A re-blog: the glory of white work embroidery

Five years ago I went to a Royal School of Needlework White Work exhibition in London, at Hampton Court Palace with my dear friend Pamela Cox. It was an incredible day out especially as we discovered that two friends from USA were going too. Just visiting Hampton Court Palace itself is a thrilling experience as it is such a grand palace steeped in history, standing in the most beautiful grounds. Although the exhibition was only an hour and a half it was so exciting to see the samples that they have in their studios. We were unable to take pictures so I cannot show you the marvelous examples of white work embroidery that were on display, but their beauty was firmly imprinted on my mind. I made sure of that! It is true to say that the antique christening gowns, bonnets, collars, table cloths and handkerchiefs were so delicate and intricate it was difficult to imagine that they were worked so long ago without magnification and artificial lighting. Some were so old, just fragments of a beautiful embroidery worked skillfully by some unknown artist. Continue reading

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A re-blog: perfecting my Vintage sewer’s Crazy quilt

Graceful Embroidery has a good selection of crazy quilt blocks each with different themes. Not all of them are square though. As well as 2 stockings, 2 Dresden shaped ones there is a Christmas tree and two vintage oblong crazy quilts. This is my Romantic crazy quilt 7 with a vintage sewing theme. May I stress that it is essential to use the same shades of thread that I have used so that there are only subtle changes in the cameo, which is based on one I was given by my Mother many years ago. I have tried to highlight the slight amber appearance of many cameos. There are two versions of the block one with the cameo and another with the words “love to sew”. In this test I used ordinary rayon for the scroll border but it works just as well with 30wt cotton, adding some dimension.

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A re-blog: Embroidering a Wreath

There is nothing more delightful than a perfectly embroidered wreath in the centre of a table with an ornament or vase standing in the middle, but many of us may find the prospect rather daunting unless it is embroidered out in one hooping. In preparing the Anastasia’s Spring I thought a lovely wreath featuring the beautiful daffodils and tulips in this collection would be a magnificent addition.

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A re-blog: planning a simple Christening gown

The prospect of creating your very first Christening gown may be quite daunting but if you do not aim to create something too complicated you will find it enjoyable and may want to move on to more complicated gowns.

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A re-blog: embroidering in silk thread

I feel in love with silk along time ago when I worked in a fabric shop and it is my favourite fabric partly because it is so versatile and also because it comes in the most wonderful shades.

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A re-blog: A cushion for Georgiana

I had a little wicker chair that I bought for when Georgie, my granddaughter,  came to visit! It needed a cushion though, and while I was finishing off the Georgiana collection which is named after her I thought I would use one of the designs to create the perfect little cushion.

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A re-blog: The Problem of colour!

There are several real challenges for machine embroidery digitisers but one of particular frustration is choosing the shades of embroidery thread and how they are best portrayed! I am constantly aware that the shades and tones used in my designs are a very important part of their quality and finished appearance. The combination of colours used for a design collection can be the difference between being irresistible or being dismissed as like many others on the market. Selecting the correct scheme of colours is as crucial as the actual digitising but there is a problem. I do my work on a laptop when I am being sociable and on a PC when I shut myself away in my studio.

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Discovering a treasure hidden for years

A while back my daughter bought an antique cabinet from an auction room in Devon, England for her home. When it was being cleaned she discovered something tucked behind one of the interior drawers wrapped in tissue paper.

She knew I would be interested as within this little package was a tiny linen shirt and a this piece of paper which read:

” Hand made man’s shirt (one fourth size) Won second prize in class of eight 1884

Mrs J Edwards.

I knew immediately what it was for when I visited the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace in London, I learned how needle women created samples of their work in miniature, a visible CV. These were done not to scale but reduced in size, looking like dolls clothes. When I heard about these I never imagined I would have the pleasure of holding one and photographing it for all you to see. There is a specific name for these items but I cannot find it despite doing a lot of research online. Let me know if you have any ideas. In Victorian England at that time when Mrs Edwards won second prize, things were changing dramatically for those who loved sewing and for those only income came from what they produced by hand.

The first sewing machine had been invented in 1846 and very soon Singer Sewing machines were creating their iconic machines, winning first prize at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1855. Things were on the change and the sewing machine changed everything, just as it has for me and probably for you too!

I doubt that Mrs Edwards ever used a sewing machine and I would love to know what her second prize was! It is humbling to see the time and effort that had gone into this sample of her work. The details are incredible both on the outside and inside. I could not help but admire the delicate tiny hand stitches.

Although this garment is stained by the passage of time it is a gem and the stains add to its beauty. It is in incredible condition for a project that is over 140 years old, and a credit to Mrs Edwards ability as a seamstress.

I love the way the sides have been reinforced so lovingly.

The seams are perfect throughout and the stitches almost the size of the fibres of the garment.

The sleeves are fascinating, especially the cuffs and the delightful little buttons.

Look at these exquisite hand sewn buttonholes. I wonder what Mrs Edwards would think of the buttonholes we produce on our sewing machines now!

Here you see the neckline and upper section of the shirt.

This is the front section I believe, although it was difficult to tell.

How wonderful to see how things were done in the past. I do wonder how many hours it took to complete this sample and what sort of light she had to work by in the evenings. I also would love to know how much she would be paid for a full size shirt like this and suspect it would be a pittance.

My daughter did wonder what to do with this treasure and in the end it was decided to put it back in the place where it has been hidden for decades, so that somebody else one day will experience the joy of discovering it as did!

So the moral of this story, is keep your treasures and heirloom projects safe so that future generations can take delight in them. If you haven’t got any heirloom embroidery projects maybe it is time to consider creating one. There are lots of embroidery designs at Graceful Embroidery to inspire you. When finished hang them out of the reach of the sunlight which does so much damage or wrap them carefully in acid free tissue paper.

Happy embroidering from Hazel

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A re-blog: One of my biggest digitising challenges for Christmas

One of my most exciting decisions I have to make around the end of the summer is about my Christmas collection. This year I couldn’t decide between Elegant Messages that was started the year before and the images for Poinsettia Promises. So I decided to go for both as they are very different. However nestling among the many images from Diddybag was a very elaborate bow which I dismissed as a ” digitising impossibility”!

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A re-blog: Creating the Graceful Silk Sampler

The many antique and vintage samplers that can be found on the internet fascinate me. I view and collect those I like on Pinterest, which is a great source of inspiration!  It is hard to have a favourite as there is such variety out there, but I am always amazed at the time and skill these young girls painstakingly put into their samplers. Surely machine embroidery can be used to create similar master pieces to hang in our homes or to give as presents. I am not sure what those girls would think about our lovely embroidery machines. Do they teach us character building in quite the same way? I wonder!

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