Thursday, September 19, 2013

Modern Pattern: Embroidered Doily

Embroidered doily about 1910

Arts and crafts embroidery could be quite modern with flowers abstracted to extremes. This vintage piece has a lovely design, probably commercially produced by an American needlework company. Women bought the linen marked with a colored design and finished it with a satin stitch (Kensington stitch) outlined in a black chain stitch. They often used a raised satin stitch of two layers. 

The finished piece illustrates the design confusion associated with the modern movement. The lace edge is an echo of romanticism, a mixed message of new and traditional that marks much needlework of the era.

Here's a pattern for the motif.
Click on the picture above and save it to a JPG or a Word file.
Then print it out about 6" wide and trace it onto linen.

A table runner with a hemmed edge
captures the modern look better than
a lacy finish.

It's fascinating to see how women used these embroidered designs. In keeping with William Morris's dictate that one should have nothing but beautiful objects in the home, women made embroidered linen bags to hold their stockings, their hankies...

and their laundry.

They often embroidered their dresses

Here's a 1904 idea from Ladies Home Journal magazine

They advised the amateur artist to
copy arts and crafts motifs from
magazine illustrations.

And they made tea cozies.

The most common use for all that decoration was for pillows

and what my mother might have called a dresser scarf---
The doily above another example of modern/romantic.


  1. Out of curiosity...

    Photographs like the ones you shared were often reserved for those with means. You are not sharing pictures of poor people with decorated clothing or dresser scarves. An extension, the poor were hired as "help" or could not afford "help."

    Do you think that the poorer classes had the time for this type of embellishment? Or was this a means for wealthier people to spend their time? I also noticed that there are not any samples that were made by someone with my non-existant embroidery skill-set, which makes me think that the ladies who made these items had the time to acquire the skills necessary to execute them so well.

  2. I know from my mother and grandmothers living in the end of the 19th, early 20th century that many girls learned to embroider as children. Most girls who were not wealthy needed to learn to sew in the era before women's and girls' clothing was sold ready-to-wear. Some were good at embroidery and continued to enjoy it as adults, and some abandoned it. I'm speaking of ordinary middle class people, many raised on farms in a still heavily agrarian society.

  3. My grandmother enjoyed tremendously art deco designs and she had many small objects with such embellishments. She was from an urban middle-class in South-West France.

  4. The art deco dresser scarf really speaks to me. I have a small collection of embroidered dresser scarves but none of them are in the deco style. Shoot!