My parents love to visit flea markets and have made some great finds regarding needlework. This time, my mum bought a little black silk velvet clutch bag covered in goldwork and beads. Let's have a closer look!
Personally, I think this bag has been made by a needlework enthusiast in the 1920s-1930s. Probably in France or Belgium. I don't really like it, to be honest. There is too much wrong with the design. Let me show you what I mean:
Firstly, the pearl purl for the branches of the floral shapes from which the beads suspend, is too tiny. It is comparable to a #1. The design lines sometimes get lost due to the thicker bright check bullion of the background infill partly covering. Besides forming the branches, it also encircles the round shapes covered with rough purl. The two lower shapes sit on the end of a branch and the stretch of pearl purl forms the branch and encircles the shape in one continuous line. The two upper shapes are not on the end of branches and thus the pearl purl only goes around them and the ends can't be cleverly tucked away against a branch.
The four round shapes covered with vertical pieces of rough purl are padded. The padding is firm and flattened at the top. The rough purl is about a #6.
And then there are these odd white beads. They feel cold to the touch and are thus probably porcelain or glass. The shapes are irregular. Some are molten together and cleverly placed at the end of a branch. Unfortunately, our stitcher lacked three of these oddities to make the design balanced. The upper left three branches don't have these molten together beads. The thick white thread with which the beads were sewn down, is very noticeable.
Each bead is encircled in a heavy bright check bullion. Then the whole background has been covered in more of this bright check bullion. Most pieces were sewn down as a 'lazy daisy'; a single chain stitch anchored. To fill in remaining gaps, single pieces of bullion were sewn down as well.
As the lining had come loose in places, I decided to carefully take it back some more to learn a bit more about the embroidery. You can see that the four rough purl shapes have been padded with string. Interestingly, the stitcher 'walked' the string padding all the way across the back of the embroidery! And another curiosity, all the padding and stitching has been done with the same thick white sewing thread. The stitcher used knots too... And to secure it all, the back of the embroidery has been covered with a layer of glue. Now all gone brittle, of course.
To construct the little bag, the embroidery was mounted over grey card board. The black velvet was stitched onto the cardboard with large irregular stitches in black sewing thread. Strangely, there is a layer of wadding. But not where you and I would probably have put it. The layer of wadding sits at the BACK of the cardboard between the cardboard and the lining. It was thus not used to even out the irregular back of the embroidery.
As said before, I don't like the design. We have seen that the stitching isn't superb. But that said, it is a nice piece of homemade embroidery. One can speculate about the stitcher. Where were the materials obtained? Was it stitched for personal use or as a gift? Did she (or he?) see the design in a magazine and adapted it to suit the materials available? Whatever the case, people have taken good care of this piece. The bag has been clearly used, but the gold threads are hardly tarnished. It was probably stowed away between sheets of paper in a box. And that is how I will store it as well. It will become one of these little treasures of past 'busy hands' that I can show my students whilst they create their own treasures.
By the way: I have been blogging for a whole year now! Thank you all for reading my embroidery musings. Next week you'll see my finished embroidered nativity. See you next week!
Jessica M. Grimm
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