Through personal experience, I have found that needles of bone and ivory, although retaining a sharp point longer than other materials, are also coarser and more brittle, which causes them to break easily. Bronze needles are the best for embroidery as they have a smooth surface and are more pliable than modern steel needles. A pliable needle helps to decrease sore and fatigued fingertips.
I am fond of Chinese scissors which made from iron and hold their edge well, and which are available in a variety of sizes from the bonsai section of your garden store, or your black powder / sutlers fairs if you are a reenactor. I also keep my grandfather’s pliers close at hand because it is sometimes easier to pull -rather than push- a needle through dense fabric or leather. A Chinese pin cushion and a jade pin dish round out my kit.
Learn the rest of my favorite techniques by downloading the article:
This 5-part series begins with a very brief historical overview and comparison of embroidery between East and West, and then delves into materials and technique. My intention with this series is to demonstrate how embroidery can be combined with other techniques to bring new color and texture to your own textile projects.
Download Part 1 of this series here:
Back in 2015, a milliner friend of mine asked me if I might lead a workshop for the Seaview Weaving and Fiber Arts Guild, of which she was a member. Of course, I said yes. Little did they know how much trouble I would bring through their door…
I dug out my handout on the history of a few basic embroidery stitches, illustrated with both historical and modern examples, and brought examples of my own works to further illustrate the techniques and applications that were covered in the handout (which you can download at the end of this news story).
I had been asked to develop a project for 8-20 students to work on. But recreating the same project 20 times was far too boring, so I brought 20 kits, ranging from complex multi-layer reverse applique, to trapunto, to simple applique, to simple embroidery. Some kits were flowers, some were animals, others were Celtic knotworks. Each kit came with a pattern, tracing paper or fusing, instructions, and a selection of fabrics, some of which I had partially assembled if it was one of the more complex patterns.
I presented my historical overview to a receptive group of about 15 guild members, and explained how I applied historical techniques in my own work.
Then we got to work…
Everyone found a project that was interesting to them, and some members of the class even took two kits. After two hours of tracing and sewing and pressing and more sewing, a few people seemed unwilling to put their projects down in spite of a delicious lunch waiting for us in the other room…
Afterwards, I was able to see projects that the guild members were working on, including a Ravens Tail pouch with it intricate twining. I was introduced to spun nettle, which I would love to have a chance to embroidery with some day. What a tremendously creative and talented group.
For additional photos, see the Seaview Guild Blog. You are welcome to download my handout at the link below. Feel free to share : )