Among the most popular home occupations for present-day ladies may be named embroidery. The loom and the spinning-wheel, in one form or another, are as old as civilization, and our devotion to the embroidery frame is but a return to the occupation in which mediaeval ladies found delight. Few of them could read or write, and the needle was their only form of expression. This is no longer the case; we are not so narrowed in our range, and yet embroidery continues to be pleasant work for a group of merry girls or thoughtful women.
The most expensive materials for this work are silk, velvet, tissue, gold and silver cloth, velveteen, and plush. Among cheaper materials are linens of various degrees of fineness, crash, sateen, sheeting, serge, and Canton flannel.
Every lady who gives her mind to it, even if her skill is not great, can improve an unattractive room by a few judicious alterations, and every young girl may learn to embroider at odd moments, and by the work of her hands transform her abode from ugliness to beauty.
Crewels are used for working on linen, serge and flannel. Tapestry wool, a thicker substance, is useful on coarse fabrics. Embroidery silk is preferred for silk, satin, or fine materials. In working with crewels.
The threads should be cut into short lengths, it being difficult to use a long thread without puckering the work.
Silk plush, the most elegant and effective material for banners, draperies, and covers, is very costly. Woolen plush is a little less costly, but is also expensive. Canton flannel, in all the rich and desirable colors, is a much cheaper material. As regards the cost of these and the other materials named, our lady readers are probably well informed.
Stem-stitch is not difficult. It is simply a long stitch forward, a short one backward, and then another long stitch a little in advance of the first. In working outlines, care must be taken to exactly follow the line of the pattern, and to keep the thread to the left of the needle. Some knowledge of drawing is necessary for good embroidery. Leaves and flowers or conventional designs should be nicely drawn or stamped before beginning to work. A lady is sometimes so deft with her needle that she can compose her pattern as she goes on, but this is not apt to be widely the case. The stem stitch may be longer or shorter according to fancy, but it must be even.
Split-stitch is a variety of stem-stitch, but in bringing the needle up through the material it must be passed through, the embroidery silk or crewel.
Satin-stitch is the same on both sides. . The needle must be taken back each time to the point from which it started. Rope-stitch is a twisted chain-stitch; blanket-stitch is the ordinary buttonhole stitch less closely worked, and feather-stitch is a broken stitch, worked in a light airy way, to suit the convenience of the seamstress.
Drawn-work consists in drawing out threads from linen, and working designs in the drawn space or filling in with needlework. This is pretty for tidies and for the bordering of pillow-shams, spreads, and curtains.
Applique work is simply transferred work. Cut out pretty figures from damask
I or cretonne, or the best parts of old and worn embroideries, and fasten them securely on a foundation of lace, linen, or silk.
In addition to curtains, lambrequins, screens, and panels, which only a few women have time for, cushions and chair-backs may be made in great variety. Sofa cushions are always desirable as gifts. A long narrow cushion for the back of an invalid's chair, a neck-rest for a rocker, covers of linen to be slipped over a chair that has lost its freshness, little round table mats, pieces to brighten the centre of a dinner-table, portfolios and letter-cases, slippers and sewing and knitting-aprons, with pockets to hold a bit of work, thimble, and needle sheath, are among the many articles that may be made in leisure hours.
The little crochet hook is a very old instrument. Its charm is that with so small a tool so many beautiful things may be produced. From a counterpane to a collar, almost anything may be made with the crochet needle. Babies' afghans and sofa quilts for convalescents are often crocheted. There are few occupations more fascinating than this to those with time to spare.
The delight of knitting is its sociability. Embroidery demands close attention, but the knitter may talk at the same time, her fingers moving with automatic precision. What pictures rise in our mind's eye of dear old ladies knitting by the fire, their needles flashing and their voices busy with social chat! Shawls for breakfast or evening wear can be either knitted or crocheted, and many other articles at once useful and ornamental, are at the command of busy and skillful fingers in this old-fashioned art.