Embroidery Pointers for Beginners

Embroidery is fascinating work but to do it well it needs to be studied. Victorian ladies relied on guidance in the form of articles, illustrations and embroidery pointers from embroidery authorities such as Mrs. L. Barton Wilson who was widely published, particularly through Corticelli Home Embroidery magazines.

Many ladies’ embroidery and needlework magazines or booklets featured pages of new as common embroidery stitches as a guide to new embroiderers and reminders to experienced needlecrafters. The stitches were always illustrated but not always explained clearly and sometimes not at all. It was expected that the reader could figure out how the stitch was done by merely looking at the picture.

It was often suggested to beginning embroiderers’ to read other articles as well to make sure they understood the basics of embroidery, not only of the actual needlework but about materials used and how to care for them. Such articles included "Selecting Embroidery Silk or Floss", "The Size Needle To Use for Embroidery" as well as "How To Wash Embroidered Linens."

Other suggestions most commonly made included:

  • When shading flowers in which many colors are required, have a separate needle threaded with each shade; in fact, this is a good plan even if you are using only a few shades.

  • Choose a simple design to begin with. Corticelli Home Needlework suggested designs such as a Violet, a Buttercup, or a Daisy. They also suggested using a stamped linen not over nine inches square. A few magazines would rate each design in regards to the degree of skill that was necessary to embroider the piece successfully. Generally these were designated (Easy), (Not Difficult), (Somewhat Difficult), or (Difficult) and this rating would be found at the end of the directions. Corticelli, I believe was one of the first companies to do this. None of my extensive collection Brainerd & Armstrong Embroidery Lessons or Lessons in Embroidery magazines have these designations.

  • Of course, these types of articles always ended with a similar statement of “If you have trouble find any of the materials or designs you want, we will gladly answer questions and give you any desired information. A stamp should be enclosed for reply.”

The advice, as well as embroidery pointers, given to budding, as well as experienced, embroiderers is still relevant today. While our materials have changed, it is important that all aspects of embroidery be taken into consideration if the project is to turn out well.

from Corticelli Home Needlework, 1898

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