The Victorian Centerpiece

The Victorian Centerpiece was a very important part of the table linen. It was here the Lady of the home could show off not only her embroidery skills but also her knowledge of style and elegance. Sarah Drewster, contributing author for Brainerd and Armstrong wrote such a lovely article about this, it would be a shame not to share it.

The Centerpiece

Perhaps no piece of embroidered table linen will appeal more strongly to the average housekeeper than the centerpiece. In its elaboration the needlewoman may allow her fancy free rein, knowing that the centerpiece will be observed by all observers.

In shape the centerpiece may be round, oval, rectangular - any shape, in fact, which will suit the dining table. The material is most always linen. For a square lunch center, eighteen inches, or 20 x 24 inches, is a suitable size.

As with all table linen, the hemstitched hem, or cut work edge, is the most satisfactory in the long run. Fringes will mat and look untidy, and combing only results in a generally ragged appearance. Hemstitch a two-inch hem, or work a cut edge in even buttonhole or long and short stitch. The next step is the ornamentation, and let the worker remember that upon this depends the success of her work.

Having chosen a suitable linen, and the embroidery silks, the workwomanship must not fall below the standard. For a beginner, it is best to start with some dainty, sketchy pattern having much outline. As for instance, a lattice design, dotted here and there with tiny flowers. Selecting carefully several shades of a single color, which contrasts with the flower color, the design may be made really artistic by mingling the shades, not with geometrical precision, but with a due regard for light and shadow.

A dainty centerpiece is one sprinkled or “powdered” as the phrase is, with tiny daisies or violets, rose buds or forget-me-nots. When all these tiny blossoms arc mingled, the pattern is known as Dresden, because of its resemblance to the famous china. Such a center, carefully worked, is worthy of becoming an heirloom. Tiny butterflies, leaves or bow knots of floating ribbon may be added with quaint effect.


Colorful Suggestion
For a Victorian Centerpiece

The needlewoman, eager to dabble in colors of a rainbow hue, can hardly be brought to realize that a centerpiece embroidered with “life size” maiden's hair fern in three shades of green, with bronze red stems, cannot be surpassed for daintiness. Such a design is particularly appropriate for the dinner table, where, until recently, no color except white was ever allowed.

Introduction of Honiton Lace Braids

The introduction of Honiton lace braids into pieces of embroidery gives charming results. Not as flower centers or leaves where the lace work is incongruous, but scattered over the cloth, serving to diversify the pattern. Arranged in stars, single petals, or circles, they are appliquéd to the front of the linen with white Honiton, using long and short stitch. The cloth is then cut away from the reverse side.

A particularly elegant centerpiece, which also did service as a tea table cover, was ornamented entirely with sprays of star-like flowers and leaves connected by floating ribbons and huge butterfly bows, all of the “oval" and tape” Honiton lace braid.

Louis XV Patterns Used in
Victorian Centerpieces

The Louis XV. patterns, as they are called. now found on every-thing from furniture to jewelry, are never so charming as when re-produced on linen. The scroll-like edge should be worked with long and short button-hole stitch, which makes the cut edge. Inside this edge the shading is with pale green, yellow or pink, using two shades of the tint in long, sketchy stitches, broken at the edge, but laid evenly side by side. The flowers and leaves on such a centerpiece should be worked in their respective colors, using the palest shades, that the effect of the completed cloth may be dainty and delicate.

Embroidery Impressionism

Embroidery, like its sister art of painting, has its impressionist school, whose followers work buttercups shaded to deepest orange, pansies with hearts of inky purple, and poppies that flame from the snowy linen. If the worker has a good knowledge of color values and where to lay the shading, no design could be more effective. Flowers so embroidered look best when in a set pattern, as a circle of flowers with the stems all toward the center and blossoms all toward the edge, with scant foliage, so that the greens may not obtrude. Such a cloth is of course circular. The danger lies in being over anxious to make an impression.

Finding Inspiration for
Victorian Centerpiece Designs

To the needlewoman with a little talent for sketching, everything will suggest new and fanciful designs, — field flowers, a book cover, a rug or piece of upholstery. Having drawn the design on paper, it may be transferred by means of carbon paper or traced directly on the linen as it is held over the design against a windowpane. Once started successfully, the dainty work may become not only a source of pleasure but of income.

Author: Sarah Drewster, 1896
Edited: Mary Schlueter, 2008

Victorian Centerpieces were a Victorian woman's way of expressing herself. She could be restrained and dainty at one moment and yet, just by changing her table linen, she could express her colorful, vibrant side. It is no wonder that this type of table linen became very important to ladies of that time.


Here are some AUTHENTIC Victorian Centerpiece Patterns


Square Centerpiece     Round Centerpiece   Oblong Centerpiece

Bachelor Button Centerpiece

Narcissus Table Runner      Morning Glory Centerpiece

Violet Centerpiece



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