I speak often about the embroidery termed, Society Silk. What is it and what does it refer to? I’ve collected quite a treasure trove of linens, but I always come back to these, delicate and finely stitched by women of a by gone era. I’ll share a few of my favorites. Beware, they are not pressed and lovely, YET! Shown as found, usually in antique stores or many times, gifted to me by dear friends.
The Society Silk style of embroidery began as a past time in England long before it came to America. For some women, it eventually became a way to earn a living from home. Perhaps the original American cottage industry, fine silk embroideries could be produced at home and then sold as lots to linen houses for sale in a wider market. “Society silk” is a popular reference to the Royal Society of Embroidery that produced the silk floss, embroidery patterns and promoted the cottage embroidery of finer pieces. Additionally, they promoted embroidery “clubs” that brought friendly competition between members to produce the finest work. This beautiful piece of embroidery came from that period and represents the very best of technique, materials and design.
Royal Society was not a company, it was a trademarked brand name for needlework patterns and supplies owned by the H.E. Verran Company of New York. The company was incorporated in October of 1912, shortly after the silk art embroidery craze fell out of popularity. The company ceased operations in 1930.
Also termed, Art Embroidery, Art Needlework, Kensington Embroidery and Silk Embroidery, Society Silk was also known as “Fancy Work”. In the nineteenth century, any decorative work created for ornament had these names, since they were the opposite of “plain sewing”.
A common myth is that this beautiful type of embroidery was only done by wealthy, society women. Those that could afford the silk and linen, with servants doing their housework. Actually, what seems more the reality, is that silk embroidery was introduced in America to help those women who had an economic need. Imagine, at the end of the Civil War, how many women were left without husbands, fathers, brothers and sons to support them. The upper and middle class Victorian ladies were thrown into a difficult situation–no income, no skills, no options for training. It was an unwritten rule that these women did not work outside the home.
Enter Candace Wheeler, who in 1877, formed the Society of Decorative Art, in New York City. She began this cottage industry to help these women learn an art form that could be created without leaving their homes. Mrs. Wheeler also began numerous auxiliary Societies all over America and Canada.
At this time, instruction books became popular and embroidery clubs were popular places for women to meet and socialize. Women who excelled in embroidery, often became traveling embroidery teachers.
Now, not all pieces with silk floss are considered Society Silk. The Art Embroidery phenomenon is only present in the years 1877-1912 in America.
Personally, the best part of this story, is that women could be trained to use artistic needlework to make a respectable living. Exactly what many of us have accomplished in this career of quilting, sewing, crafting and creating.
I have made it my mission to take the beauty of a long ago makers’ handwork and bring it into the 21st century. Can you even imagine what she would think of this world and our fancy machines? Most of my Society Silk pieces will eventually be framed for everyone to enjoy. I like being part of a 100+ year old story!
This last piece was free motion quilted onto Dupioni red silk. The doily measures about 10″ round. The framed piece is about 17″ square. It now resides in the home of a dear friend.
The next question is usually, do you sell these? The answer is, not yet! I’ve given them for silent auctions, given them to friends, and carry them with me on my speaking travels and trunk shows. I like them to be seen and enjoyed, as well as an inspiration to those of you who have these types of linens. Bring them out of their drawers and hiding places. Let everyone enjoy the amazing handwork of women!
To read more about Silk Embroidery, check out the book, “Silk Art Embroidery: A Women’s History of Ornament & Empowerment”, by Donna Cardwell. Much of my information comes from this book, as not much is written about this needle art form.
I’ll be visiting Morgantown, WV, April 12 & 13, for the West Virginia Quilters, Inc. We will be meeting at the Hampton Inn for 2 days of quilt fun! The workshop on Friday, “Quilting Vintage on your Domestic Machine”, is full, but they are taking names on a wait list. On Saturday, all are welcome for my talk, trunk show and demo on the long arm, “Quilting Vintage!” See their website https://www.wvquilters.org/Meeting.html for more information. I’m super excited to visit that area of the country!
I attended QuiltCon last week, so my quilting was suspended! I’m back on this beautiful, wholecloth quilt. You can see the beginnings on my post from Jan. 28 if you scroll down. It’s a slow process, especially filling all the backgrounds that I decided to fill. Sometimes I wonder WHY I did something, not thinking about how many times I might have to repeat the process. That’s usually when I get bored! I love the challenge of new projects and figuring things out, but once I’ve done that and the first stitching, the rest may be monotonous. Do you feel this way when you create? The morning light across a quilt does get me excited though, so you’ll find me in my studio all day today!! Have a great Wednesday!
YES, this may seem like a strange post coming from a quilter, but you guys, these are the BEST SUITCASES EVER!! I travel A LOT and put a lot of miles on my luggage. I bought this set of 3 hard cases about 2 years ago on Amazon. I liked the thought of a hard case so if there was anything wet or sharp, it wouldn’t penetrate a cloth suitcase and touch my quilts. On my last big trip overseas, the largest case broke a wheel and cracked the case where the wheel is attached. I took my time writing the company because hey, that takes time out of my quilting day! 😉
Yesterday, I sent a picture and a short note about the wheel. By the way, there is a 2 year warranty on this luggage!!! I had a quick response that they would refund me $70 for the large case, since sending it back would be inefficient. Score!!! I paid $139 for the set almost 2 years ago (2 more months before my 2 years is up!) and used it hard. I plan to buy another set with the $70 refund because I LOVE these suitcases!!!
This is how my dear case looks these days. A little beat up, but what a good travel companion it has been!
PS. If you have AD blocker on your computer or phone, this link may not show up that I’ve posted above. They are called, Coolife luggage, 3 piece set. (affiliate link)
I’ve got a new project on the frame, it’s a vintage cutwork tablecloth. I actually went at this a little backwards because I saw a fabulous design by Telene Jeffrey, AKA Lady Jane Quilting. Telene is a phenomenal quilter and designer and has just published a few of her designs that can be purchased in PDF form. I knew I had to have one immediately when I saw her post these on her Facebook page. This is the one I chose. When you purchase them, they come to you in a PDF file (these are not digitized designs) and you have the freedom to enlarge or reduce as you wish. Telene gives very specific directions, once purchased, on how to do this.
I didn’t want to spend time changing the size of the design, so in my lazy way I picked a tablecloth that would fit the print out! Yup, that’s how I roll!! If I wasn’t so anxious to start quilting, I might have taken that time, but I didn’t. I printed out the quadrant that she provides and decided my best light box would be my glass kitchen table. If you don’t have a glass table, tape your design to a window or door, it works great too! I put a lamp, without the shade, under my table and voila, a very large light box!
I spent the afternoon tracing the design, a quadrant at a time. Once I had half of the design traced, I flipped the entire half over and then traced the other half. I used a blue water soluble pen for the marking. Any brand will do. To remove when finished, I use a mix of 1 heaping teaspoon of baking soda, dissolved in 1 cup of ice cold water. I’ve been told that this mix changes the PH of the pen and it’s always worked for me. Do NOT let an iron or heat touch this until you have removed the markings. Heat will permanently set the markings, yikes!!
I printed out one detailed section and one with just the base lines, this way I could get an idea of the spacial relationships AND I wouldn’t need to refer back to her drawings when I started quilting. Telene said feel free to change fills, etc., but I really want it just like she designed.
This may be the biggest ‘chore’ for me. I’m always so anxious to get started that planning and drawing are not my strong suits. Many times I will load right on the frame and start stitching a drawing there and then while I work, letting the design come as it may. This time, it’s all about the planning!
I put the tablecloth (roughly 36″ square) on top of a piece of Antique Gold, Dupioni silk. I buy my silk on Etsy from Fabric Supplier. They have great colors and it’s $15 a yard with free shipping. You can’t beat that! They usually ship within a day or two of ordering.
The first thing I do on the longarm is use my channel locks to square the tablecloth. This gives me a great frame to work within and I know it’s square. Linen fabric has a loose weave, so I can manipulate the fabric to make it square. Sometimes, I spritz some water to make it more manageable, but since that would remove my blue line work, I couldn’t do that. I was able to square it up very easily without the water.
At this point, I use my Notched Ruler to help stabilize areas of the linen. It nests nicely in my hopping foot for precision stitching around all the cutwork. You can see how this ruler works here in a YouTube video.
This gives you an idea of the kind of exacting work I can do with that ruler. I love the way the Dupioni silk shows through the cutwork!
I’m using one of my smallest rulers that I call the 1/2 Slim (1 1/2″ x 5″) to do most of the line work. It fits in my hand easily and I can move it quickly. Yes, my stitches are tiny too, 16 SPI (stitches per inch). When doing these tiny feathers and curves, small is best. I’m filling the areas with a scribble stitch to make the open areas really pop!
I couldn’t wait to see how this looked without the blue line, so I use a Q-tip dipped in my removal mix, to take away just a bit of the design. LOVE how this looks! My thread colors, you ask? Glide 40 weight thread, in colors Coffee and Cleopatra. I love the gold because it looks like metallic, but I don’t need to fight with that. Admittedly, I have struggled with using metallic threads, therefore, I don’t! 😉
This is what I have so far. I’ll post again at some point, but wanted to get the beginnings put to words so I could inspire you all to do this as well. Honestly, it’s not difficult, it’s just a process. As I tell folks, it just takes practice, as does riding a bicycle, learning cursive, playing an instrument, or anything we do well. It’s a habit that takes time and you can’t expect it overnight. If you want to be good at something, practice. Quilting is just that for me, something I love and want to do well!
You can also follow me on my Facebook page for daily posts. Enjoy your day folks, whatever you are doing!
I am frugal and I rarely buy fabric. I collect vintage, mid-century tablecloths and they have stacked up. A few years ago, I was at a loss for a quick backing, so I thought ‘why not use one of these tablecloths”? I did and it’s now my favorite backing! Last week in that, IT’S AFTER CHRISTMAS AND I GOTTA ORGANIZE SOMETHING mood, I started in on my vintage tablecloths to put some order to the mess. When I saw these beautiful colors, I HAD to create a top to go with it, of course! I set out to quickly cut some appropriate blocks from my stash and thought I’d whip up a simple 4 patch quilt. Well, the top grew, then I had to add borders to the tablecloth, then border the top. Each kept growing and finally I was ready to quilt the whole thing.
I sure didn’t mean for this to be a week long project, but it quickly “asked” for more! I never know what a quilt will be until it goes on the longarm frame. They start talking back once they arrive!
I further complicated my quilting life by adding this flange. Super cute I thought when I was sewing, but a bit of a pain in the you-know-what once I started quilting! This required lots of ditch stitching and ruler work. Thankful for my favorite 9″ Slim Ruler to make this job enjoyable! Honestly, I do love ruler work.
This quilt is a mix and match of a computer digitized motif and free motion quilting. The white blocks are done with the Handi Quilter Pro-Stitcher computer. The 4 patch blocks and outer borders were done with rulers and free motion quilting.
I love this double sided curvy ruler by Jane Hauprich. You can order it on her website.
A quilted top begins to take on a personality, if you can call it that, very quickly. At the end of a day I stand back and take it all in. Something about that texture is just exciting to me!
Probably the best part of the adventure is the end! I flip it over my back rail to get a good look at my stitching. I’ve learned over time to take a moment and study it all. There is nothing worse than taking a whole quilt off the frame and then realizing you missed a spot and have to put it back on, UGGGHHHH!!! Isn’t she a beauty!!!
Much better to see in natural light! I always take my photos in front of my front door, snapping the photo TOWARD the light. You get incredible shadowing over your quilt this way and don’t we want to show that off?!!
Details on this quilt…….55″ square, Hobbs 80/20 batting, and Glide thread. I quilt on a Handi Quilter Forte with Pro-Stitcher, new to me this year. Before that, I quilted on a Handi Quilter Fusion. I love this new machine with all it’s bells and whistles! The digitized design is called Serenity, by Christy Dillon, My Creative Stitches is her website.
The question I keep getting most on my Facebook page page is, “how did you center the back to the front?” The real answer is, I don’t know!! Really, I did a quick eye ball and then winged it! I know, not very helpful, but I figured it would end up as a kids’ quilt and they really aren’t too picky. Where WILL this go, you ask? I’ve added it to my trunk show collection for a great, ‘use a tablecloth’ example. I hope you’ve enjoyed this quilt as much as I have! Enjoy your day folks!
If you know me or have heard me speak, you know I am passionate about the needles I use in my Handi Quilter long arm. They are labeled as an embroidery ball point FOR THE LONGARM Schmetz needle, to be specific, a light ball point. System 134 SES is generally used in single needle lockstitch industrial sewing machines. It is also known as 135×5 SES, 135×7 SES, 135×25 SES, 1901 SES, DPx5 SES, and DPx7 SES, and these are the reasons why I love them………
1. Ball-point tip spreads fibers instead of cutting them,
preventing holes in fibers. (forget what you think about
ball point needles only being for jersey knits. These are
not for sewing, they are for quilting purposes)
2. Reduces thread breaks when machine goes from right
3. Round shank needles, for muliti-directional use
4. For use with most machines HandiQuilter, Gammill,
Prodigy, Nolting, Tin Lizzie and Innova.
***** (these are a round shank top, with a thread groove
in the front and scarf in the back) I don’t believe these
will work on an APQS, A1 or a Bernina
longarm. They will work on an HQ Infinity at lower speed.
5. Prevents skipped stitches
6. High stability and prevents deflection.
7. Precise stitches
8. Reduces wear on machine parts
9. Long lasting, no need to change the needle after every quilt.
They are for sale here on my website. You can add as many packs as you like for one shipping cost of $3. I am NOT a machine expert, so I can’t tell you if these will absolutely work with your machine or not, but have listed above the machines I know that will use them, according to customers who have purchased and used the needles. They compare to a Groz-Beckert 134 needle in the green package. Give them a try! You’ll never look back!
Many thanks to all who followed me and also inspired me throughout the year! 2018 was a great year for quilting and I plan for 2019 to be just as fun! I am currently booking teaching and speaking dates for 2019. My spring and summer are mostly full, but fall still has a few openings. Click the LECTURES/WORKSHOPS tab for more information.
All ruler shipments will resume Dec. 28th as I will be spending time with my family. Enjoy your holiday everyone and I’ll see you again in the new year!
Photo compliments of Kelsey Leigh Photography, Nashville, TN.
Starch and steam are my best friends on a quilt that needs a little help. Lots of piecing, hand stitching and over handling of fabric, can cause a quilt to change shape. Sometimes this isn’t known until a top is on the frame and the quilting has begun. This particular quilt was found by some friends at a garage sale for $5!! Oh my gosh, all that piecing! I finished it for their church raffle coming soon. All the starch and steam was worth the beautiful finish. I’ve got a video at the end to show the flattening process.
Before starch there is quite a bit of wave to the border.
This is after the starch and steam trick. I did have about 8 ‘sessions’ with the starch and iron. If it doesn’t happen on the first go over, don’t be afraid to do it again. After the first spray of starch, I only use water on the next rounds.
The finish is fabulous! I used thjis digitized design by Anne Bright Designs, Snowballs. It’s a great design that also settles down any of the puckering that might have been in the quilt top.
There you have it! If you’ve ever had this wavy border on a quilt top, check out my YouTube video.
Have a great day everyone!!