I hope you may find some of these notes and observations, useful or interesting... or perhaps even both.
Tapestry and Needlepoint
Something I notice often in my work as an interior designer and as a dealer in needlework and antique textiles, is the inaccurate usage of the words "tapestry" and "needlepoint." Tapestry refers to a woven textile that is created by hand or by machine, on a loom. The threads, whether cotton, wool, silk, or linen, criss-cross each other to create a sturdy fabric.
Needlepoint, and also "petit-point", refers to a textile that is created by hand, using a threaded needle to fill in the spaces on an already existing backing or canvas. Visually, these two fabrics are quite different, but I suppose the confusion has come about because both types of textiles are prevalent when considering anything we call "antique." Both techniques date back many centuries and are still widely produced today. They can be seen as wall hangings, cushions, table runners, upholstery,and footstools. I personally love to incorporate tapestries and needlepoints in the custom design of my antique textile pillows.
Antique Textiles and Needlework
In today's commercially-made cookie-cutter consumer market, it is refreshing to find items that no one else might have.
As a professional interior designer specializing in residential work, I have had many opportunities to encourage my clients to include original and unique hand-made accessories in their homes. This adds personality and makes one's home different from someone else's.
Because I believe so strongly in using antique textiles and handstitched needlepoints, laces, and other embroideries, I have made it my business to collect such items over many years and so I have a huge inventory of such things as petit-points, Aubusson pieces, Romanian point lace, Irish crochet, Carrickmacross lace, Normandy lace, Victorian brocades, 19th century tapestries, barkcloth, antique metallic lace, metallic trims, vintage tassel fringe, vintage linens, and special custom pillows.
I design with the pieces in my inventory and my expert seamstress follows my instructions to produce collage cushions, pillows made from wedding gowns, drapes edged in tapestry bands, curtains with Victorian lace edging, footstools upholstered with handstitched needlepoints, and tapestry wallhangings trimmed with vintage braids. Old sweaters also make lovely pillows.
My experience working with these old textiles has made me quite expert in how they behave and how to design with them, as some become fragile over the years, and need special attention. It makes me feel good to know that I am doing a kind of high-end recycling and breathing new life into these antiques.
Cutwork Embroidery Linens
As a professional interior designer and experienced needleworker, I appreciate the originality one can achieve in their home by using hand-made linens, cushions, and other accessories.
Cutwork embroidery and whitework embroidery have been traditional in this part of the world, as the skills were brought over from Europe, particularly from France and England. It has been customary for a girl's wedding trousseau to contain many tablecloths, table runners, dinner napkins, doilies, sheets, pillow cases, and even aprons, for use in her new home. Much care, attention and skill were used to produce these beautiful linens. Depending on the family's resources, the mother and daughter would embroider themselves, or hire specialty shops which provided this service.
The designs often consisted of floral sprays, urns, courting scenes, and lace inserts. The edges were often scalloped or double-hemmed.
I try to use such items in my interior design work as they create a more personal environment, one which sets one interior apart from another. And what could be lovelier than having dinner on a pristine white linen tablecloth that has been cherished for decades?
During the nineteenth century, it was customary for women of more affluent means to spend time doing needlework such as petit-point, cross-stitch embroidery, crochet, knitting,and beading. Because of this, there has always been a lot of needlework available in the antiques market. These emboideries were used as cushion covers, footstool covers, table runners, portières, window curtains and drapes, doilies, and bed covers. Also, one of the most popular uses was for needlepoint pictures. The finished canvas was framed and hung just like any painting and often incorporated into a grouping of artworks on one wall. We can still enjoy the needle arts today whether we do them ourselves or not, as there are many to select from at the antique dealers and on the internet. A grouping of small framed floral bouquets in petit-point embroidery can be very attractive and original in an entry or hallway. Choosing a common motif for a grouping gives the whole arrangement more power and punch!
After visiting Scotland several years ago, I was amazed to discover the wide variety in tea cosies or teapot warmers. I found tea cosies made with Hardanger embroidery, needle lace, bobbin lace, satin stitch embroidery, Victorian brocades, Irish crochet, knitted lace, antique metallic trims, tassels, and quilted silk! Some had padded inserts and some did not. It seems some tea cosies are more for decoration than to keep the pot warm. I found them interesting because they would also make interesting pillows because of their half-moon shapes. It's a pretty decorative accessory but also a very useful one if you like your tea hot!
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