For the embroidery of the netted ground a frame of metal, covered with ribbon, is required. In the case of a square, the frame should be rather larger than the work it encloses, and the edge laced with thick thread through every stitch. It is a good plan to fasten the four corners first, and then lace round the whole square. For a border, a frame oblong in shape and the width of the work is used. Three sides of the netting are fastened in as in the square, the fourth being rolled up tightly and secured with stitches passed through the netting, and tied firmly round the roll.
Large tablecloths or bedspreads may be worked a piece at a time in this way, if carefully framed, but the tambour frames are never satisfactory. Care should be taken not to draw the netting too tightly in the frame, as a certain degree of play is necessary to enable the needle to run in and out easily.
Having chosen a design to decorate the netting (now firmly fastened in the frame), it is as well to study it closely and determine the mode of treatment. Roughly speaking, the pattern should always be commenced in the lower right-hand corner, but different designs require such a variety of treatment that it is impossible to obey a hard and fast rule. Experience is the only safe guide, and in an astonishingly short time the merest novice masters the difficulty of ' getting back," which is really the only troublesome part of the darning. The thread should be tied with a firm knot to the bar nearest the stitch on which the pattern begins, the end of the thread cut close, and the darning carried from right to left. Alternate bars should be taken up as far as the pattern goes, returning across the squares in the same way, care being taken always to go round the intersecting, or groundwork, bars, in order to hold the darning in its place. Two threads to a square are generally considered the proper proportion.
The work does not look better for being too thickly crowded, and also takes much longer if more darning threads are used. Geometrical designs are the most simple for beginners, as when one section is complete it is easy to fill in the other portions.
Cushion with fine filet squares, four bands of broderie anglaise and edge of pillow lace
In the matter of designs there is an almost unlimited choice. At South Kensington Museum there are photographs to be had of the beautiful specimens of lacis work on view there. The quaint quilt with the insertions of Pisa work is quite a mine of wealth to the searcher for designs, and from the Musee de Cluny in Paris come equally interesting patterns of figures and animals. Some of the conventional square designs are edged round with a heavy outline of double thread, and these the French call " filet italien." The effect of this treatment is not nearly so pleasing as the plain flat darning, and bad workers sometimes resort to this method to conceal defective outlines.
There are also to be seen in the South Kensington Museum many specimens of the lacis work in gold and colours such as is still made in Russia. This does not commend itself to English tastes, but is very interesting in its own way. The Russian method of drawing the threads of linen fabrics, and darning upon the squares so formed, is also practised in some parts of Northern Italy. The effect is much heavier, and not nearly so much like lace as the netted background. The Russians also introduce other stitches and most grotesque figures into their work.
The uses to which the finished filet can be put are numberless. The single squares, if finely netted, and darned with interesting subjects such as may be suggested by Aesop's fables, or the signs of the Zodiac, make charming dessert doyleys, and may be finished off with tiny tassels or a simple little crochet-edge worked into the stitches. Five squares arranged with four of fine linen embroidered in white cotton in the broderie anglaise style .will serve either as a cushion or a table centre, and a row of five or seven grafted on to a strip of linen hemstitched all round leave nothing to be desired in the way of a sofa-back.
A delightful teacloth of rather coarse linen with four squares of filet italien, one in each corner, and a border, truly Italian, of drawn-thread work, is a really serviceable possession, for it goes to the common wash, and is never a bit the worse. Odd squares, mounted on gay coloured satin, may be utilised as pincushions or, set into linen, as sachets, work-bags, or sideboard cloths. Sofa-backs may also be made with one long strip of a handsome design, edged above and below with hemstitched linen, or with the filet below and edged with little tassels in the Italian style.
How to Utilise the Work
As bed-covers and curtains this work reaches a limit of opulence only to be attained by the few. Many squares go to make a bed-cover, but it is a quite possible achievement, and one that should inspire all the votaries of this lovely work.
If the whole bed-covering appears an impossible undertaking, a centre-piece, in size about 36 by 27 inches, the four corner squares and the sides of well-drawn linen or of broderie anglaise, fashion a quilt of such beauty as to be practically unique. The same arrangement does not serve so well for tablecloths, as the centre is hidden, but four side strips with drawn-linen Centre and corners, gives a quite satisfactory result. A simpler bed-cover, with pillow-covers to match, has filet squares alternated with Cluny lace and deep borders of the same.
Filet square. Modern English
Perhaps one of the most distinctive and original gifts in this kind of embroidery would be the application of the crest of the recipient to a cushion or a duchesse dressing-table set. If, however, any of the many strange monsters so familiar to the student of heraldry be the cognisance of the friend for whom the work is intended, care should be taken to ensure such anatomical accuracy as would satisfy the College of Heralds rather than the Hanging Committee of the Royal Academv '