Sunday, 12 August 2012

The bead embroidered mystery gift

Well, without a camera I don't have many new pics, but of cause I have loads of old ones. I always keep moaning about forgetting to post things I want to show etc -- now maybe I'll have some time to catch up. (Of cause I've already taken new photos as I "borrowed" my sis' camera yesterday in my patent move, which basically means she takes pics -- I ask for the camera to take a pic from my perspective -- we share it -- I end up hogging it. *lol* Yeah, she isn't thrilled about me doing that...)

Anyway, one series of photos I've been meaning to show you is this one, which you might have spotted on Flickr or a couple of embroidery forums.

My sis and me recently got this embroidered object from a woman who thought we might want to "harvest" the beads for our own beading. I think it's a shame to rip up this pretty beadwork and want to keep it even if I can't restore it. 

My sis was the once receiving it so I had to opportunity to ask about the piece at the time. So after a while I started posting pics online asking for more info, but without much success. I had asked my sis to talk to the person givining it to her to see if we could learn more about the origin and what it really was. Yesterday my sis remembered the giver having mentioned that it was a backseat. So it's part of a chair, but what kind of chair I wonder? Don't know anything about age or origin either. Don't even know if it's european or east asian (the giver have spent many years over there).

A bit about the piece: The technique is bead embroidery, using different stitches such as satin, stem, back stitch, with a needlepoint background stitched on canvas. Note that the beading isn't done on top of the needlepoint embroidery, but the needlepoint is stitched around the beadwork. Beads used are crystal clear and white and light grey opal and opaque seed beads with accents in haematite cuts. The flowers are padded with a thick, hard felt material. It is backed with what seems like a waxed or in other way treated cloth (see below). The size is about 46 x 23 cm. Weight -- don't know, but relatively heavy.

rip in the back shows canvas and stitches

Ok, the back is boring if you aren't interested in old embroidery so let's get on with more close-ups of the bead embroidery, shall we? Keep in mind that it is a piece in dire need of repairs so all pics aren't pretty -- and many of them were taken more in order to document the techniques used than anything else. If you enjoy bead embroidery and are interested in beading techniques, I hope these close-ups will be of interest to you. The rest of you can joy enjoy the workmanship and labour behind this amazing embroidery.

PS! For a really large pic of the whole embroidery, please see my Flickr page.

Notice gap i bottom left corner where you can see how the beadwork is done directly on the canvas.
Large leaf (left) has a chain stitch vein.

chain stitch flower with padded centre

close-up of padded centre with stitches attaching it visible.

Notice how the stems/stalks on the left overlap each other

padded buds or bell flowers -- not sure exactly what they are.

Thick padded flower with chain stitch centre

ribbons stitched in two colours

Hope you enjoyed the many pics -- and please do comment if you have any further info on this embroidery! I want to know more about it.


  1. Beautiful old work with its history hidden from us. Oh it is such a pity no beadwork is forever :/ Good luck in buyon a new camera :)

  2. This is a beautiful work of bead embroidery.The execution looks perfect. When I first saw it I thought it was a valance or a panel for suspension of some kind, maybe for a shelf. I can't really see how it could belong to a chair. It could hardly be an antimacassar. There are no signs of wear which should occur if it was used for a chair. The yellow felt looks like felt used for European goldwork and is used in the same way to create raised embroidery. The design and the stitches used look European to me. I've seen pics of antique valances in needlework and bead embroidery. However this is the most beautiful one. The former owner said it is from a chair. I'd suggest you to contact an embroidery guild or a museum.

  3. Thanks for sharing the bead embroidery! It's absolutely gorgeous, and I love seeing all the techniques that went into it.

    If you're looking for more information on it, Susan Elliot of the blog Plays With Needles would be a person to ask. I'm sure she'd drool over these photos!

    Also, thanks for pointing me in the direction of Gail Crosman Moore! I love the felting work she does. :)

  4. I hope you'll find a person who is able ro tell you something about this glorious work of bead art. The craftwomanship is amazing. Love the colours, the design and the stitches. I'm inspired to try something similar in my work, with dimensional details in beads. What do you think, are the beads Bohemian? Or maybe French? And what about the red floss, is it natural or synthetic? Are the pieces sewn together by hand or by machine? Are there any signs of this panel having been attached to something? By what means? The shape makes me think of a valance. The backing looks like thin burlap, but it is hard to see. Do you know Piecework Magazine? It's a wonderful source of knowledge about crafts of gone-by eras.Readers often send questions about their heirloom textiles to them. I think you can find lots of information about home decor on the Web. If it has been fashionable to decorate chairs with this kind of fancy panels, as antimacassars or whatever, you should be able to find some evidence of it. I guess it is not an option to contact the lady who gave your sister this treasure. Wish you luck!

  5. Antiquesandmooresales on Ebay are offering an early Victorian bead embroidered shelf cover that reminds of your embroidery. Intrigued by this mystery, I started browsing through pictures of Victorian needlework and bead embroidered objects, as I suspected that your lovely embroidery might be from that period. I saw several pieces with red background embellished with beads. I started looking for objects that were similar to yours. I guessed it could be a valance or lamberquin or something like that. Then I found the picture of the object on Ebay. The background is in needlepoint in red wool on canvas. Exactly like in your embroidery, the beads are stitched directly onto the canvas with yellow thread. Due to the low quality of the photos, I can't tell whether felt is used for raised embroidery. The combination of red and a nearly monochromatic mix of bead colours reminds of your embroidery. Your embroidery looks much more elegant and complicated to me. So, what do you think? am I on the right track? Milka

    1. Yes, that looks very similar -- great find! As you say, very similar in style and execution. I think the size of our piece could be around the size of a small shelf. It was really intersting, thanks!

  6. Looks like I've forgot to reply to all the comments here (my excuse being that I've been working -- and now the potato season is finally over!).

    First of all I want to thank you all for your valuable tips, ideas and suggestions. Both here and on a couple of forums where I've posted this, valances and lambrequins (I'm learning new words here!) have been recurring suggestions. I agree with the second comment: no real sign of wear that you'd expect from use on a chair. But now that shelf cover has been suggested: doesn't it look like pin marks at the top of the piece, if you look at the back? Sure it might have been pinned to a wall later (as it might've been put on an old armchair as embellishment by someone who didn't know what it was), but it could be a sign that it's been pinned to something like a shelf.

    I'm going to write an update post on this piece soon, recaping what's been suggested and so on.


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