The following article is an extract from the book Embroidered Pictures and Patchwork by PriscillaM Warner published in 1950. I have been unable to find out anything at all about Priscilla Warnerherself, but I do own two of her books from the mid-20th century - this one and another calledEmbroidery Mary which aimed to encourage girls to take up embroidery. I know that she hadpublished at least two other books at that time, and if anyone knows anything about her I wouldlove to share in a future issue of the magazine.
Meanwhile, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Priscillas embroidered patchwork - sheused hexagons and the paper piecing method, incorporating embroidered hexagons into theprinted fabric ones to create what must have been the most beautiful nursery quilt.
Although today we would probably choose different colours, and I know that I at least would makethe pictures a little smaller - to me they seem a little squashed within the hexagons - I still thinkthis is a great project to take a look at, and maybe incorporate some of her designs into our ownown work
The book Embroidered Pictures and Patchwork has been out of print for many years, but secondhand copies do occasionally appear both on Amazon Marketplace and Ebay.
ADVANTAGES OFHOARDING AND THE
DELIGHTS OF PATCHWORK
If you are the kind of person who hasnever been able to throw away even tinycuttings of material - in case they come inuseful - then this will be your hour oftriumph (note from Helen: At last!!);though if any of your patchwork friendsget to know of this foible, it may also beone of trial, for they will probably pesteryou to see what you can spare for them.
But if you have been bitten by thepatchwork bug too, you will be sodelighted to find a kindred spirit that youwill share out willingly - just as the truegardener will give away with both hands,flowers, cuttings, roots and seedlings toanyone who looks like being a fellowlunatic. For there is a fascination aboutpatchwork that really seems to getpeople; it is partly the thrill of creating
something of use and beauty out of scrapsso trifling as to be almost nothing, andpartly the bit of artist latent in nearlyeveryone that finds pleasure inmanipulating the little coloured andpatterned patches into order and harmony.
But it is a craft which demands time andtrouble, and some patience and is not workthat is done quickly and effectively in a fewhours.
USES FOR PATCHWORK
There are many uses to which you can putyour patchwork; if you shrink from startingoff with a bedspread or cot cover, there arepossibilities on a smaller scale; cushioncovers, tea cosies, patterned bands todecorate plain curtains - all kins of thingsthat make smaller demands on your timeand for which smaller patches are needed,so that your material will be used up to thelast inch.
SHAPES USED IN PATCHWORK
There are a number of traditional shapesthat have always been used in patchwork.There is the Hexagon, a six-sided figure thatmakes a honeycomb design; the Scale, ashape based on the circle, and which takesits name from the scale effect given in thedesign; and the Square and the Diamond,on which there are a great many attractivevariations. But once you know the workingmethod, you will probably want toexperiment with shapes for yourself, so Iwill give details only of the Hexagon.
(Note from Helen: I have omitted how todraw a Hexagon as these templates arenow readily available - though I guess theywerent 60 years ago!).
WORKING METHOD FORPATCHWORK
Use a thin piece of card to make yourtemplate - the patter from which to cut yourpaper linings - the size you want yourfinished patch to be.
Make a number of paper linings by placingyour template on the paper and drawinground it and cutting out the resultant shape.Next cut a corresponding number ofpatches from your scraps of material,making them inch larger all round thanthe paper linings.
Tack your patches over the paper linings,place them edge to edge with right sidesfacing, and oversew them neatly and firmlytogether.
KIND OF MATERIAL TO USE
In any piece of patchwork it is advisable tohave all your pieces of material of one kind,that is to say, all linens, cottons and thekinds of rayon that are similar in weight tocotton and linen, or all silks, velvets andpossibly nylons. (Note from Helen: nylon- no, I dont think so. But I guess thingswere different then!) It is also wise, whencutting the patches, to try to have theweave of the material going the same wayin all of them - either up and down, or fromside to side and not diagonally. If you dothis you will bet a better set and there willbe less likelihood of uneven pull.
REMOVE LININGS AND USEAGAIN
When a patch is completely surroundedwith other patches sewn onto all its sixsides, you may take out the tacking andremove the lining for use again. Andwhen all your patches are sewn together,the linings removed, and the other edgesof the patches re-tacked to prevent thematerial from fraying before it is sewndown onto the lining, you are ready tobegin your feather-stitching orherringboning over the joins. This finalstitching is not essential, but it hasdecorative value, and helps to reinforce,that is why the two stitches most oftenused are those which go from side to side,or from one patch to another, thusstrengthening the joins.
LINING OR BACKING
Lastly, the whole thing must be backed orlined, either with a larger piece ofmaterial, so that a border is provided, orit can be slip-stitched invisibly to a pieceof material cut to the same size and shape.
But, whichever method is used, the featherstitching or herringboning must be workedround the outside edge after the lining hasbeen added.
TRACING THE PICTURES
Now, if you are setting out to make the cotcover, your first job will be to trace thedesigns from the book and transfer them tothe embroidery material. As you will needyour hexagons clearly marked, so that youcan place each design correctly in itsenclosing shape, I would advise setting outa number of hexagons on your embroiderymaterial, then tracing the designs, one byone, each in its own hexagon.
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
The designs given here may suit yourpurpose just as they are, or you may not, atthis stage, feel competent to adapt or alter.But if by changing a little girls hair-do inone of the pictures, or by giving her anotherpattern on her dress, or by substitutinganother dog for the little sitting up Cairn,
you can establish a personal connectionbetween the cot cover and its future owner,I hope you will do so, for it will addenormously to its value. Better still,include some patches of your owndesigning.
HAVING A PLAN OF ACTION - ORNOT, AS THE CASE MAY BE
You will probably have your own ideasabout the order in which you tackle thevarious parts of this piece of work. Youcan begin by preparing a good supply ofthe embroidered pictures; or you mayprefer to do a bit of one or a bit of the otheras the mood takes you. One of the charmsof this particular project is the variety ofwork in it, and another is that a good dealof the initial work must be done while it isin small pieces, making it ideal for takingabout to friends houses or on holidays.
I suppose some method is desirable, as youcould embroider all the pictures and
prepare all the patches before you beganjoining up, because you would then arrangethem to the best possible advantage. I beganintending to be strong-minded, but the desireto see how it would look was too strong, sowhen I had embroidered half a dozen or so ofthe pictures, I pressed them and began sewingthem up with the coloured patches. I dontthink much harm was done; I had a few regretsafterwards about placing, but it was worthwhilenot having to wait for my fun.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NEATSTITCHING OVER JOINS
There are not many directions that I can givefor the final stages of the work; it is a matter ofcommon sense, and of methods varyingbecause of differences in kinds of material used.But I will assume that you have now done allthe embroidery and sewing up and haveherringboned or feather-stitched over the joins.Whichever you choose, see that it doesntsprawl. It should be a close, compact band ofstitching, otherwise it will encroach on yourembroidered patches or detract from the valueof the patterned ones.
THE PENULTIMATE PRESS
Now your work is ready for mounting, andalthough it will need a final pressing whenit is quite finished, it is advisable to give itone at this stage too, before you stitch itdown onto the backing.
Pay particular attention to theembroidered patches, and if necessary,give some of the plain ones an extrasmooth-over if wrinkles are obstinate.Now spread out your piece of mountingmaterial on some flat surface and placethe patchwork on it, taking care that themargins are as you want them before anyfixing is done. When it is correctly placed,smooth the patchwork out thoroughly inall directions from the centre to the edgesand pin it well before tacking it down.Having tacked it, hem it, then feather-stitch or herringbone it before putting onthe bias binding.
Note from Helen:
Strangely there was no photo showingthe whole completed project - just acouple of black and white images ofpart of the completed work. You cansee part of one of these images on theleft.
I hope youve enjoyed this extract fromPriscilla M Warners book though - andthat you might find a use for at leastsome of her lively designs.