Thursday, December 19, 2013

Modern Embroidery/Applique Pattern

My sister has the cutest kitchen curtains.

She found a pair of vintage dish towels and hung them on a
rod over the sink.

What the heck are cute tea towels doing on a blog
about modernism?

It's the technique. They aren't merely outline embroidered like the blue willow china above.

They are a combination of applique and embroidery.

Applique has been classified as a kind of embroidery over the
centuries because it is a shortcut to getting a large area of

Detail of needlework for a lampshade
by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh,
about 1903.
Collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The embroiderers of the Glasgow School advocated the applique/embroidery combination in their stylized needlework at the turn of the last century. Mackintosh's Glasgow Rose above is appliqued on linen and outlined in embroidery of silk. 

See the whole panel here at the Victoria & Albert Museum

The Studio magazine showed this
"applique and embroidered curtain designed and sewn by
Amelia Huthieson" in 1907.
Huthieson's influences: the Glasgow Four
and C.F.A. Voysey.

Here a Gustav Stickley design for a Ginko applique outlined in embroidery,

A look captured in linen reproduction by
Diane Ayers's Textile Studio.

The Arts & Crafts teachers in the U.K. and the U.S.A. hoped to re-introduce this old technique and upgrade the artistic quality of needlework design. A quote from The Craftsman magazine in 1903:

"The Craftsman artists have sought to express the best impulses of the new feeling for form and color which promises to create a memorable type of decorative art which shall signalize the twentieth century."

But what was once avant-garde was redesigned to appeal to middle-class tastes.

Hence, the cute curtains, probably stitched
in the 1930-1960 period.

The reverse of the cherry towel.
No A in Home-Ec for her.

The towel on the left side of the sink above has four cherries, cut from cotton and appliqued raw-edge with an outline of blanket stitching. Black cotton thread replaced the silks in subtle colors that the Arts and Crafts needle schools advocated. Of course the most popular version of the applique/embroidery combination in the U.S. was....

Sunbonnet Sue
or the Dutch Doll.
Modernism + cute = bad art.

But I'm enough of a sentimentalist to appreciate both the cuteness and the design in the checked kitchen curtains. You may also. If so, you could print out these simple patterns to embroider on a tea towel or two.

The cup and saucer.
To print these click on the image, then save it to a JPG or a Word file.
Print it out so the saucer is 4-3/4" in diameter across.
You can use a CD for a template for the saucer shape.

If you want a geometric outline for
the plate I drew one up in EQ7

The vine that extends left out of the saucer.
Print it so goes from top to bottom on an 11" sheet of paper.

The towel on the left has a pair of
these, one flipped over.
You could use a nickel coin for the cherry template.

The background fabric---a bold checked toweling---is clever. The edges are finished out with a black blanket stitch too.
Gustav Klimt in embroidered linen shirt with cat.
Klimt knew cute.


  1. Love that you do my favorite thing about history: drawing connections between then and now. Have you seen long-ago series called "Connections" by James Burke? Loved that series. Love your series. Thanks!

  2. That's Gustave Klimpt? Really? He's the man who dreamed of elegant ladies dressed in gold leaf? I believe you, but I would never have imagined Klimpt looking like that. I guess artists and fashion designers never look like their product would lead one to believe.

  3. Thank you so much. It's interesting that the designs we take for granted as "modern" - as in new today - have roots that go back to an earlier modern!