Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Crazy Embroidery 7: Piece Embroidery

American Museum of Folk Art
Quilt attributed to Clara Dobriner Leon, New Mexico

Silk bodice with embroidered trim

Machine embroidery factories undoubtedly sold products to crazy quilters but I would imagine professional and amateur dressmakers were a larger customer base.

Crazy quilt from Betsy Telford Goodwin's Rocky Mountain Quilt Shop

Fashion advice in 1885
A contrasting yoke, placket or sleeve was the look in cotton (wash goods) or silk. "Piece embroidery being much used for that purpose."

The sitter obviously did Berlin work, perhaps filling in the background of a purchased needlepoint floral, partially finished art needlework pieces called Commenced Embroidery at the time. Did this needleworker sew her linear clothing decoration or was it purchased as piece embroidery?

Attributed to Emily Sprague, New York

Some women may have had time and talent to embroider strips of pansy
blooms for their hand-made dresses.

1885, Ladies' Home Journal
"If ladies have not time to embroider the trimmings of their dresses they will find the Kursheedt's embroidered colored silk appliques most convenient...."

Attributed to Mary Ann Fletcher, Missouri project

What were the terms used to describe these purchased strips of embroidery?
Swiss embroideries? (No longer from Swiss hand embroiderers but stitched on Swiss machines.)
Piece embroidery?

Brooklyn Museum Collection
Mary A Stinson

Edgings & Insertings?

From the late Laura Fisher's inventory

Art Embroidery?
(A drummer was a traveling sales rep.)

Julie Silber's Inventory

"Embroidered Patches & Borders"

Professional dressmakers would have kept a supply of these dress trimmings on hand for customers to combine with the newest shapes and fabrics. 

This may be the way one bought the machine-embroidered
slips, attached to a piece of paper with the catalog number.

Louisville, Kentucky 1901
1-6  yard lengths of embroideries

1888 St. Louis Globe-Democrat
"There is always one person in an establishment....called in
to decide between different kinds of embroidered ornamentation."

Probably a European workshop showing traditional ethnic patterns rather than art embroidery
but that's what a dressmaking establishment would look like in the western world.

Boston Globe, 1908
"Strip Embroideries"

"Newest patterns of the season...hand-embroidered effects....Some are slightly imperfect."
Embroidered Frontings---48 cents a yard.

Graduation dress, Kansas City

Modistes and dressmakers could have bought finished trim locally or by mail order from a large factory like Kursheedt's. Small-time entrepreneurs were another likely source, like Mrs. Stephenson of Champaign, Illinois in 1900.

One probable source for both hand-embroidered slips and swatches and those stitched on home machines were the women's exchanges and charity workshops where women who needed the income  could sell their handwork anonymously.

Candace Thurber Wheeler (1827-1923)

Cities and small towns followed embroidery designer Candace Wheeler's model in supporting these exchanges based on two that Wheeler began in New York in the 1870s, the Society of Decorative Art and the New York Exchange for Women's Work. At the height of the silk quilt fashion in 1890 one could buy handwork at exchanges in over 70 locations.
See a post about Exchanges here:

Polly Mello's Collection

UPDATE: Louise Tiemann has found this 2010 photograph of the Schiffli machine still in use in Switzerland producing....strip embroideries on black.

 Bernhard Hollenstein, Dreien © Bruno Hollenstein, 2010

And on our 6 KnowItAlls Facebook page Janet Bahr posted photos of a lambrequin she owns
 (hangs on a fireplace mantle) embroidered on velvet. The images look like Kursheedts machine embroidered offerings but the reverse certainly looks hand embroidered. People must have used the catalog pictures for patterns.

Read all 7 posts about Crazy Quilt Embroidery:

This is the last of the week's worth of posts on the topic.
I was led down this path after looking at Kentuckian Katharine Fretzlen's spectacular 1886 quilt in the DAR Museum collection. At first I assumed she did all the stitching.

That would be a lot of handwork for one woman.
Did she buy machine embroidered panels?
I thought I'd look into it.

See Episode #24 of our Know-It-All shows where I began thinking
about, as KIA Ronda McAllen said, "Working smarter not harder."
Tickets for lifetime access $12

Now that is an outfit & a photo.
See it on ebay.

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever seen an antique crazy quilt (c: 1895) with some painted embellishments? (names and other words in the velvet blocks and borders)