This section is from the "The Ladies' Work-Table Book: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America" book, by Margaret Vincent. Also available from Amazon: The Ladies' Work Table: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America.
German wool is the produce of the merino breed, in its highest state of cultivation, and is the best sheep's wool we possess. The merino fleece is brought to the greatest perfection in Saxony, and the adjacent states. It is chiefly manufactured for the purposes of needle-work,etc, at Gotha; the dyeing of it is performed at Berlin, and in other parts of Germany. The wools of Germany are, in fineness and softness, much, superior to those of Spain. The wool is prepared in various sizes, and for some kinds of work, may be split with great advantage. A large quantity is imported into this country in a raw state, and is dyed and manufactured here. Some of this is equal to the wools prepared in Germany, as to quality ; but the brilliancy of the color will not bear comparison.
This remark does not extend to the black German wool, prepared in this country, and which is far superior to that prepared on the continent. Much wool, of a very superior quality is annually prepared for the market; and so great is its resemblance to a superior article, that it requires much attention, and an experienced eye, to detect the fraud. English wool, or what is often called embroidery wool, is much harsher than that of Germany; yet it is of a very superior kind, and much to be preferred for some kinds of work. The dye of several colors of English lamb's wool is equal to that of the best dyes of Germany ; especially scarlet and some of the shades of blue, green, and gold color, which for brilliancy and permanency, may justly claim equality with the most finished productions of the continental states.
Worsted is another description of our native produce, and is extensively used for a great variety of useful purposes, which are familiar to every one. A great portion of the needle-work of the last century was done in a fine kind of worsted, called crewels : and some specimens still remain, which do great credit to the venerable grandames of the present generation. Yarn is a coarse kind of worsted, much employed in making garden nets, and for various other purposes. Fleecy (English) is manufactured from the Leicestershire breed, and is much used in knitting and netting: it is of two qualities; both varying in size, from an eighth to a quarter of an inch in diameter. They are made up of threads, varying from two to twelve, and are both equally good. They are applied to crochet as well as to the other descriptions of work named. German fleecy, thought but little used, is much superior to that of this country. Hamburgh wool is an excellent article, but has not hitherto been much in request. Great care is necessary, in selecting wool of good quality : but let the young novice give to the subject her best attention; and should she find herself sometimes deceived, still persevere, remembering that " practice makes perfect."
Cotton, of various sizes, as numbered from one to six, or higher if required. In the choice of this material, much care is needed, not only in the selection of colors and shades, hut also to ascertain if the color has been stained with a permanent dye.
This is sometimes used for stuffing knitted cushions, muffs, etc, and is too well known to need any description here.
The precious metals are now very generally employed in the ornamental parts of all kinds of fancy work. Gold and silver threads consists of a thread of silk, round which is spun an exceedingly fine wire of the metal required. For gold, silver or copper gilt wire is employed, as pure gold could not be so easily wrought. These threads can be employed in almost any way which the taste of the fair artist may induce her to devise Besides the thread, gold and silver cord is also in much demand, and looks extremely beautiful, when employed with taste and judgment. This material is a twist, and is composed of different quantities of threads, according to the thickness required. Much care is required in working with it, or the beauty of the material will be spoilt. It is much used in crochet, and without due attention, the point of the needle is liable to catch the cord, and to break the wire, which would entirely destroy the beauty of the performance.
These beautiful fabrications of art, are composed of gold, silver, polished steel, and glass. There is also a beautiful sort called garnet beads, with gold points. All these can he procured at any of the establishments for the sale of fancy articles, and are to be employed as the judgment or fancy may direct The gold beads are used in making all kinds of knitting, netting, and crochet, and look well either by themselves, or when in connection with those of the other materials named. Glass beads, may be procured of any variety of color, and when in combination with gold, silver, or steel, form a beautiful relief.