Thank you guys SO much for the tips you shared on blocking embroideries! I’ve given it another go with my vintage girl, and this time followed the post shared by Kim (who I just noticed is stitching along with my french knot sampler, yay!) from Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread: Damp Stretching and Blocking Embroidery.
That post basically says to do what I did with, I suspect, one important difference: using a enormous crapload of pins. The first time I blocked this girl, I pinned it as if it was knitting – the pins aren’t very closely spaced. I suppose this gave it the give it needed to bunch back up as it dried. As you can see above, this time I pinned it (dry) and used about ten thousand pins, then sprayed it as Mary suggests. It looks like the circus came to town, but it seems to have worked!
A totally awkward bathroom tile shot, but lookit how flat! It’s all dry there, but I still haven’t unpinned it yet. I’m secretly afraid that it will all go all rumply again the second I take the pins out. Next up, I have to decide how I’m going to reframe it!
Sorry, guys, I had that awesome (ahem, if I do say so myself) idea for Vintage Sundays and then it kind of got lost in the shuffle. But now we’re back on track! So, this week I want to share this amazingly beautiful embroidered girl I found at a charity shop a week or two ago. She must be from the later-1960s or maybe early 1970s, there’s no real doubt about the era on this one. Isn’t she lovely?!
She does need a little repair though! As you can see, she’s quite badly puckered there around her face and head, and there’s a few pulled stitches in her apron. No broken threads or anything, so I thought she’d be easy enough to fix up – just tighten the loose threads from the back, give her a gentle wash and blocking, and then reframe!
I started with a washing, just the same as I would anything else handmade: lukewarm water, a touch of gentle soap and left her to soak for a bit. The soak water was totally orange, which I didn’t see coming, and it did leave a light bleed mark on the fabric in one corner, but it might be hidden by the framing. Otherwise she looked pretty good, and I pinned her out crazy tight, hoping to cure that bunchiness.
Which was not entirely successful. Or at all really. Huh. Here she is still pinned to the blocking board, but now dry – the fabric still totally puckering all over the place. She looked wonderfully smooth when she was still wet and freshly pinned, but now the same as before. I’ve never blocked embroidery before, but I block knitting (successfully) all the time – is there some difference I didn’t know about?!
Is there anyone out there that can give me some advice on flattening this girl? I know she’ll smooth somewhat if I mount the embroidery more properly than it was before, but will that take care of it completely? Any help or tips would be greatly appreciated!
I have been stricken by a fit of indecisiveness and can’t choose between painting my new sewing box or trying to sand and refinish it somehow, so I’ll have to share that another day. But, speaking of indecisiveness, there’s something you can help me with! I was gifted this charity shop apron by a friend a few weeks ago – isn’t it exciting?! I’m not sure when this apron is from, I suspect the 70s, but it really could be the 60s or even 80s by the look of it. But it’s fabulous – and pink! We all know how I love me some pink! – and I’m actually seriously in need of an apron anyway. It needs a little love though – you might be able to see that the straps are hanging on by a thread, literally. My friend and I decided that it could be repaired simply by replacing the edge binding, which would catch all the little problem areas along the way.
So, keeping in mind that the binding along the top and on the pocket are fine and can’t easily be replaced without really dismantling the entire thing, which color should I use?! I can’t decide – I can’t even rule one out! The brown makes the whole thing darker; the baby pink makes it brighter. The darker pink is about the same intensity as the original binding, but isn’t exactly the same shade, which might look odd if I don’t change the pocket / top edges. Help me – what do you guys think?!
One of my Christmas gifts this past year was Odhams Big Book of Needlecraft. I saw it in an Oxfam book shop and gently nudged my brother in its direction. It’s a beautiful book (on the left) even before you open its wonderfully musty pages.
A few weeks ago, my knitting group took a little outing to a local vintage and handmade market. I saw a copy of The Big Book of Needlecraft there and knew immediately that it really wanted to come home with me. But I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that I already owned this book. I flipped through it for so long that my knitters wandered off to other things, but didn’t see much inside that felt as familiar as the title. For only a handful of British Pounds, I decided it was worth the risk.
Of course I did have it, but there’s a reason I couldn’t be sure. With such a generic name and many different editions, it’s hard to gather real information about this book, but my research seems to indicate that my first copy (to the left in the top photo) is from about 1935. This makes sense – the cover design and illustrations are so very 30s / Deco, it’s hard to imagine it could be from any other decade. I’m not 100% sure, but I think the other copy, with the adorable thimble illustration on the cover (don’t you just want to embroider that on something?!), is from the late-40s / early-50s. And it’s only circumstantial evidence, but the newspaper clipping found inside (for a sewing pattern, I’m sure I’ll blog about that separately sometime), dated 1951, seems to agree.
What’s really interesting is how incredibly different the books’ contents are. The earlier copy covers a much wider range of topics: there’s chapters for ‘New Collars For Old Dresses’, ‘Needlework in the Kitchen’, ‘Glove Making’, ‘Hand-made Flowers’, and ‘Leathercraft’, as well as the expected discussions of embroidery, knitting, sewing, etc. The later edition is, with just a few exceptions, limited to the expected, but gives much more detail on those topics. As far as embroidery is concerned, the 1930s copy offers some stitch diagrams, but sticks mostly to project ideas and designs. Amazing, beautiful Deco projects and designs that I could happily spend years recreating.
And the 40s-50s gives you more technique to work with.
Neither were, as far as I understand, times of prosperity in the United Kingdom, what with worldwide Depression and Post-WWII economy and destruction to deal with. Interesting that the 1930s edition was interested in making a range of things yourself and giving them a touch of glamour with beautiful designs and stitchery, while the other is much more practical.
One other tiny note of interest is the presence of (and lack of) authorship credit. The earlier edition lists an editor and two assistants, as well as a separate author for every chapter — ‘Useful Washing Hints’ was written by Helen M. Paton — but the later is practically anonymous. There’s no author or editor listed anywhere that I can see. Curious.
Anyway, they are beautiful books and I love them equally, but for different reasons. The stitch diagrams and discussions in the later edition are, unsurprisingly, of practical use to me on potentially every stitching project I will ever do. The earlier book’s designs and illustrations are a huge inspiration, projects I’d love to sink my teeth into. I couldn’t possibly not have both on my shelf!
I wanted to show you my finished Cladonia shawl today – I unpinned it over the weekend and it came out beautifully – but the weather was dismal when I wanted to take photos this morning. Of course it’s lovely out now, but it’ll have to wait for another day. In the meantime, here’s a few pretties I’ve found at charity shops recently, just for funsies.