Wednesday, May 16, 2012


For quite a while now I have wanted some ruffly engageantes to spice up my gowns. I was going to just whip up some plain ones and knock them off my sewing to-do list but then the embroidery fairy got the best of me. I was inspired :)

Scroll down a bit and you will see some great extant examples of ruffles from the LACMA. I took a bit of inspiration from all of these and sketched out a design. I traced the outline onto my cotton background and loosely hemmed the edges to keep the fabric nice and neat for my frame. I mark the embroidery pattern as I go, not before. It just seems to disappear!

The frame I rigged up a bit. It was a cheapie one that had velcro your fabric was supposed to stick to. Not a chance. So I took some wide twill, finished the edges and hammered it to the wood dowel with thumb tacks. I used tacks instead of nails because the heads are smooth and wont catch on the delicate fabric. You baste your fabric to the twill and then turn the dowels to advance the fabric.

Hemming the edges before framing up the fabric with help
it from unraveling and keep it neat.

Thumb tacks, hammered into the dowel, keep the
twill secure and won't snag.

Baste the fabric to the twill to keep it taught as you
turn the dowels.

Ta dah!

I took cues from the extant examples and used a cotton ground (I think it was a voile I had on hand) and fine linen thread (90/2 white from William Booth Draper). The thread I cut in shorter lengths (about 20 in) and waxed it well. I used refined white beeswax for this. Some waxes I have tried turned yellow after a while so I bought cosmetic grade refined beeswax and made my own molds. It works awesome for whitework. I will put some up for sale soon to share.

I love my cute little beeswaxies!

On it's way! Linen thread (90/2) on cotton.

The embroidery style I am going for is reminiscent of Schwalm, which is similar to Dresden, but not quite as fine. It is a lot of chain stitch, with some shapes outlined in coral stitch, too, and with pulled thread work. I've never done embroidery this fine, but as long as the light is good, I have noticed it goes pretty fast, and the more I do, the more even the stitches get. Yay pretty!

I'm so excited for them!

LACMA (M.84.63.1a-b)
Linen embroidery (chainstitch) and pulled threadwork
on muslin with linen bobbin lace edging,
2 1/4 x 7 1/2 x 35 in.

LACMA (M.81.143.4a-b)
Linen embroidery (satin and darning stitches)
on cotton ground, 13 3/4 x 7 3/8 in

LACMA, c.1760 (M.82.26.2a-b)
Linen embroidery (darning stitch and pulled fabric work)
on cotton, 3 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 38 in.

LACMA (M.81.97.2a-b)
Silk embroidery (running, darning stitches) and
pulled threadwork on cotton, 5 x 9 1/2 x 44 in. 


  1. I'm really interested in seeing how to pull the threads--it's one of those things that has prevented me from doing some really fine embroidery!

    1. I know! I'm so scared. I have been reading about pulled thread embroidery and it seems to be recommended that you complete the design first and then go back and pull the threads. I'm guessing this is so the fabric is evenly stable and taught through the embroidery process. So I will be doing the pulling far down the timeline.

      I have ordered more books on this so hopefully I will feel more knowledgeable and comfortable when that time comes. But gosh how scary to spend hours embroidering and then cut it up! Hope my stitches are tight enough! Eeek!

  2. Wow! These are going to be awesome. I like your embroidery rig. I'm working on a pocket right now - not nearly as fin as your embroidery, but I might try your rig out. :-)

    1. As I learn more about embroidering properly, I try to apply it. I used to just use the hoop or frame by itself and hold it awkwardly in one hand. This is my first project on a stand and I will say it helps so much! And using the tape and tacks so far has been really good. No problems yet! Keeps it really secure an nice.

  3. Woow, this is so great! I can't wait to see them finished! :D

    1. Thank you! They've really got me inspired so hopefully they will be completed soon, instead of ending up in the almost-done-but-i-got-bored pile that is ever growing higher :/

  4. I've been researching this myself because I'd like to embroider a set. I learned embroidery from my grandmother when I was little but some of these old European techniques are new to me. Summer has gotten away from me so I'll have to put this plan aside for next summer I think. Enjoying your progress!