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18th century, embroidery, projects

A Little (Ok, a Lot) of Broderie and Travestie…

Hey, let’s dust off the old blog to share a project with you! I don’t normally sew for hire, but when my friend Tara was heading to Carnevale in Venice and wanted a hand-embroidered 18th century men’s suit, and I needed the money, a deal was made! She had seen the tambour-embroidered waistcoat I made for Francis, and wanted something similar.

Tara was going to both a Cinderella party AND a cross-dressing party on the same day, so she wanted to go en travestie as a super foppy Prince Charming. She picked out the colors and fabrics. Since tambour embroidery is basically the main 18th century embroidery in my wheelhouse, we decided on that, focusing on this (1770s?) men’s suit at the Victoria & Albert Museum as our model:


Tambour embroidered men’s suit from the Victoria & Albert Museum. I’d give you a better citation, but someone borked their collection database and I refuse to go through 1000 listings to re-find it.


Tambour embroidered men’s suit from the Victoria & Albert Museum.


Tambour embroidered men’s suit from the Victoria & Albert Museum.

We mixed up the colors and added spangles for shine. Tara’s signature design element is the bee, so I replaced the main floral sprigs with bees made from spangles and gold-colored thread.

And then commenced endless, endless embroidery!

A fraction of the soie perlée used in the embroidery.

A fraction of the soie perlée used in the embroidery.


You have to start somewhere…


Adding spangles for shine!


The bottom border of the waistcoat.


Oh wow, I rounded a corner!


Most of the border, bees, and pocket outline done! Of course, this is just ONE side…


Close-up on the embroidery.


And another.

Trying to decide which color to use for an accent (I went with pink).


Done, with accent and bee pocket! But before buttons and buttonholes.

Making the suit was CRAZY, so I have 0 documentation, as I was doing all this WHILE MOVING. In fact, I had to call in reinforcements and sub-contracted Sarah of Mode Historique to make the breeches! And then had a total melt-down when the pattern I had mocked up TWICE to be sure resulted in breeches that totally didn’t fit. Cue a whole lot of near-all-nighters while I recut the entire backs of the breeches.

We initially wanted to embroider the coat, but there was literally NO time. Luckily we thought ahead and decided on a purple mini-stripe so that the coat would be interesting on its own, and at the VERY last minute I managed to whip out buttons with embroidered/spangled bees (matching the bee-embroidered/spangled buttons on the waistcoat).

Tara is still in Venice, so all I’ve got to share are these two pictures she posted to Facebook. I’ll post some more, and hopefully take some detail shots, when I can!


Tara rocking the 18th century travestie in Venice!


She custom-dyed the stockings and shoes to match, and after a crisis with red hair powder getting onto EVERYTHING (thank goodness for try-on’s), Tara restyled the wig I made her and did a great job!

18th century, court dress, embroidery, projects

18th Century Ribbon Embroidered Skirt Panels

So a few months back I posted about looking for more examples of 18th century ribbon embroidery. The AMAZING Suzi Clarke did me proud and told me,

I have two front pieces from a gown like the top one [my court dress inspiration image], which are embroidered with ribbons in different colours. They are ivory silk and are shaped. Do you want to e-mail me to discuss how I can share them with you? I also have some ribbons very like the originals.

Did I want to see them? DID I?

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18th century, embroidery, projects

Costumes at the Château pt. 1: tambour embroidery!

So I’m home, and I have so much to post about!  Many costumes were worn and fabulous times were had.

I’m kicking the wrap-up off with a quick post about my embroidery projects.  I did finish the tambour embroidered fichu:

Kendra's tambour embroidered fichu

Kendra's tambour embroidered fichu

And I also made a tambour embroidered waistcoat for Francis, using yellow silk taffeta and various colors of silk embroidery thread.  I based the design on this gorgeous piece from LACMA, which was super helpful as I could download high resolution images, and since it had never been made up, it printed off as a perfect pattern.  I just had to resize it a few times and move a few things around to make it fit Francis’s pattern shape.  I also simplified things a bit, in that I didn’t do all the embroidery along the buttonholes — I don’t understand how/why they would cut into the embroidery to make the buttonholes.  That seemed madness to me!

I was sewing the actual waistcoat on the plane, in Paris, and in the château, but I got it done in time for a number of wearings!  And it looked beautiful with his new green and gold suit.
Tambour embroidered waistcoat

Tambour embroidered waistcoat

Tambour embroidered waistcoat


18th century, embroidery, projects

Tambour Embroidery Project

So I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been doing some sewing… Although work has been busy, I’ve also been enjoying the fact that I have no looming deadlines for any sewing projects, so free time plus limited energy means I’ve been working on some noodle-y stuff.

You might remember when last year, my fabulous friend Francis made me some handmade reproduction Elizabethan shoes.  I’ve been wanting to gift him back, but of course he’s a costumer too, so have been trying to think of something I can make for him that he can’t make for himself.  We figured out that he doesn’t do embroidery, so I am planning to make him an 18th c. hand embroidered waistcoat.

I have dabbled at embroidery and I know it’s one of those things I can do, it just takes a lot of time.  I’ve been wanting to learn to do tambour embroidery for years, so decided that’s what I’d do on his waistcoat.  But since the waistcoat is supposed to be a gift, that means I shouldn’t be experimenting on it!  So I thought I’d better to a project for me as a learning experience.

To that end, I decided to make a hand-embroidered 18th c. fichu using tambour.  I’ve had some REALLY fine white linen in my stash for a while, which I’ve been using in small pieces for special elements, as I have no faith in ever finding linen this fine again.  I have Peri’s tambour frame on long-term loan, so all I needed was a tambour needle, the right thread, and some instructions.  I got the needle and thread from Lacis, and then read through the books Tambour Work and 18th Century Embroidery Techniques to learn the technique.

I ended up using a pattern from the 18th C. Embroidery Techniques book, as it helpfully includes a pattern for a late 18th c. tamboured fichu from the (Bath) Museum of Fashion.  I don’t love fichus that bunch up around the neck, so I decided to follow the cut of this fichu at the Met to hopefully avoid that.

So far, so good!  It’s certainly taking time, especially now that I’m done with the long continuous line things and am on the 5 million individual flowers, each of which needs to be done separately from the others (as I’m trying to keep the back of the embroidery neat).  The one thing that’s stymied me are the little dots, which on the original pattern are tiny spirals… there just isn’t enough embroidery to bring the tails through on the back, so I haven’t figured out whether/how I’m going to include those.  I could of course NOT cut the thread off between dot/spirals, but then I’ll have all those extra bits of embroidery thread on the back of the work…