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Does anyone here do hand embroidery?

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Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 3/15/2017 12:58:06 PM   
Linda S.


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I've been on a quest this winter, studying some of the vintage/antique hand
embroidery styles used on so many beautiful vintage hankies I've collected. The
work just blows me away.

What I've discovered is there are very few people who do it these days, or if they
do they're not talking about it online. I have a few of what are considered good
books on the subject, but they are far from being comprehensive. It's one thing to
be able to learn a stitch, and another thing entirely to know how to execute it on
fine fabric. Or, how DID those skilled embroiderers of old end and hide their stitches
so well....and they held up down through the ages too.

From what I've read, I learned most of the excellent and fine embroidery was done as part
of collage industries, by poor folk who worked at home (for example, in small villages
in France, Germany, etc.) or in convents around the world. Obviously, none of them
are online today lol!

For example, I know how to do stitches scalloped edges (button hole or satin stitch),
as several good books show (using big thick thread on heavy fabric, for illustration).
But how DID they trim that fabric so close when it was finished, and not have one single,
teeny-tiny remnant of thread left showing? Things like this are what I'd love to know.

If I could locate someone still doing fine embroidery like these, I'd seriously consider
traveling for lessons so I could sit by their side and learn from one who does it. Trouble is,
I can't find anyone who's interested in doing it anymore.

< Message edited by Linda S. -- 3/15/2017 12:59:30 PM >
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RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 3/15/2017 2:47:36 PM   

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Vaune Pierce - I attended her hand embroidery seminar at SewExpo and she was wonderful. She mentioned the A-Z books in the seminar and sells some of them on her site.

She will hopefully update her website with future class dates. She did a great job covering types of threads, fabrics, stitches, and 'equipment'.

I purchased some floche from her booth, picked up a new hoop and some needles and, actually, I plan to put my feet up this evening for Day 2 of winter storm Stella.


Member since 2001.

(in reply to Linda S.)
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RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 3/15/2017 5:33:56 PM   
Linda S.


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Thanks Lynn. I have the A to Z of Whitework, but I wonder if this category is too
broad to do any one of them justice. What I probably need is to learn from someone like
Vaune I'll look at her website and see if she's going to be anywhere near me
in the future. I wonder if she has done work on fine fabric like voile or lawn. Many of
the modern embroiderers only work on linen, which is easy to do stitching on but very
fine, lightweight linen isn't available these days....or at least not as it used to be. The
"handkerchief linen" of today is nothing like what was used 100 years ago. I have one
old piece with a label reading, 'Pure Irish Linen', and I would have thought it to be a very fine
cotton batiste.

What's I've found is that most of the books talk about embroidery generally, and don't
focus enough on any one thing...or at least not enough to teach myself to use a stitch.
One of the books I got recently (Whitework, by L.Lansberry) was recommended by the Royal School of
Needlework in may even by published for them and I thought it would be top
rate. The pictures showing stitches are not good for some of them....just bad photography.
And instructions are not complete. For example, explaining how to end a thread is absent from
many of them. I was disappointed. How to make an individual stitch is explained but
using them in a piece is another story.

Thanks for listening to my woes lol!

< Message edited by Linda S. -- 3/15/2017 6:17:44 PM >

(in reply to SewLynn)
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RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 3/15/2017 7:27:23 PM   

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Vaune is also an accomplished heirloom sewist and smocker. She may be just what you're looking for. I found a selection of her patterns here:

She does not have a big publishing house or major company behind her, she's just down to earth, and good at sharing what she knows.

Oh yes! She did cover starting and ending a thread.

By all means, add a couple more of the A-Z embroidery books!!


Member since 2001.

(in reply to Linda S.)
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RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 3/16/2017 1:25:54 PM   


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I believe Wendy Schoen is a master hand embroiderer as well. I don't know if she does individual lessons, but you can contact her here:


Mother to James (36), Sarah (34), Aaron (32), Adam (29) and David (27)

(in reply to SewLynn)
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RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 3/16/2017 1:40:43 PM   
Linda S.


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Thank you vpenner. I wonder if any of these ladies do the old fashioned kind of work
I see on my antique hankies. I'd like to watch someone do "trailing" for example, which
is something I see and admire on so many beautiful old pieces.

It's so pretty, I wonder why this handwork lost popularity over time.

(in reply to vpenner)
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RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 3/16/2017 3:39:18 PM   

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Not a video or live, but a fair amount of detail on trailing here:

The photography in her blog is excellent.

Are you willing to travel to the UK? ;) She has classes and workshops. Maybe you can email her for more info, such as ... does she have any online classes.

Her main site has a great deal of info.


Member since 2001.

(in reply to Linda S.)
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RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 3/17/2017 2:03:10 PM   
Linda S.


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Lynn, Good website! I know the theory behind how trailing is to be executed but she shows
every step. This looks to be an art piece, but I really appreciate seeing so many details. And
as you said there's more to see too....I'm going to have fun browsing around!!!

Yes, I would travel to the U.K. to sit beside one who does old fashioned white work embroidery
on fine fabric. Initially I considered the Royal School of Needlework but was so disappointed in
their publications it hardly seemed worth the trip. That was so surprising...I had it in my mind
that this was "the" place to go for embroidery instruction.

As I mentioned before, much of what is done today by modern embroiderers is art work,
contemporary interpretations of some of the old, traditional techniques for white work
(there are more kinds than I can begin to name). And these days it's typically done on
handkerchief linen because the fabric is woven using rather fat, chunky fibers (compared to fine batiste
for example).....this makes it much easier to count threads and embroider generally....but
the result is not what I'm going for.

Back in time when delicate work was done on fine fabric, each country had it's own style
and specialized set of stitches used. And so "white work" is a very broad category.

I suspect I'm having trouble finding something like a book on it, because the fine work I so
admire and was popular long ago was done by poor folk in their homes. A company would
buy their work and then sell to the public. Or it was done in convents, and neither were
interested or able to be published. These master embroiderers were paid pennies an hour
for their exquisite work.

By "fine work" I mean the dainty stitching found on antique fine cotton or linen hankies. Today
this would be fine batiste or voile. Interestingly enough the finest fabric back then was referred
to as was whisper thin and almost transparent.

I have a few very old publications (woman's magazines more life leaflets), which featured
one or two stitches in each publication....near impossible to get all the issues and the
authors took for granted their readers knew the basics already.

Thanks so much for sharing this! And for listening to me rant about antique hankie embroidery!

(in reply to SewLynn)
Post #: 8
RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 4/11/2017 11:57:57 PM   


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Vaune is excellent, so is Wendy - Wendy does lessons in trailing and lots of other goodies! Check her website, she used to have monthly kits with extensive illustrated and photographed directions and then would sell the leftover ones the next year. she also has videos and DVDs. I don't think she's teaching any longer, tho, except maybe her school in LA. Jan Kerton out of Australia is wonderful and does lots of different embroidery styles and travels to the US regularly to teach at different venues. Claudia Newton, Jeanne Baumeister, Phyllis Brown, Kathy Dykstra, Lillie McAnge, Kathy Awender - there are so many really great hand stitching teachers! Check for SAGA chapters nearby (or not so nearby) and most have guest teachers periodically as well as their conventions and retreats. There's a SAGA retreat in St Louis in October with Phyllis and Susan O'Connor, another great hand teacher but mostly crewel. Sewing at the Beach usually has a couple or 3. The A-Z Whitework is not necessarily the best resource book. But one of the other A-Z of Embroidery books might do you better, I'm just not sure which one, I think there are 3 specific Embroidery books. Again - check Wendy's website - a lot of her classes are exactly what you're talking about they're just not done on hankies as that's not what people want and you can only do so much on a hankie where a 6hr class would need a bigger project. There's an all white baby dress that's sweet as can be with a raised monogram that features trailing and a pillow case with Madeira applique with a monogram surrounded by bullion stitched hydrangeas, gorgeous! Also, Phyllis' latest project, a Madeira applique guest towel that she's teaching at the St Louis retreat is beautiful!


Barbara O.
Fine Stitchery

(in reply to Linda S.)
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RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 4/17/2017 12:06:21 PM   
Linda S.


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Thanks Barbara....that's a whole lot of info! Most of these teachers are showing how to do hand embroidery
that should I say it...a little more heavy and on fabric not so fine as what was used for delicate, antique
hankies. I'm probably hoping for the impossible, which would be sitting beside someone who still does this
kind of work. I know how to do most of the stitches, but executing them on very fine fabric is another thing.

It is a dying art, for sure. I've been corresponding with some at the Royal School of Needle Work in England,
and they don't know (for example) how the double Madeira Applique was done. A nice lady there was going to
do some research and get back to me, but so far I haven't heard from her.

I use this kind of Madeira applique as an example, because it's the best one I can think of to illustrate my point.
So many of the older Madeira applique pieces were done this way, and especially the ones using organdy and
fine batiste (for the applique). As time went on, the double applique was replaced (I suppose in the interest of
time spent doing it) with what I'd consider just regular applique technique, that every embroiderer knows how to

The oldest (maybe original ?) way of doing Madeira Applique resulted in an applique being applied to the back
of the ground fabric, and it looks exactly like the one on the front. The organdy is sandwiched between. If not
for surface hand embroidery, which has a wrong side to it, these pieces would be completely reversible with the
front looking just like the back.

I've pondered this for literally years, and think I may have figured it out. If two applique shapes were cut out
at the same time so they're identical, basted to the organdy (one on front, one on the back, with organdy sandwiched
between), one could turn the edges under and pin stitch both appliques on at the same time. They did it somehow!
And "what one man (or woman ; ) can do, another can do also". : )

(in reply to Sparkle)
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RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 4/17/2017 10:19:48 PM   

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Did you know that Vaune studied Madeira techniques in Madeira, Portugal?


Member since 2001.

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RE: Does anyone here do hand embroidery? - 4/24/2017 6:27:23 PM   


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In reading through these wonderful suggestions, I realized no one mentioned Gail Doane. Go to and read the information from Gail Doane. The magazine has produced a video by Gail to teach fine hand embroidery. It might be helpful.



(in reply to SewLynn)
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