There is less objection to embroidery in ribbon, which also had its day in the eighteenth century. It was very much the fashion for court dresses under Louis Seize. " Broderie de faveur" it was called, whence our " lady's favour " - -faveur being a narrow ribbon. Beautiful work of its kind was done in ribbon, sometimes shaded ribbon. Shaded silk, by the way, may be used to artistic purpose. There is, for example, in the treasury of Seville Cathedral a piece of work on velvet, thirteenth century it is said, rather Persian in character, in which the forms of certain nondescript animals are at first sight puzzlingly prismatic in colour. They turn out to be roughly worked in short stitches of parti-coloured silk thread. The result is not altogether beautiful, but it is extremely suggestive.
The effect of ribbon work is happiest when it is not sewn through the stuff after the manner of satin-stitch, but lies on the surface of the satin ground, and is only just caught down at the ends of the loops which go to make leaves and petals. The twist of the ribbon where it turns gives interest to the surface of the embroidery, which is always more or less in relief upon the stuff. It is easy to crush, and of limited use therefore.
An effect of ribbon work, but of a harder kind, was produced by onlaying narrow strips of card or parchment upon a silken ground, twisted about after the fashion of ribbon. These, having been stitched in place, were worked over in satin-stitch. The work has the merit of looking just like what it is. But neither it nor ribbon embroidery is of any very serious account.
Passing reference has been made to other materials to embroider with besides thread. Gold wire, for example, and spangles, coral and pearls, which have been used with admirable discretion, as well as to vulgar purpose. Jewels also were lavished upon the embroidery of bishops' mitres, gloves and other significant apparel, and in default of real stones, imitations in glass, and eventually beads (or pearls) of glass, in which we have possibly the origin of knots. Bead embroidery is at least as old as ancient Egypt. Even atoms of looking-glass, sewn round with silk, are used to really beautiful effect (barbaric though it may be) in Indian work. The question almost occurs: with what can one not embroider? In Madras they produce most brilliant embroidery upon muslin with the cases of beetles' wings. In the Mauritius they use fish-scales; in North America, porcupine quills; and everywhere savage tribes use seeds, shells, feathers, and the teeth and claws of animals.
To return to more civilised work, there is embroidery in gold and silver wire, allied to the art of the goldsmith, and on leather (Illustration 102 (Leather Applique Upon Velvet)), allied to the art of the saddler. It would be difficult to set any limit to the directions in which embroidery may branch out, impossible to describe them all. Happily, it is not necessary. A skilled worker adapts herself to new conditions, and the conditions themselves dictate the necessary modification of the familiar way.