Monday, February 17, 2014

An Embroidered Valentine

I was inspired by the embroidered handkerchiefs traditionally made by young Portuguese women which are offered as presents to their boyfriends or potential boyfriends. The Lover's Handkerchief or Lenço dos Namorados which likely originated in the 17th and 18th centuries, when young women tried to imitate the fashionable use of handkerchiefs by the upper class. If the man accepted the handsewn gift, then the couple was considered a perfect match, and the man would show off his gift by wearing it tucked in his coat or tied on his walking stick. The handkerchiefs were also worn by the girls, tucked into their skirts, and at dances, the boys would "steal" the hankies and pretend to be matched to the girls (easier than a mark of lipstick on the cheek, eh?).

These hankies are traditionally white with lush, bright embroidery in floral motifs and words and poems. The words in the hankies are often misspelled, which adds to their provincial charm.

A lovely example from Julie Dawn Fox's blog.

I started by cutting out a 10.5 inch square from the fabric of my Pseudo-Medieval Fra Filippo Lippi tunic. It has a nice, half inch hem, just like the example above, except it was hand-sewn with a slipstitch. This was my first attempt at mitered corners, and I used this very helpful tutorial.

Pretty sharp job!

The embroidery design was of my own creation and is by no means perfect, but I meant it that way, as neither I nor my boo are perfect. The design was lightly sketched in chalk.

The heart is done in a satin stitch, and the inner outline is a split stitch; there is also a blue split stitched heart within. The branches to the side of the heart are done in a fern stitch. The stalks of wheat, done in a wheatear stitch, are a historical symbol of prosperity (remember Worth's gown with the embroidered wheat?). The two branches above, done in a smaller fern stitch are decorated with small multicolored buds made of french knots.

My initial done in a small split stitch at the bottom corner!
The back--I still haven't mastered neat embroidery from BOTH sides...

I did run into a HUGE snafu when I was making this. I had the hem all finished, and went to grab my embroidery hoop, except, I couldn't find it! This is uncharacteristic of me as all of my sewing things are meticulously organized (not that I have very many to deal with...). I sulked around in despair for a few hours, until I felt like Ophelia in Hamlet--sitting, wide eyed, fingering my lonely embroidery threads.

At this point I was so distraught that I started thinking of alternatives. I rummaged around the house to find a picture frame or other sort of empty rectangular apparatus, without any luck, until I happened upon...a plate display rack.

This is sewing barbarianism at its finest. The wooden plate rack had a sturdy rectangular bottom. I flipped it over and basted my hankie to the base of the rack, and though it was definitely awkward and slower than a hoop, and the tension wasn't much better than were I to hold the fabric in my hands, it sufficed.

Skills practiced in this project:

-Mitered corners
-Fern stitch
-Split stitch
-French knots
-Wheater stitch

What has been your craziest sewing "make do" moment?

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