Swiss insertion

As promised, here’s another treat from my recent trip to Nancy’s Sewing Basket!

This gorgeous swiss insertion just knocked my socks off. It’s huge (well, about 2.5″ wide), but super detailed at the same time. And I loved the blend of art-deco flair with traditional embroidered flowers!

‘Swiss’ is very densely woven (if it’s good swiss, that is) from incredibly long-staple cotton… Ok, bear with me on a little rabbit trail here. Cotton grows in ‘bolls’ which are then ‘picked’ to untangle it into long strands rather than the giant lump it grows in. You can do it mechanically, but all machines cut the fibers in the boll up, to some extent or other, leaving you with short, choppy strands of cotton — that’s called “short staple” cotton. When such fibers are spun and woven into fabric, the finished cloth usually has a slight fuzz all over the top, since it’s the ends of the short fibers frizzing out everywhere. If cheap quilting cotton were a hairstyle, it’d be a crew cut!

By contrast, when you ‘hand-pick’ cotton, you can be much more gentle and get single, long fibers instead of multiple short fibers. The resulting fiber is called “long-staple” cotton and when you weave it up, the surface is incredibly smooth. It’s also very strong, since each individual fiber is longer. (Which rope bridge do you trust more — the one with long, continuous ropes across the chasm, or the one where each rope has been knotted a hundred times?) When you weave long-staple cotton densely, like in the case of swiss insertions, you can trim right next to the edge and it won’t ravel. Wow!

This is also swiss (it’s the name for a kind of fabric, but in this case it really did come from Switzerland!) It’s vintage, and hand-embroidered. So beautiful, it makes me almost weep. It’s only about an inch and a half wide  from raw edge to raw edge — and how I wish you could see the tiny stitches in person!

Still to come: French lace!



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