Handbook of Embroidery

1880, by L. Higgin, edited by Lady Marian Alford






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Handbook of Embroidery by L. Higgin
Handbook of Embroidery
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Embroidery Silks

“Embroidery,” or Bobbin Silk, which has now almost superseded floss, is used for working on satin and silk, or for any fine work. It is made in strands, each of which has a slight twist in it to prevent its fraying as floss does. As this silk is required in all varieties of thickness, it is manufactured in what is technically called “rope,” that is, with about twelve strands in each thread. When not “rope” silk, it is in single strands, and is then called “fine” silk. As it is almost always necessary to use several strands, and these in varying number, according to the embroidery in hand, the rope silk has to be divided, or the fine doubled or trebled, as the case may be.

If rope silk is being used, the length required for a needleful must be cut and passed carefully between finger and thumb once or twice, that it may not be twisted. It should then be carefully separated into the number of strands most suitable for the embroidery in hand; for ordinary work three is about the best number.

These must be threaded together through the needle, care being taken not to tangle the piece of “rope” from which they have been detached. There need be no waste [Pg 6] if this operation is carefully done, as good silk will always divide into strands without fraying.

In using “fine silk,” one length must be cut first, then other strands laid on it,—as many as are needed to form the thickness required. They should be carefully laid in the same direction as they leave the reel or card. If placed carelessly backwards and forwards, they are sure to fray, and will not work evenly together. With silk still more than with crewel, it is necessary to thread all the strands through the needle together, never to double one back, and never to make a knot.

It is intended in future to do away with this distinction between “rope” and “fine” silk, and to have it all manufactured of one uniform thickness, which will consist of eight strands of the same quality as the “fine” silk at present in use. As it will, however, still be necessary to divide the thread, and even perhaps occasionally to double it, the directions given above will be useful.

Purse Silk is used sometimes for diapering, and in rare cases in ordinary embroidery, where a raised effect is required.

Raw or spun silk is a soft untwisted cream-coloured silk, used for daisies and other simple white flowers, or in outlining. It is much cheaper than embroidery silk or filoselle.

Vegetable Silk (so-called) is not used or sold by the Royal School.

[Pg 7] Filoselle, when of good quality, is not, as some people suppose, a mixture of silk and cotton. It is pure silk, but of an inferior quality; and therefore cheaper. It answers many of the purposes of bobbin silk, but is not suitable for fine embroidery on silk or satin fabrics. It should be used also in strands, and the same remarks hold good with regard to its not being doubled, but cut in equal lengths.

Tussore.—Interesting experiments have recently been made with the “Tussore,” or “wild silk” of India, which bids fair to create a revolution in embroidery. Not only can it be produced for less than half the price of the “cultivated silk” of Italy, China, or Japan, but it also takes the most delicate dyes with a softness that gives a peculiarly charming effect. It can scarcely be said to be in the market as yet, but in all probability before this work is through the press it will have become an important element in decorative needlework. It is much less glossy than cultivated silk.