Category Archives: Hand Embroidery

This category covers all sorts of hand embroidery

Just Ask Rita – Swiss Nelona vs Swiss Cotton Sateen

Ellen writes:  

Rita,    I’m going to make a christening gown and I’d like to know which is heavier:  opaque, swiss nelona or swiss cotton sateen.  I have better luck smocking on a heavier fabric but I like the shinny look.  I may not be able to get both in one fabric!?  Thanks for your assistance!

Ellen, Thanks for writing.  Swiss Nelona is lighter weight than Swiss Cotton Sateen.  Nelona Batiste is 100% Pima Cotton and is made in Switzerland.  It is a soft, light, fabric with a gorgeous sheen.  It has a very soft hand and a very shiny finish.  It has a little body, but is still translucent.  It usually has about 129 threads/inch.  Martha Pullen carries a very nice quality of Swiss Nelona Batiste.  I checked several sources and they all questioned the term opaque.  They refer to the Nelona as translucent.  I’m not sure if this is the same fabric you are calling opaque.

Swiss Cotton Sateen is a heavier weight fabric – almost broadcloth weight.  It is made of 100% Swiss cotton with a slight sheen.  Either fabric would make a lovely christening gown. 

Martha Pullen is an excellent source for heirloom fabrics.  She also carries a Victorian Batiste and Martha’s Favorite Cotton Batiste.  The Victorian Batiste is a nice substitute for Swiss Cotton Batiste.  It is slightly heavier than Nelona.  Martha’s Favorite Cotton Batiste is more lightweight than the Victorian batiste and slightly heavier than the Nelona.

Hint for smocking on lightweight fabrics:  If you are using a lightweight fabric, press and lightly spray starch the fabric before pleating the fabric on the pleating machine.  This gives the fabric extra body and makes it easier to run through the pleater and also makes smocking on the lighter weight fabric easier.  I love using the Victorian batiste for my English Smocking heirlooms, however, there is definitely more sheen to the Nelona and the Swiss Cotton Sateen.  I hope this helps – good luck with your heirloom sewing.

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Just Ask Rita – Smocking vs. English Smocking

Question:   Stephanie writes:  Could you please explain the difference between regular smocking and English smocking? My mom loves to sew and I know she has done some smocking in the past but I don’t know what kind. I would like to impress her with my knowledge.

Answer: Smocking refers to the beautiful embroidery that is used to decorate as well as gather fabric. The difference between regular smocking and English smocking is the method used to create the gathers and the embroidery.

Regular smocking is a one-step process: the embroidery stitches are worked over a grid of evenly spaced dots to create the gathers and the embroidery design at the same time.

English smocking is the art of embellishing pre-gathered fabric with embroidery stitches on top of the gathered pleats. English smocking is a two-step process: first the fabric is gathered and then the embroidery stitches are worked over the pleats.

For more detailed information, refer to my page “Stitching Tips and Tricks”.

Century Old Christening Gown

Drawn Thread Work

Wow! A few weeks ago I had the privilege of handling a century old christening gown.   The gown design was all done in hand embroidered drawn thread work.   It was absolutely lovely and the embroidery was impeccable.   I was asked to recreate this gown – what an interesting challenge this will be. 

Drawn thread work is the art of withdrawing the weft threads from a piece of fabric and then doing embroidery over the remaining vertical warp threads.   Beautiful lacey designs are created by the various ways in which the warp threads are manipulated with the hand embroidered stitches and needle weaving.   Traditionally this type of work was done on even weave fabrics such as linen.   This christening gown appears to have been made of a linen batiste fabric.   Currently I am searching for a fabric that will be supple and soft enough for a christening gown, the threads may be easily withdrawn, and the fabric will be strong enough to support the hand embroidery stitches.   I have located several sources and samples are on the way.   I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one of the samples will be exactly what I am searching for.