1940s | Embroidery

mccall 909: having a go at vintage embroidery transfers

September 8, 2011

one of the little details that excites me the most about vintage style is the prevalence of embroidery. it’s so personal, so crafty, so kitschy–it’s just somehow exactly the kind of vintage touch that can lend an unexpected elegance to a garment. my heart melts a little bit every time i see a 40’s or 50’s pattern that includes a little monogram or motif on the pattern art. so i’ve been trying to collect vintage embroidery transfers and learn more about embroidery than making friendship bracelets (i could do a double diamond pattern when i was 13!) and the messy satin stitches i used to embellish my high-school backpack.

i found mccall 909 sneaking around ebay one afternoon, snatched it up in a fit of “buy it now!” and immediately made plans for several of the transfers, collecting fabrics and patterns and plotting out where the embroidery would go. only i was still intimidated by it, like it would take too long to do, or be too difficult or too fiddly, and i even considered taking it to one of the embroidery places on 35th st in the manhattan garment district to have them do a motif.

happily, i got over all of that:

i did a split stitch as described in the delicious primer doodle stitching. this transfer, unlike the others in this pattern, was not designed to be filled in with a satin stitch but i still wanted something with some visual interest. i also wanted it to be very subtle, so i used a white floss against the cream-with-purple-pinstripe fashion fabric.

and it only took me about an hour (or, to measure time more accurately when i am doing handwork, two episodes of NCIS, with commercials fast-forwarded)!

i’m interested in what experiences others have with adding embroidery. for instance, to hoop or not to hoop? i did not hoop, because the side front princess panel of my fabric was cut on the bias (so that i wouldn’t have any stripe-matching issues) and i didn’t want to stress the fabric. i did, however, stabilize the fabric with some wonderful lightweight, super-flexible fusible interfacing from the shop on off-the-cuff. are all vintage kaumographs so fantastic? this one ironed on like a charm, so i didn’t have to fiddle with tracing or transferring. the pattern actually came with multiple samples of each motif, which meant i didn’t have to fret about destroying a little piece of pattern history by using the transfer.

more questions: i did this embroidery by hand, obviously, but i would love to do more of it by machine. not on an embroidery machine, but on, say, a featherweight or my basic kenmore. are there good resources for this type of work? a cursory (and not-so-cursory) google search suggests that perhaps there is not.

cross-posted at my blog, puu’s door of time

  1. what a great suggestion! it would never have occurred to me to consider quilting a resource on something like this–but of course, you're completely right that the basic principle is the same.

  2. Check out urban threads.com; they have a huge selection of patterns for both hand and machine embroidery. There is a section of doodle art patterns.

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