Friday, November 18, 2011

Hand Embroidered Doilies from Greece

I recently had the pleasure of looking at these two dainty little embroidered doilies and trying to discover how they were made.  Each one is just 15cm (6in) in diameter. They were lent to me by my friend Beryl Saunders and they originally came from Greece.


At first glance the two seem to be identical. The charming centres have a tiny flourish of lace with satin stitched roses and leaf sprays on either side. Each doily then has two rounds of the same hand made lace. Interestingly though, on the second doily the sequence of the two rounds of lace has been reversed.

Looking at the first doily, the two more solid areas on either side of the centre are hand embroidered on a very fine cotton fabric.

The dainty pattern of daisies is worked in satin stitch while the leaf sprays are shadow work, done in reverse herringbone stitch or double back stitch. The shadow work gives the embroidery a delicate subtlety.

First doily - hand embroidered side panel
In between the cotton panels, the embroidery on the net fabric reminds me of the Cornelli Lace icing technique used in cake decorating where the curvy lines bend back on each other and fill the area with a single continuous line. On the doily the meandering line appears to be a continuous line of - overcasting stitch - not icing! The four little doughnut shapes, like the couronnes found in needle lace, are satin stitch eyelets.

Each little section of the doily is joined by a tiny narrow seam of fine overcasting, just visible in the photo above. I really can't imagine trying to work such tiny fragments of embroidery and then joining them up with such fine seams, can you?

Now for a closer look at the second doily.

On the two cotton side panels you will notice that the sinuous floral design  is quite different to the daisies and leaves we saw before. 

Second doily - side panel detail

These two panels appear to be machine embroidered - much to my surprise! If you look at the tendril near the top of the photo, you may just be able to pick up the zigzag machine stitches used to embroider it.

The floral design of the net embroidery is also quite different. Because the cotton panels next to them are machine embroidered, I can't quite decide whether the net areas are well-executed machine embroidered lace or whether they are indeed hand embroidered needle run lace as they appear to be.

The two little doilies are indeed similar, yet quite different when you look more closely. I'd love to know more about them. Do let me know if you have come across anything similar. I'm intrigued at the similarities and the marked differences between them. I would also like to know more about how they came to be made. I'm sure there is an interesting story behind them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Using Metallic threads

I wrote this post some weeks ago but hadn't got around to sorting out some photos that I could use. I was having quite a time then, working with the metallic thread for the bicycle in this sweet Jenny McWhinney design.

Needle painting and working with metallic thread are both things I have previously given little thought to, but I have now completed Monet and his metallic thread bicycle. Completed - except for the bee buzzing around just in front of Monet. I need to practise my bullion knots before I embroider the bee's body.

In the past I have avoided using metallic threads because they don't co-operate very well when I try and use them. After just a few stitches I seem to get worn threads where the metallic strands of the thread separate, and stretch, and bunch up. Then comes the unpicking and starting a new thread. Not my favourite task!

To try and fix the problem of wearing thread, I tried a bigger needle, and then a bigger one again, until eventually I was using what seemed like a crowbar. It was an old needle sitting in my needle book that I haven't used for years and I have no idea what sort of needle it is. It felt very awkward but in the end the big needle did the trick, or maybe by then I'd got to the end of stitching the bicycle.

The other thing I tried was using shorter pieces of thread, 20-25cm long. This meant more starting and ending of threads, but that seemed about the best length to use without having to end off early and cut off damaged thread. All in all I still need a lot of practice with metallic thread.

How I admire beautiful gold work - stitched with all that (uncooperative?) metallic thread.