A Connecting Link Between Embroidery and Lace Work - Materials Used - Where to Look for

Designs - Antiquity of Drawn Work - Some Simple Designs

Drawn-thread work forms a connecting link between embroidery and lace work. Many of the stitches are, indeed, lace stitches, and probably originated in drawn work. As its name suggests, some of the warp threads of the material are first drawn out and the remaining threads either drawn together in bunches so as to form regular open spaces, or the threads are covered thickly with another thread, so as to make solid woven patterns.

Fig. I. The reverse side of one method of hemstitching in which the needle gathers together bunches of three or four threads

Fig. I. The reverse side of one method of hemstitching in which the needle gathers together bunches of three or four threads

This kind of work is usually carried out in white linen, though coloured threads can be introduced with good effect. It is specially suited to household linen, as it is very durable, and washes well. It is work that is open to much improvement - very many of the patterns of the present day are too spidery in character, and the same designs are repeated ad nauseam. A visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington, or other good textile collections, will open out new vistas, especially if the work of the different countries is studied and compared.

The earliest examples of drawn-thread work were found in Egyptian tombs. Here the warp threads have been purposely omitted when the material - a loose make of linen - was woven in hand looms; and the remaining threads or woof have been embroidered in different coloured silks. Many interesting examples of this early work can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, one having an embroidered Saracenic inscription which reads "Help from God and a near victory."

Almost every country seems to have employed this method of work, and it is curious to see how each retains its special character. For instance, Danish, or Hardanger work, as we now call it, is usually made up of squared patterns, while Persian work has beautifully made narrow borders, showing woven patterns. These are varied with large open squares, filled in with lacelike interlaced patterns, surrounded by delicate, conventional forms, worked in satin-stitch. This combination of solid embroidery, cut-work and drawn-thread work, is very beautiful, the drawn-thread work giving often the necessary lightness.

Fig. 2. A border adapted from Persian work. The thickness of the thread must accord with the fineness or coarseness of the linen

Fig. 2. A border adapted from Persian work. The thickness of the thread must accord with the fineness or coarseness of the linen

The Spanish, German, Swedish, Indian, and Chinese have all produced beautiful examples of drawn-thread work, while English white work also holds a high place. Some beautiful examples of the latter are to be seen in samplers at South Kensington.

The drawn-thread work most usually seen and copied nowadays comes from Teneriffe, where it is much used on tussore or linen dresses, tea-cloths, etc. But it is by no means the most beautiful variety artistically, and is sometimes too open and lacelike to be very durable.

The usual beginning of drawn-thread work is a hemstitch border, where three or four warp threads are first withdrawn, and then the raw edges of the material turned in and tacked down to just meet them. Fig. I shows the back side of one method of hemstitching, in which the needle and thread gather together bunches of three or four threads.

Two diagrams of borders, adapted from Persian work, are given, with some loose threads left at the end of each to give a clearer idea of the method of working.

To describe them more in detail, Fig. 2 is of very simple construction. First of all a border of warp threads is drawn out, and a blunt needle threaded with Harris's flax thread, in white. The thickness of the thread must accord with the coarseness or fineness of the linen ground. Starting from the left-hand side, the needle is threaded over and under two bunches of about ten each of the woof threads. This is repeated backwards and forwards half way down the border. Then, leaving the first bunch of threads for the present, the needle takes up a third set of threads farther on, weaving in and out of the second and third sets exactly as in the upper half of the border. This is repeated along the entire border, with the result that open spaces are left, alternating up and down, with patches of weaving between.

Fig 3. An elaborate but beautiful pattern of Persian design which will be found most effective as a border

Fig 3. An elaborate but beautiful pattern of Persian design which will be found most effective as a border

The second pattern (Fig. 3) is rather more elaborate. The needleful starts in the middle of the drawn-out border, and is made to weave in and out of eleven groups of five threads each. This makes the middle row of the diamond shapes, of which one is shown by itself at the end of the border. Each half is then diminished gradually by taking up a less number of sets of threads at each row, until finally the apex at top and bottom is made of one set only.

When a series of diamond shapes, with the points at each side touching each other, have been worked all along the border, it will be found that two half-diamond shapes have been left between each. These are also filled in with weaving stitches in exactly the same way, the result being that small holes are produced in a regular succession, dividing the diamond shapes from each other. In passing the thread from one part of the pattern to another, it should be threaded into a piece already worked, so as not to be visible.

These woven borders are fascinating to work, and may be varied to almost any extent by the ingenious worker. For instance, instead of weaving solidly over all the weft threads, some may be left out, and afterwards overcast so as to make straight bars, or these may be caught together to form regular patterns.