Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Free Hand Embroidery Pattern: Art Needlework Daisies


Amazon Books

One of my treasured old books in my needlework library is Art Needlework for Decorative Embroidery. It’s the second edition of the book, which was published in 1879 by S.W. Tilton Publishers of Boston. I love this little volume! And fortunately, you can love it, too, because it’s available online.

Hand Embroidery Pattern: Art Needlework Daisies

Old books like this are a treasured medley of sound advice, of sometimes-not-so-sound advice, and of wonderful dated verbiage. I love reading them! They often impart a priceless historical lesson, too, demonstrating how so many aspects of our lives have shifted in the past 100+ years.

One of my favorite passages from the book reads thusly:

Do not mix the style of one epoch or nationality with another. It may be seen both in specimens of ancient embroideries and in representations of it in paintings, that the patterns used in needlework were, allowing for the technical differences of the art, similar to those used for glass and wall painting, and manuscript illumination. We have no distinctive nineteenth-century style, and too often we make an unmeaning jumble; but we should as far as possible assimilate our needlework to the style of the room we wish to decorate.

In conclusion, we should like to warn our readers against the extremes into which fashion loves to lead us. Just now there is a mania for what is called art-needlework, of which some of the manifestations are any thing but artistic. In illustration of the danger into which the embroiderer may fall, we give the description of two articles which we have lately been distressed by seeing. One of these was an anti-macassar worked on crash, and presented at its lower end three dandelions all in a row, – pre-Raphaelite dandelions, stiff and bold upright, all exactly alike, and all hideous. The other piece of work, intended for a mantlepiece valance, was also on crash – a poincettia (sic) was depicted springing out of nothing, and sticking out its leaves stiffly enough. There were no sweet and flowing curves: all was angularity and jerkiness. This frightful plant was repeated five times without any variation. These two hideous specimens were bought and sold under the name of art-embroidery!

It just cracks me up to read passages like this! I can just see a pair of Victorian marms eyeing the offending antimacassar with looks of sputtering horror. Maggie Smith comes to mind.

Anyway, you can enjoy the book, too, for free, because it’s available online through Internet Archives, right here: Art Needlework for Decorative Embroidery. I think it’s interesting reading (but then I’m kind of weird that way!), and it does have a few (a very few) little line patterns in it. I think the daisies above are probably the most complex of them all…

Here’s a PDF of the embroidery pattern, for your printing convenience:

Free Hand Embroidery Pattern: Art Needlework Daisies (PDF)

Hope you enjoy the pattern and the book, and your weekend, too!

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(23) Comments

  1. Here’s a bit of one of my favorite book excerpts:

    “Any cultivated woman may for herself invent (if it is to be called invention) something better worth working than is to be bought ready to work. And that may do for many purposes, so long as it does not claim to be more than it is; but in the case of really important work, to be executed at considerable cost not only of material, but of patient labour, surely it is worth giving serious thought to its design. The scant consideration commonly given to it shows how little the worker is in earnest. Or has she thought? And is she persuaded that her artless spray of flowers, or the ironed-off pattern she has bought, is all that art could be? It would be rude to tell her she was wasting silk! How should she know?
    The only way of knowing is to study, to look at good work, old work by preference; it is worth no one’s while to praise that unduly. And if in all that is now so readily accessible she finds nothing to admire, nothing which appeals to her, nothing which inspires her, then her case is hopeless. If, on the other hand, she finds only so much as one style of work sympathetic to her, studies that, lets its spirit sink into her, tries to do something worthy of it, then she is on the right road. Measure yourself with the best, not with the common run of work; and if that should put you out of conceit with your own work, no great harm is done; sooner or later you have got to come to a modest opinion of yourself, if ever you are to do even moderate things.”

    from Art in Needlework, by Lewis F. Day and Mary Buckle

    1. Hi Jane, years ago, when I was about 10 my grandma bought me a blouse made of this “crash” linen. It was a thin linen with a lot of starch and crinkle for nothing. I hated it, but have to wear it, it cost her 2 guineas. A lot of money for those days! Shame.

      Have a nice day
      Alet in Libya

  2. G’day Mary and thank you for the pattern.
    Just had a very quick squizz at the book at this stage. I saw a suggestion of how to obtain faded threads when needing such a colour that is unavailable. Place the corresponding brighter thread between 2 sheets of glass and leave in the sun until the right shade is reached. I suppose colour fastness wasn’t a given back then. Might be actually useful for some threads today though. By covering parts of the thread or leaving it in the skien you should get a variated effect I guess.
    I love these books. They’re like the nick nack boxes in the Op shops where the little bits and pieces gather at the bottom waiting for me to come along and forage into their depths for hidden treasures.
    Cheers, Kath

  3. “Light and shade should never be used in embroidery, except in pieces that are to be looked at as pictures, which is not the legitimate use of embroidery.” I guess the Victorian marms disapprove of long and short stitch and needlepainting, too!

  4. I wonder what the author would think of embroidery today… Free-form embroidery and Hoopla hoops. I’m deeply grateful for our ancestors pushing the embroidery envelope.

  5. Hi Mary, I follow your posts every day with great interest. I would often love to post a comment but can rarely think of anything to add. You give me great inspiration. Thank you for today’s free pattern, I can see this sitting nicely on a seam of a crazy patchwork.

  6. Mary, What a neat find, and so nice of you to share with us! It appears to be in such a great condition for it’s age, publ. in 1878, 134 years old. I scanned through it quickly then copied a pdf file of it. Can hardly wait for time to sit down and read the history and information gathered here.

    This is a gift I will enjoy, Mary, thank you! Bev in Colorado

  7. LOL! She was thoroughly ticked off, wasn’t she? I agree with Kim …. if people don’t create with their own ideas, we’d be stalled in many different areas, not only needlework. Thanks for the amusement today, Mary!

  8. This book is fascinating. I have been able to copy some of the images and paste them into a MS Word document. I have also copied the three pages that talk about which colors to use, but I can’t seem to correlate the directions to the flower.

    On page 14 of the Outline Designs chapter, Third Series, it gives the proper way to make a tennis or croquet dress “the blue skirt…quite two inches from the ground.” Some other items are on the next few pages. 1878 was indeed another time, and not just for the threads they could use and the fabric them embroidered on.

  9. Maybe I am “wierd” and that lady would stick me in a corner with a dunce cap, but here goes. Personally, I think people who do thier own designs and not stick strictly to kits and “approved” designs are refreshing because we don’t have to look at the same things all the time. I mean I have done designs I traced from photos my father took on a business trip for example.

  10. Thank you, Mary, once again for such a fun and enlightening historical read! I love these meanders down history lane … you always find the best resources! Always good for inspiration, knowledge, and usually a smile or a laugh. I’ve added this piece to my library … which keeps growing thanks to you!

  11. Wow, what a find. Did you notice that she was only 49 years old when she died?

    This may offend some people and bring others out of the woodwork but the difference between ‘art’ and ‘craft’ is a question that has plagued us for years. I consider that if a person conceives of an idea and then follows it through to design and completion it is art, but if a person uses someone else’s design or kit, it is craft. This only holds true for embroidery, things change again when you go to other types of art/craft.

    I am not trying to offend anyone, just clarify what others believe about this. I hope you will let us know your thoughts too, Mary.

  12. I would need to see the embroidery works referenced prior to forming an opinion. Prehaps they really were “hideous” in form? Not everything made by hand is automatically a beautiful thing, just like not every meal cooked from scratch is necessarily tasty.

    While I believe you can mix elements and experiment with styles I still feel strongly that to create something beautiful the artist needs to stick with basic concepts of flow and color to present something that is pleasing to the eye.

    Hazel Blomkamp’s Crewel Twists come to mind. While she has boldly mixed elements her designs are lovely.

    Doreen from Maine

  13. Thanks, Mary for the daisy motif. I love it, and am already dreaming up projects I could do with it.
    I too, am completely charmed with the tone and vocabulary and sensiblities found in old books. I am captive to the GoodWill outlet bin, where I pick them up for a quarter apiece. Who can resist them at that price. I will check out the online material, with thanks to you.

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