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.
This is a very beautiful kind of work. The material may be either silk, or cloth, or any other fabric which may be preferred. Upon this foundation, pieces of satin, velvet, etc., are to be carefully tacked down; the pattern, leaves, flowers, etc, must then be drawn, both on the foundation, and the materials of which they are to be formed; after which, they must be cut out and sewed on in the neatest manner possible. They are then to be braided with ther own colors round the edges; you must also braid the tendrils and the veins of leaves; work the centre of leaves in a long stitch, and the kind of silk called purse silk, and after braiding the centre of flowers - if single - work over them with French knots, made by twining the silk twice round the needle, and passing it through the material. This kind of work, as covers for tables chairs, etc, is very elegant, and has a good effect.
Use the canvas called bolting ; and work two threads each way on the slant, with china silk, taking especial care that the beads are all turned the same way, that the whole may appear uniform. Work the pattern with thick beads and ground with transparent ones. You must, in this kind of work, have as few shades as possible.
Trace the pattern in the material, and proceed with the various shades, from the outline or lightest, to the darkest, till the whole is completed. In this work only two shades are for leaves, and three for flowers ; make the points as sharp as possible, and in turning the points, work one stitch up close to the point where you turn the braid, and another immediately afterwards to keep it in its place. Vein the leaves in a bouquet with purse silk use gold braid in finishing as taste may direct; and in fastening draw the braid through the material. The best instrument for this purpose is a chenille needle. In braid work and applique, only one stitch must be taken at a time, or else the work will appear puckered.
Work in silk canvas three inches broad, in silk or wool, in any pattern you prefer.
Gem, or Set Patterns. - For this kind of work, ground in black or dark wool, and work the patterns in silks, as distinct and bright as possible, and with the utmost variety of colors. The beauty of these productions of the needle, depends chiefly upon their brilliant and gem-like appearance.
If you work in coarse canvas, adopt the same contrast of shades as you employ in cross stitch ; if the material be fine, you must shade as in tent stitch.
To ornament the dress of a father, brother, or husband, must at all times be a pleasing employment for domestic affection. For dress waistcoats, embroider satin, either in the form of a wreath, round the edge of the waistcoat, or in small sprigs ; for morning, you may work in any pattern you prefer. Patterns of the Caledonian Clans are now much admired.
These may be rendered extremely beautiful, if properly managed. The trees in front should be much lighter than those seen in the back ground, and great care should be taken to prevent the latter having too blue a cast, as this renders them unharmonious, when contrasted with the sky. Represent water by shades of a blue grey: the sky should be a serene blue, with much closeness, and mingled with clouds composed of varying tints of a white and a yellow drab. If mountains are seen in the distance, they should be of a grey lavendar tint, and some living animal should, in nearly all cases, be introduced. The presence of a cow, sheep, etc, gives life and animation to the view.
If you work with wool, cut it into short lengths, and untwist it. No wool can be procured sufficiently fine for this kind of work. If you work with silk, the finest floss is preferable to any other: split silk would be found extremely inconvenient, and the work would not look so well. Care must be taken that the shades are very distinct, or they will appear jumbled and unsightly. It will also be necessary to fasten off at every shade, and not to pass from one flower to another, as in that case the fastenings would become visible on the right side, and thus impair the beauty of the performance. In working a landscape, some recommend placing behind the canvas a painted sky, to avoid the trouble of working one. As a compliance with such advice would tend to foster habits ot idleness, and thus weaken the sense of moral propriety which should in all we do be ever present with us, as well as destroy that nice sense of honor and sincerity which flies from every species of deception, we hope the fair votaries of this delightful art will reject the suggestion with the contempt it merits.
Employ for canvas four or five shades, beginning with the darkest, and softening gradually into a lighter tint, till you come to the lightest, following the distinction of contrast exhibited by the Berlin patterns. If you wish to introduce silk into any part, it will be best to work it in last. Be careful to avoid taking odd threads, if you work the pattern in cross stitch.
The needle must not be too large, or the holes will be liable to get broken. The smaller ones must be worked in silk : the larger patterns may be done in either silk or wool. Sometimes the flowers are worked in Chenille, and the leaves in silk ; this gives to card cases, etc, a beautiful and highly ornamental appearance.
Use a wooden mesh, grooved, an inch and a quarter in width; pass the material over the mesh, and work in cross stitch: the material to be used, is what is called slacks, (a kind of worsted,) which must be six or eight times doubled. You must leave three threads between each row, and not more than eight rows are required to complete the border.
For this work choose shades of a light in preference to a dark color, and work with silk. If you employ both silk and wool, silk must be used for the lighter shades, or the beauty of the work will be impaired. Sponge the whole before commencing work.