These three purses are from my vintage purse collection. All are embroidered with tambour embroidery, possibly French. Clockwise from the left:
Handbag with plunger clasp and chain handle: black moire silk with cream and pink roses and sage green leaves. Circa early 1900’s.
Handbag with double frame and cloth handle: black silk satin with light pink, deep pink, crimson, and mauve colored roses and olive green leaves. Circa early 1900’s.
Handbag that flips open flat with chain handle: black faille with pink, red, yellow and orange roses and olive green leaves.
Tambour embroidery, introduced to the Western world by France, is a continuous worked chain stitch formed with a tambour hook, which forms a loop similar to a crochet chain. The stitch is formed on the fabric with the thread held underneath in one hand while the other hand inserts the hook down through the fabric to catch the thread. The needle is brought back through the same hole, forming a loop. The following stitches are formed a short distance from the previous stitch, catching the loop of the last stitch at the beginning of the next.
Floral embroidery is a descriptive term that was used for both thread embroidery (silk, wool or chenille); and ribbonwork flowers (a piece of ribbon or fabric that was stitched with a needle and thread). The flowers were arranged in sprays, or as a single bud on men’s waistcoats, ladies gowns, shawls and other accessories. Popular stitches for the embroideries were satin, long and short, and stem. The chain stitch that could also be worked with a tambour needle is often used as the only stitch in the design.
Ribbon work flowers such as aerophane or crepe floral embroidery (used in the late 19th century) had the details of leaves and stems stitched in with thread embroidery. The ribbon, a thin silk gauze or crepe would be cut then gathered with stitches to form each petal of the flower. Narrow silk “China” ribbons were available in shaded colors, and were first used in ribbon work floral embroidery. This narrow silk ribbon could also be threaded into a large eyed needle and stitched into flower shapes (usually a straight stitch) with added silk thread embroidered accents. The combination of ribbonwork flowers and silk ribbon embroidery gave the design dimension. The top image is from a satin purse, with the ribbonworked flowers and leaves of stitched chenille. A gift from my husband for my birthday, probably circa early 1900’s. It is incredible in person.
Vintage Floral Sewing Bag
The second image with the whimsical floral vignettes was made, I believe as a sewing or knitting bag, but I use it as a purse, circa 1940’s judging from the fabrics used. Some of the flowers are made with ribbon, some with fabric scraps, some with added felt details. Primitive embroidery and beading were used to enhance the floral sections. I found this lovely treasure on eBay, and I adore it.
The term gold-work embroidery was originally used to describe a form of decorative embroidery that employed real gold threads in a mixture of surface applications and techniques that use both laid and stitched yarns. The term now is extended to gold-work and metallic thread embroidery and includes all metals: gold (though this proved costly for most industries and was not used much after the 10th century), silver gilt, silver, pewter and copper, and metallic (alloy or synthetic) colored threads and yarns.
These two examples of incredible metal-thread embroidery are part of my vintage purse collection. The handbag I purchased at an estate sale, has copper, green and bronzed colored embroidery threads. The coin purse is mainly copper and silver colors, and I found this on eBay.
The November/December 2007 issue of PieceWork Magazine, included an article on my collection of vintage handbags: The Glamour of it All Collecting Vintage Handbags and La Vie En Rose the purse shown here to embroider. The version in the article shows the back of the purse, and the instructions are for a smaller embroidered floral vignette.
During my research for the article I collected quite a bit of additional information and I have written two other articles that may be of interest if you collect vintage purses.
This purse is made from black silk shantung fabric. I embroidered the stitches in #5 pearl cotton thread, using six colors for the flowers and three for the leaves. I used a variety of traditional embroidery stitches including: bouillon knots, woven rose and spokes, cast-on, lazy daisy, feathered leaf, French Knots, and Peking knot.
This purse appeared in the March/ April 2007 issue of PieceWork Magazine. I wrote an article on silk fabrics, and this piece was included as a project to make. I enjoyed working with these lovely spring colors, and as always the silk ribbons that were used in this project.
The pattern is similar to the “Climbing Wisteria Vines” purse shape. The base is made from a silk dupioni fabric. The ribbon worked flowers are made from Hanah silk bias ribbons, and Mokuba picot edged ombre ribbons. The embroidery is done with 4mm and 7mm silk ribbons and 4mm Mokuba ombre ribbon.
A vintage reproduction Czech glass button is used for the closure, with reproduction jacquard ribbon. The edge and the cord handle are made from Hanah silk bias ribbon.