Merino dresses are usually worked in small sprigs, representing a little flower or bud, with two or three green leaves. Blue, lilac, or purple flowers have generally a more tasteful effect for this purpose than red or yellow ones. They will be sufficiently brightened by a shaded yellow spot in the centre. A beautiful sprig may be formed entirely of leaves, some of them comprising different tints of green, and others of brown. Three green eaves, with two brown ones at the bottom of the sprig, ook exceedingly well on a gray merino; also, on a scarlet, crimson, or cherry-coloured ground. Mourning-gray should have black sprigs only. Gold-coloured flowers, if properly shaded, look well on purple, dark brown, or dark slate-coloured merino; but blue or lilac will look better still. Blue and brown harmonize well; also very light blue and very dark purple. Pink flowers look best on a dark olive ground. Blue and red should never come together in a dress. The effect of all sprigs, spots, or stars will be greatly improved by working, on the right hand of each, a shadow of a colour similar to the merino but of a much darker shade. This dark shade along the right-hand side will give the sprig a relieved or raised appearance; and, if well done, will make it look almost as if you could take it up with your fingers. Executed by a skilful embroidress, or by one who is a proficient in drawing, this mode of producing a shadow, that seems to come from behind the sprig, will be found extremely beautiful. We are surprised that is not more generally known and practised.
Previous to working a dress, it is well to have the breadths of the skirts measured, and cut apart. The remainder, of course, is to be reserved for the body, sleeves, and pelerine; but do not have these parts fitted and cut out before embroidering. Though by that means you may save the trouble of doing a few unnecessary sprigs, you will lose more than you will gain; for the pieces, if cut out, will stretch out of shape, and ravel at the edges, so that it will be very difficult to put them well together when wanted. Also, if previously cut out into their respective shapes, the pieces cannot well be worked in a frame, which is always the best way of doing embroidery.
You may work the dress with either soft-twisted silk, (not too fine,) or with Berlin wool or crewel. If worked with silk, it cannot possibly be washed to look well. Floss silk should never be used for this or any other em-broidery, as, though it fills up well, and looks beautifully at first, it almost immediately wears rough and fuzzy. Embroidery-stitch is far more elegant than cross-stitch, having none of its stiffness, hardness, and ungraceful-ness; and being, besides, more easy, expeditious, and manageable; and capable of a far greater diversity of forms.
Prepare on a pasteboard drawing-card, an exact pattern of the sprig, drawn and coloured precisely as it is to be worked; and you may put a dark back-ground behind one side of the sprig, of exactly the same tint as the merino. Mark the distances of the sprigs by measuring their places on the merino with a pair of compasses, (often called dividers,) or by means of a piece of card. Designate the place of each sprig by a dot with a red or white chalk pencil; the dot being the centre of the sprig. Rub, on a saucer, some water-colour paint of any colour that will show plainly on the merino, (which should first be stretched in a frame.) If you cannot get a frame, or prefer working on your hand, baste, under the place occupied by each sprig, a small circular bit of stiff writing-paper; and be careful, while working, not to catch up the paper with the stitches of your needle. When done, remove the paper, and the sprigs will look smooth and even. If you attempt to work it merely on your hand, with no paper beneath, it is impossible to prevent its puckering and drawing up.
Fine embroidery must be worked with extremely close stitches in rows or ridges. Every other stitch should be short, and every other one long. In every row, the alternate long and short stitches should fit in, by extending a little beyond those of the neighbouring row, so as to blend well. If you have no knowledge of drawing, get your pattern-sprig done by some person that draws well, and that is familiar with the effect of lights and shades.
If your dress is to have a belt of the same, you may work a long strip of merino for that purpose; the pattern being so arranged that the flowers will form a close row or straight wreath. Allow this strip of merino full wide, so that there may be an ample sufficiency for turning in at the edges. Sleeve-bands, also, may be worked in this way.
A two-yard-square of merino, embroidered in coloured flowers, and trimmed with a deep fringe, makes a beautiful shawl. On a dark brown or purple merino, flowers entirely of shaded blue, with light brown leaves and stalks interspersed among the green ones, will have a beautiful effect; very superior to the common tasteless and gaudy calico-style of introducing flowers of all colours - red, blue, and yellow. An olive merino shawl may have pink flowers entirely; a slate, or dark gray, or a purple will look well with rich gold-coloured flowers. In all flower-borders, the introduction of brown leaves among the green will be a decided improvement. If the merino is light brown, or light gray, or pale olive, the flowers may be scarlet, cherry-colour, or crimson. For a black merino, the embroidery should be of shaded gray.
Keep beside you, while working, a number of needles threaded with all the different shades of silk, and stuck in a flat pin-cushion, or something similar, so as to be always ready for use.