Archive for the ‘Embroidery’ Category

Embroidered suit, with matching breeches, waistcoat and coat. c. 1780’s

I have wanted to make an 18th century men’s suit for a while, and my eye had been drawn to the amazing embroidered court suits popular during this time.

During the 18th century, the men’s suit consisted of knee-length breeches, long waistcoat and full-skirted coat. Suit ensembles could be made from matching fabric, with either coordinated breeches and coat and a contrasting waistcoat, or sometimes all three items matching.

A sample of embroidery, from the early 19th century.

Clothing that was worn to court was more elaborate than other clothing, and the embroidered mens suits generally fit into this category. Some ensembles were truly elaborate in embroidery, but others were much more simple in design and sedate in colour.

Suits were embroidered in panels, and then sold uncut to the customer. A tailor would then be employed to make up the panel into clothing.

The detail from an 18th century waistcoat.

The Pattern

I have always been a bit scared of embroidery, as I used to often start a difficult project – outside of my skill level – and then feel disappointed in the result. My trick to combat this has been to plan the embroidery pattern well (with sketches), to plan the types of stitches I will use, to practise the stitches on a scrap sample, and to make sure that all (or at least most) of the techniques are within the scope of my skill.

The first sample, practising stitches, colour placement, size, etc…

Sometimes I have stepped out of my skill area for a small part of an embroidery, to stretch myself, so that if only a small part goes awry it doesn’t affect the final result as much. As a result I feel like I have really improved in my embroidery skill over the past 7 years!

A second sample once the design had been decided on. This was to practise spacing, how large it should be, and how long it would take to do one repeat of the design.

Understandably, I was quite daunted taking on this type of project, but I searched for embroidery patterns that I thought were manageable for me, and looked for stitches that I could complete with a level of proficiency.

It was also important at this planning phase to get “approval” from my husband for the design. (I did want him to feel comfortable wearing it!) Embroidered coats of the 18th Century were very flowery, which is not something that necessarily appeals to the modern man. In the end, my husband really wanted a much more monochrome colour palette (compared to some of the coats of the time) and was happy with some flowers, but not heaps.

The Materials

The stitches I have used are chain stitch, heavy chain stitch, backstitch, satin stitch, beetle stitch, colonial knots and feather stitch. I also used spangles and beads as part of my design. I used cotton DMC for the embroidery, and the fabric was a polyester taffeta that I have had great success with in the past.

The Process

I decided to firstly do a mockup of the coat on my husband, to make sure that the pattern pieces were the right size. I used, as a starting point, the three-piece suit in Costume Close Up, by Linda Baumgarten. Once the pattern pieces were finalised, I would then be able to embroider in a panel, rather than embroidering the separate pattern pieces or the finished coat. (As you will see in future posts, there are problems with each option!)

The finished panel, showing the two fronts at the top, the pocket flaps on the right, the buttons, and the cuffs at the bottom. The picture is not very clear, but I did want to try and get one photo with the whole panel in it!

My finished panel included the two fronts, the two pocket flaps, the two sleeve cuffs, and a whole stack of button shapes. I decided to leave the collar until the coat was pretty much fitted and then draft and embroider the collar last.

The detail of the embroider on the centre front.

The embroidery took two months to complete (for the coat alone), and I embroidered almost every day for around 5 hours a day. It was unfortunate that I was sewing to a deadline, as it created much more stress than my other embroidery projects had! It also meant that there were some elements of the embroidery that I had to change so that it could be completed in the time frame.

In the end, I was pleased with the way the embroidery looked! The grey and blue was a really nice colour combination. Stay tuned for the next post in this series, making the coat. – coming soon!

Related Links

Making a Stomacher (c. 1700’s-1770’s)

Making an Embroidered Stomacher, from 1725

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Embroidered Suit, c. 1780s, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Image Source: Embroidery sample, early 19th century, at Met Museum

Image Source: Embroidered waistcoat, 18th century, at Ruby Lane.

Costume Close-Up: Clothing, Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790, by Linda Baumgarten – buy on Amazon

18th Century Men’s Coats, by 18th Century Notebook – a list of extant 18th century men’s coats available to view online.

The Lives of a Man’s Eighteenth Century Coat, by National Gallery of Victoria – an interesting article about repurposing clothing in the 18th and 19th centuries.










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I recently ran a workshop at the Jane Austen Festival, Australia, on the use of ribbon in 18th century clothing, with a particular focus on the stomachers used to fill in the front portion of a woman’s 18th century gown.

I have made several stomachers before (links to them are below), and I do enjoy the nature of a small project that entails a bit of handwork! This project was no exception.


I used as a guide the pattern in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 1. This particular extant stomacher uses a bordered silk ribbon with silver thread lace. This original example was not a boned stomacher.

One of the stomachers that is pictured and patterned in her book.

Construction Steps

Step 1: As I have done previously, I boned the foundation layer of the stomacher. This was not always done, as there are plenty of examples of stomachers that are just mounted onto a layer of unstiffened linen, however I do find it a bit easier to hold it in place when it is a bit firmer!

I used two layers of grey cotton broadcloth and sewed boning channels down them. It was then boned with solid plastic boning.

A view of the finished stomacher from the underside, showing the boned foundation.

Step 2: The top layer can now be decorated. I tried to use a very similar pattern as Janet Arnold’s stomacher used. I drew the pattern shape onto the cloth so that I could see an outline. I used silk ribbon, a metallic lace, and some little beading decorations. These were all mounted by hand onto the material, starting with the lace and the ribbon.

Attaching the ribbon and lace to the top layer of the stomacher.

I gathered the ribbon into little ovals so that it was symmetrical, and the lace was slightly gathered so that it would bend around the corners sufficiently.

The basic decorations are all attached, and half sewn on at this point.

I tightly gathered some ribbon along one edge so that the ribbon would fan out to become a circle. The raw edges were folded on themselves and a basic running stitch held them together. Then these flower circles were handsewn to the stomacher. This type of flower decoration was very popular in the 18th century, especially with two-toned – or, what we call – ombre ribbons.

Silk ribbon flowers were handsewn in place.

Step 3: I turned the raw edges of the two layers in, and then stitched the folded edges. I have generally bound the edges with binding, but I wanted to try something different this time.

The raw edges of the stomacher and stitched closed.

The photo shows that some areas were whipstitched, and in other areas I did a running stitch. I basically did whatever stitch I thought would work best in keeping the raw edges secure!

Step 4: The tabs were hand stitched to the sides of the stomacher during the edge-stitching phase above. These tabs help with pinning or attaching the stomacher to the front of the dress or stays.

The tabs attached

The finished piece!

All finished, with some little dangly pearl beads included!!

Now I’ve got to figure out what to wear with it!!

Related Posts

Making an Embroidered Stomacher, from 1725

Making a Stomacher– an “embroidered carnation” stomacher

Sources and Relevant Links

Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Ribbon Embroidery in the 18th Century – from 18th Century Notebook (examples of 18th C. clothing that have used ribbon embroidery)

Jane Austen Festival Australia– website



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One of my earliest attempts at costuming was a sacque-back gown, however – as is normal for one’s first attempts – not all aspects of the gown were historical. One of my first corrections of this was to make a set of 18th century stays that would more accurately shape the torso for the dress, but because the “stomacher” for this gown was embroidered onto the front of the previous stays that I used for this dress, it meant that the gown was left without one!

An embroidery pattern for a stomacher, by Margaretha Helm, ca. 1725.

I have made an embroidered stomacher before, to go with my caraco jacket, and I really enjoyed making it! It really stretched my embroidery skills, and ever since then I have wanted to make another to match my sacque-back gown.


In my search for ideas for a pattern, I happened across several drawings from a pattern book by Margaretha Helm, on the Victoria and Albert Museum website. Here is what is written about the particular one I chose (pictured above):

This is a printed design for embroidery, with some drawn-thread work, for a stomacher featuring a floral pattern. Drawn-thread work is a form of counted-thread work in which the embroidery threads are used to pull the fabric threads apart. This creates an openwork pattern of holes and stitching. A stomacher is a stiff panel, usually triangular in shape and often heavily decorated, inserted in an open bodice to cover the corset in eighteenth-century dress. It is from a pattern book for embroidery (about 1725) by Margaretha Helm (neé Mainberger) (born in 1659 in Deiningen, died in 1742 in Nuremberg, Germany). Helm worked in Nuremberg as an embroiderer, a teacher of embroidery and a copperplate engraver who had her designs published by Johann Christoph Weigel. The V&A has a series of pattern books for embroidery in three parts by Margaretha Helm of which this volume is Part I. It is entitled Kunst-und Fleiss-übende Nadel-Ergötzungen oder neu-erfundenes Neh-und Stick-Buch or
The Delights of the Art and Industry of the practising Needle or the newly invented Sewing and Embroidery Book.

from Victoria and Albert Museum website

The design is symmetrical but not perfectly identical on both sides. I printed off the pattern and enlarged it to the size I needed to fit the front of my gown. I traced the full-sized pattern onto a large sheet of paper (as enlarging the pattern with the photocopier reduced its clarity), and then I traced it onto my fabric and began stitching!


The stitches I used are all ones that I have found before on extant embroidery pieces. Despite the V&A description stating that the pattern included “drawn” (or maybe more accurately, “pulled”) work, I did not do any of this on my stomacher. Instead I used laid work or various types of filling stitches that provided a patterned look to the finish.

The stitches I used were chain stitch, satin stitch, backstitch, seed stitch, long-and-short stitch, colonial knots, buttonhole wheel, laid work (called lattice work in this video), feather stitch, and stem stitch.

The beginnings!

I used a blue, water-erasable, pen to draw the design. This works well for me, although the colour does have a tendency to reappear after a while.

A flower, showing detail of the laid work, chain stitch and stem stitch.

A flower, showing detail of satin stitch, seed stitch and chain stitch.

More flowers, showing the detail of satin stitch, laid work, french knots, and chain stitch.

Flowers with satin stitch, laid work, and eyelet stitch (or buttonhole wheel), plus the chain stitch stems.

Once the embroidery was finished, it was mounted on to a boned base made from cotton broadcloth and synthetic whalebone.

The back of the stomacher, showing the boning channels.

The edges were bound with a bias-binding strip and tabs were handsewn on.

All finished, with a boned base and tabs handsewn on.

And some photos of it being worn!

I wore my stomacher for the first time to a Georgian High Tea!

I have a new embroidery project on the go now, so keep an eye out for posts about it later in the year!

Relevant Posts

Making a Stomacher

A Sacque-back gown (one of my earliest costumes)

A Caraco Jacket

Making 18th Century Stays

Sources and Relevant Links

Image and Quote Source: Embroidery design for stomacher, ca. 1725, from Victoria and Albert Museum

18th Century Embroidery Techniques, by Gail Marsh – buy on Amazon





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A bag or purse, made from silk velvet and steel beads, c. 1905, from LACMA.

A silk velvet bag, beaded with steel beads, c. 1905, from LACMA.

The most annoying thing I find when dressing up in historical costume is when I have spent so much time on getting my garments completed, only to realise that I really should have spent some time focussing on gathering accessories. I have improved at this over time, beginning to first be aware of my hairstyle, and then whether I should wear gloves or jewellery.

Most recently I was particularly irritated to find that I really needed to take a handbag to an event (rather than a cane basket, which is often my go-to historical handbag accessory) and I had nothing historically suitable and had to use my modern handbag. It just didn’t feel right walking down the street in my lovely Victorian clothes and carrying my huge black leather handbag over my shoulder.

An Early 19th Century velvet purse, with an embroidered and beaded design, from Granite Pail Collectables.

An early 19th Century red velvet purse, with an embroidered and beaded design, as well as looped beaded edging, from Granite Pail Collectables.

So I decided to embark on making a handbag. I have reticules that I use for Regency, and large pockets that I use for 18th century clothing, but the real absence in my bag-wardrobe was something for the Victorian and Edwardian period.

During the late Victorian and early Edwardian period there were many many different styles of bags. There were beaded bags, embroidered bags, crocheted bags, metal mesh bags, leather bags, tatted bags, drawstring bags, clasp-style bags… I could go on! And there were just as many different sizes and shapes as well.

I eventually decided I wanted a clasp-style bag, with a short chain, but large enough to hold my essentials; that is, a phone, wallet, fan, and car keys. I found a remnant of scarlet velvet and also some white satin in my stash and purchased some black beads, a black clasp and a black chain from my local craft store.


I followed the instructions by Guthrie & Ghani on how to draft your own pattern for a metal frame purse. This was a great tutorial and my finished pattern looked like this!

The pattern for the clasp bag, drawn on 1/4 inch grid paper.

The pattern for the clasp bag, drawn on 1/4 inch grid paper.

It is drawn on 1/4 inch grid paper and does not include seam allowances. After I had begun I foolishly discovered that this size of bag would probably not fit my fan in it, so I added a bit extra on to the seam allowances to make it longer (and slightly wider).


I have not detailed my construction steps here, as I found many tutorials on making this type of bag, and I have included some of the ones I used in the Sources list below.

As I was working with velvet, I decided to draw the pattern piece onto the back of the material with an embroidery design for the beading I wanted to complete.

The beading pattern was drawn on the back of the velvet. The beading here has already been started.

The beading pattern was drawn on the back of the velvet. The beading on this panel has already been started.

The beading was done with solid black seed beads and a larger diamond-shaped bead.

The beading detail on the bag, taken with the flash on (which is why the velvet looks so red!).

The beading detail on the bag (taken with the flash on, which is why the velvet looks so red!).

Once the beading was completed for both sides of the bag, it was cut to size and sewn together. The white satin lining was also cut and sewn. I decided to add a little internal pocket on the lining. For tips on sewing the bag together, check out this tutorial from So Sew Easy.

The corners of the bag were “boxed” to allow better fitting of items inside. There are some helpful tutorials online on how to do this.

The bottom edge was beaded with an overlapping scalloped type of fringe.

The bottom of the bag, showing the boxed corners and the scalloped beading.

The bottom of the bag, showing the boxed corners and the scalloped beading.

Depending on the type of clasp you purchase, some bags need to be glued in place, while others need to be sewn in place. I bought one that needed to be sewn. I used vertical stitches to sew the top edge of the bag inside the metal frame, which was the most common technique I had found on extant bags of this type.

The bag sewn to the metal clasp, showing the vertical (rather than horizontal stitches).

The bag sewn to the metal clasp, showing the vertical (rather than horizontal stitches). You can also see the slight gathering around the top of the bag.

I also gathered the top edge of my bag with gathering stitches to help ease in the fullness (which came from me enlarging the pattern at the beginning). The benefit of having gathers at the top is that it increases the capacity of the bag.

The inside view of the finished bag, showing the internal pocket and the stitches that attached the bag to the frame.

The inside view of the finished bag, showing the internal pocket and the stitches that attached the bag to the frame. The gathered top edge of the bag can also be seen.

And here it is all finished!



It is quite a roomy bag, for a little one anyway.

Just in time to take to a Victorian picnic this weekend! I also plan to use this bag for a Titanic-themed dinner later on in the year.

My outing to the Victorian picnic, showing my new bag in action!

My outing to the Victorian picnic, showing my new bag in action!


Related Posts

Titanic Panic! – Making a Chemise/Drawer Combination Suit – the first in a series of posts on 1912 costume.

My Regency Journey: Making Reticules

Making an Embroidered Pocket

Sources and Relevant Links

Image 1 Source: A silk velvet purse, c. 1905, from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Image 2 Source: An early 19th Century purse, from Granite Pail Collectables.

How to draft your own pattern to make a metal frame purse – by Guthrie and Ghani

How to sew a coin purse with a sew-in metal frame – by So Sew Easy

DIY: 1920’s evening bag – by The Closet Historian

How to Box Corners – by Sew 4 Home

How to do Beaded Fringe – by Beadwork

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These are the last two embroideries for my new quilt project, “Jane Austen’s Bonnet” by Brenda Ryan.

This quilt is a wall-hanging, and features 20 diamond patches that are embroidered with various stitcheries on a Regency theme. The embroideries are nicely framed within the patchwork structure of the quilt and the result is very pretty.

These last two embroideries are quotes and are not in the original quilt. These replace some of the flower embroideries that weren’t really my style. After I searched up some quotes, I printed up a design on my computer that could be traced onto the fabric and then embroidered.

A quote

A quote from Jane Austen’s letters to her sister, Cassandra.

This quote is from one of Jane Austen’s letters to her sister, Cassandra.

Next week shall begin my operations on my hat, on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend.

I thought a hat quote was essential in a Jane Austen’s Bonnet Quilt! The embroidery is done with a backstitch in one strand of DMC embroidery cotton. I should have done two strands, as all of the other quotes have used two strands.

A quote

A quote from “Emma”, by Jane Austen.

The above quote is from Emma, by Jane Austen.

If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing by the truth from me.

Mr Knightley says these words to Emma as he tries to find a way to ask her to be his wife. This embroidery has also been stitched with a backstitch, but using two strands of DMC embroidery cotton. I have also stitched a quick running stitch around the outside of the diamonds to mark the stitching line, which I hope will be useful when I put the quilt together.

Stay tuned for the last post of this series, Part Eleven, where I will be putting the quilt together and finishing it all off! – coming soon.

Related Posts

Jane Austen’s Bonnet – Part One

How to make an American Quilt

My English Paper Piecing Project

Sources and Relevant Links

Brenda Ryan Embroidery Designs

Jane Austen’s Bonnet – by Brenda Ryan Embroidery Designs

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The next two embroideries I had planned to do for my project, the “Jane Austen’s Bonnet” quilt by Brenda Ryan, were ones of Regency men. These embroideries are not included in the original quilt, but I chose to replace four floral arrangements in the quilt that weren’t really my style.

The easiest way to get a suitable picture to embroider seemed to be to find a fashion plate of the era. I particularly wanted pictures that had very little of the face showing, as I find faces quite difficult to embroider. The first picture I found was of my intended “Mr Bingley” portrait.

Costume Paresian, 1809.

“Habit de Drap Vert Melange. Culotte de Peau Blanche.” Costume Parisien, 1809.

Google Translate kindly translated the French for me: “Green coat cloth mix. White leather breeches.”

The next image was for my intended “Mr Darcy” portrait.

Costume Parisien, 1806.

“Habit a Pattes de Redingotte. Culotte blanche de Veloursacotes.” Costume Parisien, 1806.

Google Translate also translated the French for me on this one, although a little more cryptically: “Great coat dress has legs. White pants corduroy.” One day I will learn French, but at least you get the idea.

I used a light box to trace an outline of the images in fine-liner, only copying the detail that I wanted to include. Then I enlarged my fine-liner copy to the size needed for the quilt. The enlarged copy was then traced (again with the aid of a light box) on to the material to be embroidered.

The first one to complete was “Mr Bingley”.

Mr Bingley was good looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasing countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Mr Bingley, embroidered

Mr Bingley, embroidered, wearing a dark green coat and buckskin breeches.

This embroidery uses backstitch, running stitch, colonial knots, satin stitch and whipped chain stitch.

The second embroidery to complete was “Mr Darcy”.

…Mr Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.”

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Mr Darcy, embroidered

Mr Darcy, embroidered, with a dark blue coat and grey breeches.

This embroidery uses backstitch, running stitch, and colonial knots, with some gold beading being used for the buttons. I quite like how they have turned out!

I have also stitched a quick running stitch around the outside of the diamond to mark the stitching line.

The last two embroideries of the quilt will be included in the next post, Part Ten.

Related Posts

Jane Austen’s Bonnet – Part One

How to make an American Quilt

My English Paper Piecing Project

Sources and Relevant Links

Brenda Ryan Embroidery Designs

Jane Austen’s Bonnet – by Brenda Ryan Embroidery Designs

Image Source: Regency man fashion plate, from 1809 – via Pinterest

Image Source: Regency man fashion plate, from 1806 – via Pinterest

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I am down to the last few embroideries of my quilt, the “Jane Austen’s Bonnet”, by Brenda Ryan. This quilt is intended to be a wall hanging in my home, and I have chosen a purple and green colour scheme. I have been really enjoying the process of working through small embroideries with the aim of putting them together for a bigger project later.

This post presents the last two stitcheries that I will be doing that are included in the original quilt. They are titled by the author, a “nicely worked reticule” and “The Regency bonnet”.

An embroidered reticule

A lilac reticule in embroidery

This embroidery uses backstitch, running stitch, whipped chain stitch, satin stitch, blanket stitch, and both colonial and french knots. The handle and neck of the reticule are made with ribbon embroidery techniques. The green “cords” have been created with a green chain stitch whipped with gold thread, and beads have been added to create a tasselled look. The wisteria flower decoration is my own creation and is hopelessly out of scale to the reticule, however this quilt represents some of my first attempts at a wider range of embroidered flowers so I suppose I should expect these types of errors!

A frilled bonnet embroidery

A frilled bonnet in embroidery

This embroidery uses backstitch, running stitch, bullion stitch, detached chain stitch, blanket stitch and french knots. The ties for the bonnet have been made with ribbon embroidery. The original design had a few more ties which I have omitted, however the inclusion of the extra ties does make the embroidery sit more centrally on the diamond.

In addition to the embroidery, I have also stitched a quick running stitch around the outside of the diamond to mark the stitching line, which I hope will be useful when I put the quilt together.

The last four embroideries I will feature as part of this series are similar in style to Brenda Ryan’s, but I have sourced and traced myself.

Stay tuned for Part Nine of this series.

Related Posts

Jane Austen’s Bonnet – Part One

How to make an American Quilt

My English Paper Piecing Project

Sources and Relevant Links

Brenda Ryan Embroidery Designs

Jane Austen’s Bonnet – by Brenda Ryan Embroidery Designs

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