Musings of a Lady

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Le Modiste: An itch to stitch!

Embroidery!  Not everyone likes to do embroidery but I am one of those that does.  There was a while back when I use to do it all the time.  I haven't done much in a long time.  A very long time!  Recently, I have been inspired by some recent reviews of others work and realizing how much I miss embroidering.  If you have followed the last couple of posts you saw the results of my 18th century pocket.  It took over a year to get it done but I had the itch to stitch and it finally got done.  I want to do more!  In fact, I adore the idea of fabric embellishment and manipulation.  So, I am exploring this genre of sewing that has implications for historical clothing as well as home furnishings.  My latest muse is Alabama Chanin.  This American company is the vision of Natalie Chanin.  (Check her out on Facebook or go to her website direct: Her latest book -
Cover of her latest book
 Ms. Chanin's work is using only 100% US grown cotton jersey knit and embellishing it with stenciling, applique, embroidery and/or beading.  The sample below takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary!

This inspires me to work on mundane clothing for everyday that is not mundane in the least.  Yes, time consuming but what lovely clothing to have that has a vintage feel to it!  I ordered via Amazon, her other previous books to get more ideas.  Her clothes are lovely, but I am not sure how they would look on a petite, rounded body like mine.  Her models are impossibly beautiful, very young and TALL et SLIM!  But I am determined to figure it out as I love the idea of embellishing clothes.

With that said and within the topic, I had planned to embroider an Elizabethan shift - yes, another UFO of a year or two ago.  I got the shift cut out and was ready to rock and roll with the embroidery but once I got started I wasn't happy with the size of the motifs and the stitches I was using.  The shift is similar to one in Janet Arnold's  Patterns of Fashion 4.
Woman's linen smock 1605-15

sleeve detail

Neck and construction detail
I love grape and grape leaf motifs and also acorn motifs. I found some period images to verify my use of either motif.   I decided on a repeat pattern of a cluster of grapes and a single leaf.  At first when I started it a year or so ago I was using 3 strands of cotton embroidery thread and mainly using stem stitch and French Knots.  But it looks heavy and fuzzy.  I tried it with 2 threads (no image) and it looked to limp and fuzzy.  So, what do do?
This is the original motif I embroidered with stem stitch and French knots.
I decided to try it with using a back stitch (the image below to the right).  In comparison it looks neater and a lot more like the Janet Arnold version in texture.  I think I am going to with that.  What do you think?  A friend of mine did the same garment but followed the Janet Arnold embroidery pattern and motifs.  She did it in pink and it came out fabulous!  I am not a pink girl so I decided on blue - a deep blue instead of the black.  My friend used silk embroidery thread which is what was used on the original garment.  Cotton embroidery thread is cheaper but it does lack the soft sheen that the silk has so I will investigate sources for the silk.

The one on the left was started in stem stitch.  To the right it is all done in back-stitch.
Eventually I would like to have an embroidered jacket of the time period to wear over a boned kirtle.  Ha, Ha, Ha....we shall see! Although, I mainly do 18th century, Victorian and Art Deco events now, I do want to attend a 16th century camp event that happens annually in Northern California every April.  One day, one day.

In the meantime, I think I will work on a sampler of what I want to be on the shift and the jacket and get use to embroidering again.

More to come, stay tuned!

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