On a recent visit to the Henry Art Gallery (www.henryart.org), I had a chance to spend some time absorbing two very wonderful embroidered textiles from central Europe. Of course, photographs are never as good as seeing the objects in-person, but hopefully you can at least get some idea of the incredible level of detail and labor intensiveness needed to create such beauty!

This is a back view of a very densely embroidered cap from Czechoslovakia, made sometime in the mid 20th c. The metallic shapes are delightfully 3-d — they were probably stitched over a shaped core of some kind — and originally were much shinier than they are today. I got up really close and even got to see the underside! (It’s always incredibly exciting to see just how it was done.) The level of detail is incredible — just think about stitching back and forth, over and over again, to cover all those shapes with thread!  

I also got to spend some quality time (no glass between us!) with this decorative apron from Yugoslavia. Here’s a closeup of one corner.

Satin stitch is predominant here, as it was for the cap (satin stitch is taking long stitches back and forth right next to each other; the overall effect is very shiny and smooth). Here, however, the embroidery was done by machine on flat fabric.

With satin stitch, you have to keep your stitches short enough to avoid snagging. Obviously, the motifs on this apron are quite large, and just filling up the spaces with single stitches could result in some very long stretches of thread! But, very cleverly, the embroidery designer broke up the largest bits of flower petals into a grid and stitched the squares and bars separately. Subdividing the big areas keeps your stitches from getting too long and adds an additional layer of  texture that you might miss on first glance; I love the way it adds dimension and interest to the motifs while still ‘coloring in’ all of the flower and retaining the overall satin-y look.

In other news, we’re sewing, sewing, sewing — which means yes,

the spring line is coming!

 We’re working on a release date and hope to have it finalized by the weekend; one of us will definitely post again once we’ve got it all settled!


All images from the Henry Art Gallery’s Website, www.henryart.org. Click on the pictures to visit each item’s individual page!


the Alice in Wonderland dress

It’s been a long time in coming, but we’re very pleased to announce that we’ve finished the Alice in Wonderland dress! And we’re delighted with how it came out — it’s one of our best custom projects yet!

We started with the perfect fabrics — silk charmeuse in a pale ocean blue, topped with one of the softest, sheerest fabrics on the market: silk chiffon, in a glorious Alice blue. Using very soft fabrics gives the dress the same look as the original from the film. (Anything made up doll-scale is usually better with a softer, lighter fabric, as normal fabric doesn’t drape and hang the same way on their smaller frames.)

We referenced many photos of the original dress, carefully trying to match the overall look and feel of the costume while adapting it to doll proportions.

We also selected the trims carefully, using a fine French lace for the hem ’embroidery’, and a tiny, delicate lace for the neckline. The effect is enchanting!

We took special care to make the sleeves accurate; the original dress features a square armscye with a tightly gathered sleeve cap and three tucks along the sleeve body. It took a little persistence to get the silk chiffon to co-operate, but we have no regrets about putting in the extra effort!

All in all, it was definitely one of our most ambitious projects, and we’re quite pleased with the way it turned out!

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Tidbits of a newsy nature

Yes, it’s February already! (So, technically, we’re late. But it needed to be done…) Last weekend, Samantha and Melody and I sat down and sketched out a rough plan for 2011. There’s still plenty of details to figure out as we go along, but I think in the long run it will free us up to be even more creative and productive, and we’re all very excited to see how it will help Melody Valerie Couture grow. 2011 promises to have some wonderful new things in store for us! We think you’ll like it too — and we can’t wait to share the relevant bits of it with you as they come up!

In addition, we’re finally finishing up some long-overdue custom work — look for photos coming soon!

And, because posts are better with photos, I’ll leave you with this one, which I snapped yesterday while walking around outside. The weather’s been lovely — clear, cold and dry — and the sunlight is just gorgeous on that rock wall, don’t you think?