Lacemaking has always been one of those crafts that has interested me, but that I never seemed to have the time to pursue. Things like bobbin lacemaking and tatting are time consuming and complicated to learn. I decided I wanted to learn one of the methods that involves embroidering designs onto mesh, instead of arranging threads to create a strip of lace. Finally, earlier this year, I went and did some research into the myriad methods of making. There are several different methods involving embroidery, and of them all, I landed on tambour for my first attempt. Tambour turns up in England around the 1760s, when lightweight muslins from India became popular. It requires only two tools: an embroidery hoop on a stand, and a sharp hook, which is used to tie a series of chain stitches through fabric. Here are images of the hook, and a tambour shawl from the 19th c.
The art was incredibly popular in the Regency, and can be used not only on mesh, but on fabric for dresses, cushions, and more. Tambour is easy to learn, and once you get comfortable with it, much faster than any other kind of embroidery. I picked it because of it’s speed, popularity, and the fact that the basic motion of it, using a hook to create interconnected loops, has similarities to both wigmaking and crochet, so I hoped to pick it up quickly.
*Edit–I’ve been doing tambour, and improving my technique for several years now, and if you are interested in starting to learn yourself, you can start right here on Fabric & Fiction, with my new Tambour Lace tutorial series!*
Brandon got me the things I needed to start doing tambour for my birthday in March, but then things go so busy that I never got the chance to start, though I had several projects planned. But in the past couple of weeks, I could put it off no longer, because guess what Ann Croghan needed for her wedding? A veil! Once again, these two lovely brides from 1820 and 1823 were my inspiration.
Both brides wear a lace veil attached behind their hairstyle with a triangular headpiece that sits on the top of the head. I set out to recreate the style.
First I scoured Ackermann’s Repository issues from 1821 and early 1822 for embroidery patterns I liked. I landed on this one from November 1821:
Since I was crunched for time, I decided to do only the border, and skip the allover pattern of smaller flowers and sprigs. I also skipped doing a more traditional marking method like sewing a running stitch around the design in favor of my trusty water-soluble marker. The event is coming up fast after all!
For the first few motifs, I was afraid I’d never finish in time. Panicked thoughts ran through my head. “Oh God, I had so many projects planned. This is terrible! I’ve made a dreadful mistake!” But soon enough I got the hang of things: the tension, the way you have to vary stitch size around tight curves and at corners, and eventually I was zipping along at a pace I couldn’t have imagined at the beginning.
The pattern is made up of alternating leaf and flower motifs, so I thought I’d show you how each one of these motifs went together, starting with one of the leaves:
The flowers definitely turned out to be the simpler, quicker part of the pattern:
But while embroidering is fun, getting rid of all those pesky thread ends is not. Each thread starts with something called a waste knot, which you can see in the third picture. The thread is tied to the mesh outside of the pattern, then brought through to the back so it’s in the right place for embroidering. Each of these knots had to be snipped, and both ends of the thread woven through the back of the embroidery to secure them (no knots in embroidery unless they’re part of the pattern!). I thought about counting how many thread ends there were, before deciding that that was insane. Suffice it to say, there were a lot!
Thread ends in and edges trimmed, there was nothing else between me and that silly little lacy triangle that perches on top of the bride’s head.
I covered the triangle in white silk batiste, which would give it a smoother finish, while remaining translucent, as the headpieces of the fashion plate brides seem to be.
And once again, what bride doesn’t need as much froofy lace as possible, so I attached two rows of gathered lace around the edges:
With veil and headpiece both ready, it was time to attach them. I gathered the top, un-embroidered edge of the veil, and arranged the gathers against the headpiece until I had enough space for a bun to poke through. I could have just sewn the ends together, but a few weeks ago I ordered some vintage silk orange blossoms (a very popular wedding flower) to wear in my hair, and the seller sent couple of cute little tiny roses on single wires with them.
I slipped the wire through the mesh of the veil and the lace on the headpiece, and wrapped the wire around to secure it. This way, I can easily remove the veil and use it for something else, or adjust it if the bun works differently than expected.
I’m now in real crunch time trying to make sure I get my wig done in time, so back to work! Come see the whole outfit in action at Locust Grove on July 18th!