Dresden Whitework Stitch Sampler
January 6, 2015 by Tea in a Teacup
Whitework is the name given to white embroidery on a white fabric background. This term is rather broad however, as it encompasses many different types of embroidery, such as Dresden, Schwalm, Ayrshire, Hollie Point, Hardanger, and Mountmellick. Whitework has also been popular (in many different forms) through many periods in history. I am now making my second whitework sampler, and I decided to focus on practising the stitches often used in during the 18th century for Dresden embroidery. Dresden work was the name given to a particular type of whitework performed on thin white muslin during the 18th century. During this period, the popular (and expensive) French and Flemish bobbin lace became more difficult to import to England, which created a need for a cheaper lace imitation. This type of embroidery uses a number of techniques to create the “lacey” effect that was particularly desirable at the time. According to Gail Marsh, Dresden in Saxony was one of the main centres of production for this type of embroidery, hence the name.
The stitches that I used in my sampler are pictured below, with links included for further instruction. All of these stitches I have seen in extant examples of whitework viewable online and in books.
Chain stitch: I used this as an outline in this example, but it can also be used as a filling. Source: Rocksea & Sarah
Back stitch: I also tried using a double running stitch, where you use a running stitch one way and then a running stitch back again, filling in all the spaces. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.
Stem stitch: A good outline stitch. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.
French knot: When stitched close together they form a very textural filling. I have also seen them used for a shading effect, and an outline. Source: Rocksea & Sarah
Shadow work (using herringbone stitch)
Herringbone stitch: When it is used for shadow work, the stitch is done close together on the underside with the stitches on the outer side appearing like back stitch. Source: Rocksea & Sarah
Satin stitch: I found that first doing an outline in running stitch was really effective in helping the final result to look good. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.
Single feather stitch
Single feather stitch: Basically blanket stitch on an angle. If the stitches are done very close together it can form a nice filling stitch, with an edge already included. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.
“Shaped” stitches (That is, stitches that form their own shape in the embroidery.)
Blanket-stitched pinwheel: A blanket-stitched circle, with an attractive eyelet-hole resulting in the centre. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.
Eyelets: Usually pricked with an awl first (to make a wide enough hole) and then an overcast stitch is sewn around the edges. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.
My finished item is approximately the size of a small handkerchief, with a hand-sewn rolled hem on all the raw edges. I created the design myself to imitate some of the more common motifs used in the 18th century. These often included large stylised flowers, normally with pulled work in the petals or centres, and large fronds of ferns or leaves.
The finished piece! You will notice, if you look closely, that I tried a few different techniques with the single feather stitch, none of which I was particularly happy with. The finishing touch to this work would have been the pulled work that is intended to go in the centre of the oval “flower”, which was very characteristic of Dresden embroidery, but as this is intended as a teaching sample I decided to leave it blank for the moment.
My next sampler will be more of a Regency whitework design, which often contains elements of the earlier Dresden embroidery.
Pulled Work Embroidery Sampler: Part One
Making a Pair of Lawn Ruffles
Sources and Relevant Links
History of whitework 18th Century Embroidery Techniques, by Gail Marsh – buy on Amazon
Types of whitework and techniques – plus a free sampler
Embroidery stitches – by Rocksea & Sarah