Knotting or French Knot consists of several loops taken round the needle and secured by a stitch. This is effective for thick raised work, for the filling of flower
Fig. 5. - Knotting.
centres and so forth, but is also seen in flat embroidery, such as some of the old Chinese work, which is sometimes composed entirely of very fine knots in different shades of silk. It is also seen used with comical effect in certain late English work, for hair, for trees, or sheep's fleece, or anything, in short, in which the embroideress thought a highly broken or granulated surface would help out her descriptive effects. Such ' effects,' however, are, to my thinking, in bad taste and out of place in embroidery ; where, even in the pictorial side of the art, natural objects should be interpreted by bold and skilful drawing, and no attempt at faithful copying be made.
Satin-stitch can be done in the hand or in a frame. It consists of stitches evenly laid in one direction, the needle passing under and over the space to be covered, back and front being similar. In the diagram the stitches are shown laid far apart for the sake of clearness, but in reality they lie close together forming a smooth surface. This stitch can be worked flat and simply in fine twisted silk or linen thread, or as the Chinese and Japanese employ it, in floss silk finely divided, and with any of
Fig. 6. - Satin Stitch.
these materials makes very dainty decoration. You will have seen somewhere, doubtless, work of this description on some treasured antique garment, a great-great-grandmother's wedding gown, or a gorgeous satin waistcoat of preposterous length, worn in times when dress was stiff and gaudy rather than tasteful, though picturesque for all that. On such garments you may see little flowered borders worked with the utmost refinement and patience in chain or satin stitch, the finest imaginable twisted silk being used, the colours even now both bright and delicate, and chosen of the gayest and most fanciful combinations. Look well at such work when it next comes across your path, and you will see what time, patience and skill can do. To my thinking, satin-stitch is rather clumsy when worked with thick silk or wool. It is obvious that the space to be covered by the needle must not be very broad, for then the characteristic compact and close surface is lost, and the stitches lie loosely in untidy loops ; it will be found inexpedient and awkward to work 24 in short stitches with thick materials, hence it is best to leave this stitch for the finer sorts of work. Another and an effective method of using the stitch consists in first embossing or ' stuffing' the form to be covered, which is done by laying threads of coarse cotton or linen thread backwards and forwards and fastening them down ; and when raised so that the required relief is obtained, the satin-stitch is worked over, at right angles to the direction of the layers of stuffing. For any articles that are expected to receive hard wear this is an excellent and enduring method of work ; but as it is inclined to have a hard and mechanical look (particularly if it is very smoothly done), the relief should be mostly rather flat and low. What I describe here is a comparatively simple form of relief; but presently, in discussing more complicated stitches, I shall have to show that modelling can be elaborated to a very great degree.
Stem-stitch is so simple that it almost explains itself by diagram. One stitch is laid beyond another in a continuous line,
Fig. 7. - Stem Stitch.
which should be smooth and even, the thread being always kept on the same side of the needle. This is essentially adapted to work done in the hand ; it is useful for filling stems and putting in outlines.
Darning can be variously treated, the principle of the stitch being given in Fig. 8, where the threads are shown laid in horizontal lines. (a) The needle is run in and out of the material, following the threads of it, sometimes both right and wrong side alike, and, indeed, resembling
Fig. 8. - Darning.
the woven stuff. It is used in this way on many of the Eastern embroidered towels that are so much used now. So treated, the stitch has little artistic value in itself, for the same decoration could be obtained with weaving; it is merely a substitute for weaving used for the decoration of their cloths and towels by people who might not care to set up a loom for so slight a purpose.
(b) Another form of darning is, on the
contrary, rather elaborate, and involves artistic knowledge in drawing lines and in 28 shading colours. The needle follows the curves and forms of the design, the full stitch only showing on the upper surface of the material. When the design that is being worked is, as is usual, some treatment of flowers and other natural growths, the stitches also radiate outward from a common centre (see Fig. 9). The beginner will encounter several difficulties from the outset, and much more can be learnt by a few hours of personal instruction than by many pages of careful description. When a mass of one colour merely is required, the task is fairly easy, great attention being paid to laying the threads in even lines from centre to edge of the leaf or flower. The stitch, however, is particularly suitable to shading and blending several colours, a skilful worker obtaining both delicacy and variety from this facility.
But here is our first pause: for this very facility of shading with the needle constitutes in itself a pitfall to the unwary.
It is so tempting to form nice little leaves and flower-petals, all painted up in ' natural' colours almost as good as a picture. But try it. Take a flower on its stem, or spray of leaves, use twenty or thirty different shades of colour to a square foot of work, each leaf executed with its browns, and pinks, and greens, with high light, and lights diffused and reflected, all dragged in by main force, till a libellous caricature of natural growth is achieved ; a caricature having less resemblance to the real thing than the fearless images with a blunt pencil done by a child, whose drawings are symbols of what his eyes see, and have a value all their own as a natural and unaffected expression of natural facts. Then work the same spray in flat and simple colours, say in two shades at most for a leaf, either one side of the leaf light and the other dark, or both sides shaded up from dark to light colour ; flower-petals treated in the same way with very light shading, and with a firm outline to render the pattern clear,
Compare the two methods of work, and a little thought will show you that even to an untrained eye, the latter way of working has a more pleasing look than the former, which is a laborious, pretentious effort to imitate nature in her own colours. A broad and simple style of work should be practised for a long time, and until you have thorough command over colour and composition, and a very sure and definite experience of the value of harmony and contrast and such-like technicalities akin to the painter's art.
Darning, then, is worked in the hand on some loose soft material, and the more yielding the fabric, the quicker the work goes, if that be an advantage. It is not a method of work that will last for ever, the threads all lying on the surface, rather long and loose. Thus it is not suitable for ornamenting surfaces that receive much friction, nor for anything that is easily soiled and has to be constantly refreshed or cleaned. It is a good method for quickly and economically covering large surfaces, but unsuited to important works that are to be durable as well as beautiful.
Another look at Fig. 9, which represents a stem and leaf filled in with work, will show roughly the direction in which the stitches ought to lie. It is absolutely necessary to pay strict attention to this, for correct laying of stitches is one of the first principles of embroidery, and of every sort of needlework, plain or ornamental. The slight radiation of the lines in the leaf falling outwards from a centre should also be noticed. In filling solidly an ornamental form of any breadth, the beginner who ponders over her work will consider how her threads shall be laid so as to fill the space harmoniously, giving at the same time an even texture. She will soon find that the only way to do this is to work from a centre, whence the stitches fall right and left, joining imperceptibly at the top (see Fig. 10), such designs as the embroideress makes use of almost always lending themselves to and suggesting such treatment.
These observations apply equally, of course, to all stitches used for filling solid masses.
The stitches enumerated above are by their nature adapted to soft and supple
materials that hang in folds if the size and purpose of the work permit. They are also more suitably done on a material held loose in the hand than stretched in a frame. Those that I shall describe next are stiffer in character, and best done in an embroidery frame ; with some stitches, indeed, one wants both hands at liberty to manipulate the materials, this not being possible when one hand has to be devoted to holding the work.