Stitching in the most basic sense is a form of sewing. The history of sewing dates back to the stone age, where archaeologists believe people across both Asia and Europe “sewed” their clothes, made of fur or animal skin with a sliver of an ivory tusk as the needle and animal veins or tendons used for the string. The needle and thread of course have come a long way from this, but the history of stitching is one that is truly treasured by those who practice this art form.
We typically understand sewing to be something only used to make clothes, but when you think about it, there really is a lot that would take a stitch or two to create; shoes, household linens and the list goes on. As more textile fabrics were produced such as fine wool, silk, and later cotton, our stitching techniques improved as well. Today the thread used is either nylon, synthetic or polyester. As with the thread, the needle took on different forms too. Bronze needles became iron needles and it wasn’t until the invention of stainless steel in 1913, that we begin to see a needle that is similar to what we use today; one that won’t leave a mark on the fabric.
As the textile industry was booming in the 19th century, this is when many women who had practiced sewing there whole lives, took to the factories to use their skill. Of course the invention of the sewing machines helped in the mass production. The sewing machine had many different forms at first, with many inventors trying to claim the patent; including Isaac Merritt Singer who is responsible for the needle running safely away from the point, as opposed to towards it like previous models. We will take a look at a few of the many types of stitches, that can now be done either by hand or machine. Consider any of these Sturbridge Yankee Workshop items below for a true homespun holiday season.
A running stitch is perhaps one of the easier and more popular stitches. It is formed by knotting one end of the thread and pulling it through the fabric however many times, in a line to form the desired length. Then the thread is repeated over the same area, but going in the opposite direction. This stitch is great for creating details and more defined lines. A good example of this is our Holiday Memories Pillow. Two candy cane striped stockings pair up with the classic ‘Charlie Brown tree’ and the sentiment ”holiday memories warm the coldest of days.” You can see the border around the tree is only the first layer of the running stitch, where thicker areas like the star and red in the stockings are much thicker; being a completed running stitch.
The blanket stitch is typically used to give a finished look to blankets, though of course can be used for other things. It is formed by making sure that when looping the thread, it goes under the needle and pulled tight. Taking the needle to the back each time will help to secure the previous loop. This process exposes a full loop of thread creating the large blanket stitch look. An example here at Sturbridge is our Poinsettia Felt Runner. A black base is delightfully decorated with felt appliquéd, red poinsettias and holly berries, green leaves and light brown swirling twigs. The highlight though, is the red blanket stitch bordering the entire table runner.
A twist on the basic running stitch is the increasingly more popular vermicelli stitch. It is more or less the same as a running stitch, except each stitch is taken in a different direction. It can be a pattern such as a zig zag or completely random. Here to the right, is our Red & Plaid Quilted Pillow. The vermicelli stitching on the pillow is done in a swirling design, throughout the entire background and holly berry design, creating a quilted look. This fun holiday pillow reverses to a green and red plaid. To match, consider our Holiday Throw. The throw will showcase the vermicelli stitching even better as it reverses to a cream base, exposing the intricate details more so.
Feather stitching is a stitching technique that was popular in England during the late 1800’s. This type of stitch is perfect for creating detail and texture in flowers, leaves or “feathers,” where perhaps it got its name. To begin this stitch it is very important to secure a knot on the back side. Professionals say to imagine four lines on the fabric to get started. It involves a very close attention to detail as you bring the thread from the top of one “line” to the side and then repeated with the other lines. Alternating the two movements will create the feathered look. To the left you can see our Poinsettia Applique which features feather stitching on the poinsettia flower pot. You may even notice a slight resemblance on the black border here, to be a blanket stitch.
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