Sunday, 24 July 2016

1930s embroidery transfer brought to life

1930s embroidery transfer on a tablecloth
Okay, half-life, as it's not finished yet. I've had a hankering for a while to do some embroidery, and while doing my mothbusting I rediscovered a Wilkos tablecloth I bought to embroider. I know I should be finishing my knitted jumper, or working on some freelance, or doing housework, but yesterday I really wanted to do the embroidery, so I had a good look through my stash of vintage transfers and found one I liked the look of.

The information on the side of the transfer says it's from the January 1938 issue of Stitchcraft. The overall design has a lot of what I like in printed patterns, though: clear, bold shapes and a geometric feel. (It's that 60s/20s taste of mine coming through once again. Swinging, flapping style.) I'm certain it was designed for cutwork, and would have been predominantly worked in buttonhole stitch, with the outer edge falling where the dotted lines on the transfer are, after which the fabric would have been cut away. As a novice embroiderer, I'm doing the buttonhole stitch, but not the cutting. I'd like to get a bit more proficient with buttonhole before I start cutting.
1930s embroidery transfer on a tablecloth
As sod's law would have it, the transfer didn't transfer. Parts of other designs on the sheet did transfer,  onto bits of the tablecloth where I didn't want them, but not all the design I wanted. I ended up having to draw it in very carefully in pencil. I hope the pencil and the unwanted transfer bits wash out! I'm not sure why it didn't transfer; any number of reasons could have affected it: age, slightly coarse fabric (though it is 100% cotton), perhaps the transfer had been used once. I need to get some more Coton Perle for my hardanger anyhow (the kittens found the ball and I got home to discover they'd used it to turn the dining table into a kitten-sized web; the thread was beyond saving) so I'll order a fabric transfer pen at the same time and then I can trace the transfer to make my own replicas that should work.
Half-embroidered 1930s embroidery transfer on a tablecloth
I'm working the design in the bright orange, egg yellow and sage green, and I've got paler yellow and green to use too. It hit me after I'd been working for a while that these are very similar colours to the ones in my 1930s tea set. When I've completed this bit of the cloth, I shall show you how it all looks together!

And who knows, maybe one day I will finish my jumper...

23 comments :

  1. Oh that's going to look beautiful, Mim! I can't wait to see the finished product with the tea set.

    I had no idea that transfers were used in embroidery but of course now it makes perfect sense. I don't embroider but I do love white cotton pillowcases with embroidery on them. I always snap them up if I see any in the charity shops.

    Have a lovely week

    Veronica
    vronni60s.blogspot.com

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    1. Yes, they seem to have been big from the 1930s onwards, and I have a couple that I *think* might be 20s. That or very early 30s.

      I embroidered my own pillowcase. It's fun!

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  2. Those are such beautiful, tiny, even stitches-I'm sure it will be beautiful when finished.

    The transfers that don't wash out will fade over time-it helps if you can set them in sunlight for a bit to move the process along. I always cheat and use my light table and a wash-out pen (or faint pencil if I don't have a pen to hand).

    Cutwork scares the daylights out of me! I *know* I would screw it up. Fact. You'll do fine.

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    1. Oh, that's a good tip for fading the transfers.

      Because the stitching is done on a curve, I cheated slightly - I worked the buttonhole stitch as evenly as I could, but of course the stitches were closer together at the inner edge of the flower shapes, so I went round again and filled in any gaps with straight stitches. It worked.

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  3. Cracking job so far Mim! I hear you about getting those creative urges, always so much more appealing than housework x

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    1. Yup. Housework is a bore. And as soon as it's done, it needs doing again!

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  4. Good morning, Mim.
    I'm looking at this gorgeous embroidery piece, and I wonder about time. Can you imagine how much TIME it must have taken those dress-makers to finish-up a lavish full-embroidery design on a lady's dress, back in the day?!
    I guess we're crippled by working 8 HRS a day and having some good TV programs in the evenings.. :)

    Marija

    P.S.
    Oh, why didn't grandma have the nerves to teach me how to embroider?! Why?

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    1. I often get as close as possible to dresses in museums to see the stitches. The most beautiful embroidered clothes I've seen have been in the fashion museum in Bath - the 18th-century men's waistcoats and frock coats are incredible. Also, the dresses the Queen wore back in the 1950s, designed by Norman Hartnell. The embroidery on those is just exquisite.

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  5. I'm pretty sure I've got some ancient transfers tucked away somewhere in amongst my dressmaking patterns. What an interesting project, you must have the patience of a saint. It's going to look incredible when you've finished it though, it already looks wonderful. xxx

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    1. It's actually coming together faster than I expected, possibly because the tablecloth is quite coarse cloth.

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  6. This looks so lovely and I can't wait to see it completed. My mum showed me a few embroidery tips a couple of weeks ago and I've just bought some beautiful needlework magazines from the 1940s, so I'm raring to go and try embroidery for myself.

    However, like you I've got a million other projects on the go. I've just finished my very first crochet beret and have just started on a top which will probably take me forever to complete! I'm in the middle of sewing a 1930s summer dress as well, so I think embroidery will have to wait a little while. xx

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    1. Oh, I hope we'll be getting a beret post soon! (If we haven't already; I've been stuffed up with freelance in my spare time so haven't looked at my bloglist for a few days.)

      I'm at the stage of being annoyed by my own ineptitude, though I know all crafts take time and practice. And I'm the sort of idiot who starts with giant things like tablecloths...

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  7. It's looking lovely Mim, and the colours you've chosen are gorgeous. Can't wait to see the result together with the teaset. xxx

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    1. Hopefully this weekend, though I have more freelance to do in the evenings till Thursday. (It's my own fault; I should learn to say NO but I hate turning work down.)

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  8. That is going to look just gorgeous with your tea set!
    Love those warm colors & the cheery flowers.
    I do a lot of tapestry and crewel work- It's getting to be quite the expensive hobby with the price of wool these days though!

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    1. Thank you!

      I haven't done any tapestry in years, though I had been thinking of it - now I'm curious as to how much wool is. (Perhaps my planned steampunk kraken wallhanging will never take shape...)

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  9. Such a pretty pattern

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  10. Wow Mim, your handwork is incredible. I love the cloth already and can't wait to see it alongside your tea service. I have bought a whole load (at least one black bag full) of embroidered cloths over the years and it is amazing just how many have the same design on them. I guess that the transfers must have been really popular. I think that my Mum might still have some, I will ask her when I see her next. I really admire the skill of embroidery. Xx

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  11. Splendidly pretty design and colour palette. I really like the warm summer-into-fall hues at work here. Thank you for sharing your progress with us. You're doing a terrific job!

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

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  12. What a lovely project. I'm very impressed with your skills. Bet there aren't many tablecloths from Wilkos that end up that pretty! Xx

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  13. I'm glad that you went with the embroidery, it is a lovely pattern and I like your colour choices. I have a few vintage transfers that I would like to try one day.

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  14. Can't wait to see the end result! My nan embroidered a tablecloth but I forgot to look it out when her house was being cleared when she died :( I had to take all my personal stuff first and foremost as I used to live with her, so most of the vintage goodies were forgotten in the stress :'(

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