Artistic Embroidery

Jan 19, 2013 by

Artistic Embroidery by Ella Rodman Church was originally published in 1888 and is a must have reference book for those of you who enjoy embroidery.

Here are a few lines from the opening paragraphs to give you a feel for it:

“There is a wide difference between artistic embroidery and mere fancy work. Besides the manufacture of innumerable airy nothings for fairs and other purposes, the patient following of a glaring pattern in bright wools also comes under the latter head. There is no individuality in this kind of work, nothing that fairly expresses the worker; the pattern being designed by one person, the putting it on canvas done by another, while ” filling in ” is frequently the task of a third.

A piece of embroidery should have in a degree the same expression as a painting; and there is no good reason why the needle should not be as artistic an implement as the brush. To produce the effect of painting, however, it is necessary to follow very much the same rules; the first of which is that the selection of the materials, the designing of the pattern, and the work itself should be, as far as possible, done by one person. It may be urged that every one is not sufficiently gifted to do this, and particularly to draw the designs; but this part is by no means the difficult matter that the beginner is apt to imagine it, for in art needlework all superfluity of detail is scrupulously avoided.

Various plates and illustrations may be found that will serve as guides to the uninitiated; and ancient patterns can often be adapted to present needs. There is no doubt, however, that the most artistic work will be produced by those who have a natural gift for design and color. It has been well said that needlework should be in every way adapted to the material used. As the sculptor’s chisel and the painter’s  brush have each their separate function and domain, so has the needle of the embroideress; nor should anything lying beyond its proper powers be attempted by its means.

Flowers and foliage being the decorative part of nature, we instinctively choose them to represent in needlework. The grand productions of ancient tapestry, containing whole histories of wars and sieges, are never likely to be repeated in our days, in which leisure and industry are both lacking; and we must content ourselves, at least for the moment, with speaking of the lighter works which lie within the ordinary compass of time and patience. As everything cannot be accomplished in the attempt to imitate nature in this way, much should not be undertaken. For this reason, conventional or stiff forms, with no tendency to detail, are preferred; and this is one of the most prominent characteristics of art decoration. Things that are constantly handled and used should not have their ornamentation elaborated like water-color painting.

Good materials are indispensable to satisfactory results; and true artistic work is that which not only pleases the eye, but bears the wear and tear of time. Perishable work of this kind is not worth the doing; but when executed according to the rules of art, it should be as enduring as painting and as worthy of admiration and respect. This little volume is intended to give practical information to beginners in artistic embroidery; showing the best and easiest methods of going about this branch of art, which is rarely made sufficiently plain to those who have had no previous knowledge of it. Several English works have been consulted in its preparation; and the writer has drawn upon her own experience as well as that of practical workers.”

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