The Craft of Femininity

A woman sits down in a wooden chair, her ankles crossed. She’s wearing a simple white cap, an apron, and a long dark red skirt that puffs out large enough to make her waist look smaller. In her elegant, porcelain hands is a wooden hoop with a white piece of fabric. In the flickering candlelight, she pulls a needle and thread throughout the fabric. Soon enough, she had stitched an elegant rose sprouting from leaves.

Some people probably would be quick to say things like sewing and cooking are the craft of femininity, which I must disagree on. When I say “chef”, I’m sure most people assume they are a man, which would make the job of cooking masculine. Sewing is a bit more debatable, though personally, sewing has a masculine edge to me, probably because the person who first taught me anything about sewing was my father. There are male fashion designers. I’m pretty sure when I say “tailor”, people think of something more masculine in feeling, not feminine.

I feel that the craft of femininity is embroidery. The word “embroidery” immediately conjures up images of beautiful, elegant ladies sitting in chairs, crafting a beautiful work of art with needle and thread that could easily entice the viewer.

Oh, and adding a certain flare to clothing that makes one look like a walking art piece without resorting to utterly ridiculous costumes that you sometimes see pop stars wear today.

That being said, I decided to learn embroidery for myself.

I’ve always had interest in embroidery, primarily because those embroidery hoops looked really, really cool and I wanted to use one of them. I didn’t really want to fully dive into embroidery though, until I started to invest a lot of time looking at historical clothing, especially from the 19th century and before.

Dresses from previous centuries seemed to have quite a bit of embroidery on them. Probably some of the best examples come from the 18th century. Gowns often had embroidery in them, especially the stomachers. Flowers were a very popular choice.

From http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections?ft=stomacher

From http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections?ft=stomacher

Men’s clothing also had a lot of embroidery, even more so than the women’s! Flowers were also a very popular choice for them.

From: http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/80097270?rpp=20&pg=1&ft=coat&when=A.D.+1600-1800&img=2#fullscreen

From: http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/80097270?rpp=20&pg=1&ft=coat&when=A.D.+1600-1800&img=2#fullscreen

Since I want to sew historical clothing, or at least historically inspired clothing, both men’s and women’s, I felt that learning embroidery would be a pretty good thing to learn.

Especially when I realized how many little details were possible on Victorian chemises. Geez, there’s so many possible details! There’s the options of ruffles, pleats, buttons…things I’m too inexperienced and too lazy to do. While I was looking on the MET website, I did find a few Victorian chemises that didn’t have all the fancy possible details, but rather embroidery, I decided that I DEFINITELY should be learning embroidery so my chemises aren’t plain.

That being said, I pulled out the embroidery hoops I bought a while back, the needles, threader, the thread I swiped from my younger sister, some scrap white fabric, and began looking on YouTube for tutorials.

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Now, normally when I go for tutorials, I don’t look on YouTube, as many times my brain doesn’t really process the videos. I tend to find actually reading a tutorial with some pictures is MUCH more helpful. However, I didn’t feel like that was the case with embroidery, where I felt that the right video tutorial would help me. The first one I tried didn’t help me at all, but after searching, I quickly found a GREAT tutorial on French Knots and begun to learn some embroidery basics. At some point I ended up learning a chain stitch as well to do some lazy flowers.

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I actually meant to not embroider anymore that day when I started having issues with actually doing it, but I found myself wanting to do more. So I continued on, regardless on how I felt. It was a lot of fun.

I was listening to some music from the 17th & 18th centuries while working on the embroidery, as I tend to associate it with those centuries as a way to pass the time. I kept on having moments where I felt like I was no longer in the 21st century and felt pretty at home…

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I learned some more stitches again…yesterday, I believe it was (?), as well. And I made a too-big flower, which was nice.

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Embroidery, so far, has actually been surprisingly really fun. I’m hoping I pretty quickly gain the skills to do more intricate designs so I can embellish my future clothing with flowers, or as I really want to, stars. I’ll write another entry once I do more…maybe.