Posts Tagged embroidery

Richelieu Cutwork Embroidery Apron and Tutorial

11 January 2016

CutworkTutorialThis weekend my mentor and friend Mistress Crespine de la Vallée was to become a member of the Order of the Pelican, the Society’s highest service award. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, Crespine’s mentor Master Philip White (also my mentor and friend), asked if I would make her an apron. When I queried him as to what sort of apron he envisioned, as there are many fine aprons one could make, he said he once saw an apron with piece work, white embroidery, and a laurel wreath with the pelican inside of it. He told me to let my creative license go. So after some research and consideration to Crespine’s persona of a 16th c. French noblewoman, I decided to make a fine white apron with a cutwork motif.

There was just one hitch—I’d not done cutwork before. I was familiar with the concept and I’ve done drawn thread work, but this was a step beyond. Nevertheless, I love to learn new fabric manipulation and embroidery techniques, so this wasn’t deterring me. Looking online, I could find examples of 16th century cutwork, but no comprehensive tutorials on how to actually reproduce it. I pieced bits together from two web sites (needlework-tips-and-techniques.com and NeedlenThread.com), which introduced the concept but did not go into great detail. I later found a few pages in Encyclopedia of Needlework by Donna Kooler (Leisure Arts, Inc., 2000). The book that really helped me was a 100-year-old book, The Priscilla Hedebo and Cutwork Book by Lilian Barton Wilson (1916), which is reprinted in the Cutwork, Hedebo, & Broderie Anglaise book edited by Jules & Kaethe Kliot (Lacis, 1992). The Cutwork book didn’t have step-by-step instructions, but it had plenty of notes that lead me in the right direction. After that, I learned by doing, which means trying, failing, and trying again until it worked and looked right.

The style of cutwork I learned is typically called French Richelieu cutwork, named after Cardinal Richelieu, who imposed a duty on all Italian imports and then brought lacemakers to France to teach the locals how to do it themselves. Cardinal Richelieu post-dates the Society’s time period by a few decades, but we know the technique existed in the 16th century and was in employ in Italy, France, and the Netherlands, among others. Cutwork pieces were highly prized amongst the royals and nobles throughout Western Europe—Mary Queen of Scots received cutwork as a New Years gift in 1556 and then later made her own “cutit out work” while she was imprisoned. England has sumptuary laws that restricted cutwork clothing and accessories to the rank of baron and above only. (For more historical information, see Needlework Through History: An Encyclopedia by Catherine Amoroso Leslie, 2007). Richelieu cutwork is characterized by freeform designs with buttonhole stitch bars the stabilize the areas of removed fabric.

Here are photos of the cutwork apron I made, and below them is a tutorial on how to create your own Richelieu cutwork piece.

Cutwork-Apron-Worn

The cutwork apron as may be worn

Cutwork-Motif

The laurel-pelican cutwork motif

apron-belt

The belt and the drawnwork hems of the apron

Mistress Crespine wearing her apron

Mistress Crespine wearing her apron

 

Richelieu Cutwork Tutorial

Materials:

High quality linen, the tighter the weave the better (Note: I used 2 oz. white handkerchief linen [WLG 109] from Wm. Booth, Draper @ $32/yard. It is their finest linen, very tightly woven with tiny threads, and is not often in stock, so if you find it, get it. If you can’t get it, go for the 2.8 oz linen.)

White Linen thread 80/3 (available at http://www.wmboothdraper.com/Thread/thread_main.htm)

White silk thread (I used 1 strand of the 12 ply Splendor silk available at http://www.needleworkdiscount.com/product/S — I used cool white) -OR- white coton a border #25 (available at http://www.hedgehoghandworks.com/catalog/FBRDMC107CLRS.php)

A word about the threads—it is important to use the right kind. You need linen thread for the buttonhole bars—they must be strong and durable (cotton will fuzz and look messy). You could use the same linen thread for the buttonhole stitching around the motif, but it looks a bit rough. I preferred either the silk or the coton a border, with a slight preference for the coton a border.

Tools:

Embroidery frame (I used a circular frame because it’s easier to hold in my hands, but you could also use a slate frame)

Small, sharp embroidery scissors (for example: http://www.joann.com/gingher-epaulette-3-1-2in-embroidery-scissors/4655338.html)

Small curved blade scissors (for example: http://www.allstitch.net/product/gingher-312-curved-blade-embroidery-scissors-4718.cfm)

Water soluble pen

Good lighting and maybe magnifier glasses (if you are like me)

Steps:

1. Iron your fabric. You’ll want to start with it as smooth as possible.

2. Create a pattern and trace it onto your fabric with the water soluble pen (test that pen first to make sure it comes off easily). DO NOT use a pattern printed on an inkjet printer and water soluble pen to trace over it — the liquid in the pen will cause some of the ink to come off onto your fabric. Go on, ask me how I know this. (I had to scrap my first yard of fabric because of this mistake.)

PelicanInLaurelPattern

My pelican-in-a-laurel-wreath pattern

3. Put your marked fabric in a frame — pay attention to the tension of the fabric. Tight, but not too tight.

4. Outline your pattern using parallel running stitches set 1/8″ apart — I liked to sew along the inside edge of my markings and then along outside edge, and that usually put my two lines of stitching at about 1/8″ apart. Be careful not to pull these stitches tight, as that would pucker the fabric.

cutwork-outline-stitch

5. As you are outlining your pattern, whenever you reach a point where your pattern calls for a buttonhole bar, you should stitch the bar. To do this, bring your needle up between your parallel lines of running stitches and take it across to the parallel stitching on other side, over where the cutout area will be. Do this three times (so you have three threads going across) and then begin the detached buttonhole stitching over these three threads until you get back to your original side. It’s crucial to keep the buttonhole bar from twisting as you work it — I found the best way to do this was to work the buttonhole stitching toward me in a consistent manner, pulling the stitching tight as I went along. This video shows the stitch orientation/direction that I refer to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9r637AfscS8

cutwork-outline-bars

6. Once your pattern is outlined and all your buttonhole bars in in place, you need to stitch around each element that will NOT be cut out. Stitch over the two parallel lines, usually you can align the bottom of your stitch with the bottom running stitch and the top of your stitch with the top running stitch. You’ll use the buttonhole stitch again for this, but in this case it is not detached and it’s important that the flat, corded edge of the buttonhole stitch is against the edge that will be cut out. Do not yet cut out any material — that will be done after you complete the buttonhole stitching. Again, do not pull too tightly — just pull enough to get clean, neat stitching. Do not be tempted to cut out material first thinking that will make for a cleaner edge — while the edge will be cleaner, but your stitched edges will ruffle and pucker, rather than lay flat, and it won’t look as good.

buttonhole-stitch

7. After your buttonhole stitching is complete, it’s time to cut out the areas of fabric that are stabilized by the buttonhole bars you placed in step 5. Using the sharp, straight blade scissors, carefully cut a line down the center of an area you want to cut out. Then turn the fabric over and use the curved blade scissors to VERY CAREFULLY cut the fabric away right up to the edge of the stitching. I recommend you keep your fabric in your frame as you cut to provide tension and a better view of what you’re doing. If you cut too close, you’ll snip the buttonhole threads and you’ll need to go back and mend them, so cut carefully. I did have to mend in a couple spots — it’s not easy to cut close, but not too close, with such dense threads and fabric. In the photo below, you can see areas where I haven’t managed to cut away all the threads of the fabric yet.

cutting-out-cutwork

8. When done, dampen your fabric to remove any trace of the water soluble pen, then wash your piece by hand. Allow it to air dry. Inspect your piece for any stray bits of threads at the cut edges and snip them off carefully. Iron flat.

 

Tips

When creating your pattern, you want to place buttonhole bars every 1/2″ or so, as well as at the tips of pointy bits (or they’ll just flap about). Avoid bars across too large of a cutout area; instead, keep a small bit of fabric there or even an eyelet to stabilize things and give your bars a midpoint to anchor in.

Your buttonhole stitching (step 6) does not need to be really close together, and in fact, if you get it too close it tends to look sloppy. Try leaving just a thread’s width of space in between each stitch and from 10″ away it looks neater and just as smooth.

Pay attention to the thread as you pull it off the spool or skein, and thread your needle with it the same each time. Remember, thread has a twist and you want consistent results.

In the same vein, be sure to do all your buttonhole stitching in the same direction for a consistent look. It really does make a difference.

 

Apron Construction Notes

I chose to create a flat rectangle style apron (rather than one gathered into the waistband) so that the cutwork would be displayed to its best advantage. I attached the top 2/3 of it to a simple band that served as the belt.

I hemmed the top and bottom edges with the drawn thread work hemstitch (see my tutorial here).

The right and left edges had threads drawn from them as well, but I did not do the same drawnwork hemstitch — I just kept it as drawn threads because I liked the look.

 

Creation Notes

I did not embroider the blood droplet on the pelican, but I bled on the apron while stitching — so I think that still counts. -grin-

The heart at the top of the motif is from my device (a winged heart).

My soundtrack while working on this was the radio station on Fallout 4 (Gregor got it for Christmas and I sat on the couch while he played each evening) and the entire audiobook of The Martian.

I estimate this project took 110 hours. (I  Mistress Crespine.)

 

I would love to see anything you make — please share! I’m always happy to answer questions. Feel free to e-mail me at genoveva.von.lubeck (at) gmail [dot] com

Call for Cynnabar Members to Make Favors for Pennsic!

16 March 2015

favor

[As my Barony’s A&S Champion, I have been asked to coordinate the making of at least 25 favors for this year’s Pennsic War. Below is my call to action for my fellow members of Cynnabar!]

Pay heed, good gentles of the Barony of Cynnabar, for we have been charged with a task by Princess Arabella. Her Highness requests that we make 25 favors for the coming war at Pennsic. The design, pictured here, symbolizes the joining of forces between the Midrealm and the East to take over Aethelmearc. To help our populace answer Her Highness’ call, I have prepared kits with the right size linen, good amounts of floss, and an embroidery needle. I also have embroidery hoops for anyone who needs one. Favor Kits will be available at the weekly business meetings starting tonight, as well as at Sunday practices and our Spring Revel. To encourage the productivity of the favors, I will reward the Cynnabar member who makes the most favors by the day of Coronation (May 2) with a hat or cap of their choosing, made by me. If you are new to embroidery, this is a simple piece and I am happy to teach you how to do it. Any straight stitch, such as outline, stem, or chain, works well. I made this first favor with an outline stitch with just one evening’s work. Please let me know are able to help by posting here, emailing me, or speaking to me at one of the above-mentioned places.

Here is the instruction sheet I am including with the favor kits: favor-kit-directions

 

How to Embroider the Favors

For those who are new to embroidery, here is a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to embroider these:

1. Take your kit and a pair of scissors to a comfortable spot with good light. If you don’t have a kit, check the favor-kit-directions for the list of items you need.

1-pennsic-kit-contents

2. Put your material in the embroidery frame. First loosen the thumbscrew on the outer circle. Then push the inner circle out of the frame and put it under your design, centered. Then place the outer circle of the frame on top of your material, centered over the bottom circle, and push them together. Tighten the thumbscrew.

2-frame

3-frame

4-frame

3. Take your embroidery floss and cut off a length about 18″ long. Note that you can use ALL six strands of the floss together, or you can divide the strands so that it is thinner (as shown in the photo below). I personally like how bold it looks with the full floss (all six strands) and I have NOT divided mine into fewer strands for this tutorial. You may do as you please.

divided-floss

4. Thread your embroidery needle, pulling about 5″ of the floss through the thread. Tie a knot at the end.

threading-needle

threaded-needle

5. Now let’s learn a simple, period embroidery stitch: the Back Stitch. Hold your embroidery frame in one hand, and, with your dominant hand, push the needle up from the back of the material to the front so that it comes out on the outline of your traced pattern on the fabric (as shown in the photo below).

5-stich

6. Push the needle up and out and pull the thread through the material until it is stopped by the knot.

6-stitch

7. Push your needle back down into the fabric about 1/8″1-/4″ away.

7-stitch

8. Pull the thread down through the fabric until your thread lies flat. Do not over pull, as that will place too much tension on the fabric.

8-stitch

9. Push your needle up from the back of the material to the front about 1/8″-1/4″ ahead of the stitch you just made.

9-stitch

10. Push your needle down into the material back at the very same point you came up in step 6. This is the back stitch, which is ideal for following both smooth and complicated outlines like those in our pattern.

10-stitch

11. Continue like this along the line of your pattern. Once you feel comfortable, you can simplify and speed up the stitching by doing both the pushing in and out of the needle through the fabric at the same time, as shown in the photo below. As you can see, I pushed the needle in at the end of the preceding stitch and immediately came back up along my pattern line ahead of the thread.

11-stitch

12. You can do the back stitch around corners easily — just make the corner the start/stop of your stitch, as I’ve done in my next stitch here:

12-stitch

13. Keep going until you have only a few inches of thread left. Push your needle in and pull it through to the back of the fabric.

13-stitch

14-stitch

14. Flip your frame over and weave the needle (with the floss still threaded in its eye) through the stitches nearby. You want to go between the stitched floss and the fabric. Do this several times.

15-stitch

16-stitch

15. Once your floss is securely woven into the stitches on the back, unthread your needle and cut off the tail. Go ahead and cut off the tail of the knot on the other end of stitching, too.

17-stitch

When you’re done, the photo below shows what it looks like on the back of your fabric. Simple, neat, and secure.

18-stitch

16. Now just go back to step 5 and repeat until you’ve stitched along all the lines in your pattern! There are two other stitches that I think work well for this pattern: outline stitch and chain stitch — if you want to learn how to do these, let me know and I’ll take photos for you. When you are all done, mist your fabric with water or dampen it slightly to remove the blue pen lines.

17. With your blue lines gone, iron your embroidered fabric until it is nice and flat.  The material can now go back in the bag and you can give it to me (Genoveva) for sewing!

 

How to Sew the Favors

If you are finishing these favors yourself, here’s what you do:

1. Fold the fabric in half along the vertical center line, wrong side out.

2. Sew 1⁄2” seam down and press open so that the seam is centered.

3. Sew a 1⁄2” seam along the bottom edge.

4. Sew the seams a second time to reinforce edges.

5. Clip corners and turn right side out.

6. Iron flat. The image should now sit 1” above the bottom hem and 1⁄2” from each side.

7. Fold the top SA inside and stitch closed. You should now have a 5” x 12” rectangle.

8. Fold 3” down the back and stitch, forming the belt loop.

 

If you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to ask.