By Madame Polydore Langlais
Among the different varieties of needlework which have enjoyed a period of renaissance during the past few years is ribbon work or rococo embroidery. Wherever any sort of decorative embroidery may be appropriately used, rococo-work will be found very attractive. It is not only adapted to dress-garnitures, yokes, collars, chemisettes, guimpes, jabots, belts, hat-trimmings, opera- or party-bags, and so on, but for centerpieces, scarfs, cushion-covers, handkerchief-cases – in fact, there is scarcely a limit to the “pretty things” that may be made all the more pleasing by the employment of this simple decoration.
As may be surmised from the designation, ribbon embroidery, narrow ribbons are used for working, instead of embroidery-silks, save that the very fine parts of the design, such as the stems, are done with coarse silk. Two widths of ribbon are used, the wider for making large flowers or forms, such as roses or lilies, the narrow for leaflets and flowers of forget-me-not size, tiny roses, daisies, and so on, to which it should be stated the work is best adapted. Used in large designs, it loses the quaint, old-fashioned look which is almost its greatest charm.
The widest latitude, too, is allowed as to material; the work is done on silk mull, Brussels net, or other very thin material, on silk, scrim, linen, lawn, satin, velvet or even leather – kid or suede – for bags, card-cases, and other similar articles. The collar which serves to illustrate this description is of white silk, and in empire design – which lends itself charmingly to this class of decoration; and the work is especially simple in character, a fact which will be appreciated by the beginner. Having the design, one will be able to modify and adapt it to the ornamenting of a multitude of Christmas-gifts.
Very narrow, shaded pink ribbon is sued, with green silk for the stems, and yellow for the latticed forms. Put the fabric into an embroidery-hoop or baste it securely upon stiff, flexible material which will prevent the possibility of puckering the work. To work the petals or leaflets of a wreath, bring the needle up at the back of the material at the tip of the petal, and put it down at the center or line of the spray, holding the ribbon in the left hand to prevent it rolling or twisting, as you need its full width for the petal. Care must be exercised not to crush the ribbon; hence it is a good plan to thread only a short length at a time, and also to smooth it gently between the thumb and forefinger after each stitch. Try to avoid a flat, tight effect; the chief beauty of ribbon-work is its raised appearance, which is easily obtained by means of practise and a little painstaking.
After the petals have been put in, outline the stems, taking a little thornlike stitch to left and right between each two groups of leaflets or petals. The latticework consists of interlaced stitches, forming squares, with a knot taken at the point where the stitches intersect. Line the collar, when completed, and edge with lace or finish in any way desired.
As suggested, this is the simplest form of rococo-embroidery, which may be elaborated almost indefinitely. Most varieties of ribbon can be used in the manner described, that is, by drawing through the foundation-material exactly as is done with embroidery-silk, and this is the true ribbon-embroidery, in satin-stitch. The work may be done entirely on the surface, however, and many prefer this method. The ribbons are cut in proper lengths, neatly gathered, and sewed to the foundation in a manner to cover the design perfectly. For sewing the ribbons in place, a single strand of silk as nearly matching in color as possible, is used. Ribbon expressly for this work has a draw-thread at the edge, but if you do not have this ribbon, and wish to make double roses or similar flowers, run the ribbon on one edge and gather it up closely; then sew it to the foundation in enlarging circles, so that the unrun edge of the ribbon stands up. When applied to the surface the work may be more aptly termed ribbon-applique than rococo=embroidery.
The method of working on Brussels net, or other very sheer material, is quite like the making of Marie Antoinette lace, or any variety of braid applique. Baste the net upon the cambric pattern, which should be very clearly stamped, tacking with small stitches not only around the edge, but across the work as well, several times, which will keep the net from slipping on the glazed surface of the cambric, and render the work much more easy of accomplishment. The design shows clearly through the net, and is to be followed exactly as in ordinary ribbon embroidery. Be very careful, however, when doing any “touching up” with silk, as in veining, making stems and so on, not to catch any stitch into the cambric. And whatever the class of work, whether upon delicate fabrics as chiffon or net, or upon heavier materials, keep well in mind the fact that any appearance of puckering must be avoided. Embroidery of any description never looks right if the background is drawn or wrinkled. It must be remembered, too, that it is not possible to iron ribbon-embroidery. It is improved in appearance by holding for a few moments in front of a fire, holding against a teakettle or other vessel, covered, of boiling water, or by ironing from the back with a warm iron, while another person holds the work stretched out; either of these methods will serve to bring up the embroidery, as the nap of velvet is raised; but the work must never be laid flat and pressed, for reasons which will be apparent to all.
Beads and spangles are frequently used in combination with rococo-work, especially for yokes or waists for eveningwear, fans, and other dainty dress-accessories. Once having commenced this style of needlecraft, and become interested, or fascinated by the wonderfully attractive effect produced with little work, one is sure to go on from one thing to another. Practise makes perfect, all that is needed being painstaking, or the determination to have the work right and satisfactory as one proceeds.
As may be understood, almost any design for solid embroidery in colored silks, is adapted to embroidery with ribbons – small designs being especially desirable. It makes the daintiest sort of decoration for the little folks’ frocks and coats, carried out in white and cream, or in delicate shades of pale pink and blue, with white. For babies all white is preferable; and the most charming effects are produced – a change from the usual embroidery, and very pretty. The daintiest motifs are provided in this way, and those who are interested just now – as man y are sure to be – in filling the Christmas-box with new and pleasing gifts, will find in rococo embroidery just the sort of decoration hey have wished for.