR A HUCKABACK TOWEL, INTRODUCING LACET BRAIDING.
Darned Filet Crochet Squares are pretty for inset in linen or Congress canvas.