Little Christmas Star! Heirloom Linen Stomacher c1730
A special little 'star' christmas embroidery to share with you this Christmas!
Over the years, I have been quite lucky with stomachers, and have examined several in a range from the most magnificent professional workshop examples through to those that have no embroidery at all but are decorated with silk flounces with 'pinked' edges, simple but also completely lovely.
This example is certainly home made and we know that it has been in one family over the centuries because of a modern note, written to the back of the frame it came in. The lady writes: 'Lady's Stomacher. Old, worked by family.'
The lady is clearly not a textile collector for two reasons - First, the following brief description she provides is not quite accurate. Second, she had it framed to preserve it, but it was stuck to the backing board. Eek!
Never mind, the small damage caused to the [probably] homespun linen stomacher lining [see images] by the very strong line of sticky tape, is a small price to pay for something that has been in one family for many generations. I always prefer the personal to the grand, but that's just me!
You can find stomachers in many reference books because they are so particular to the 17th and 18th Century. The books I have used most for this one are:
'Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century' [Kyoto Institute]
'What Clothes Reveal' [Linda Baumgarten]
'18th Century Embroidery Techniques' [Gail Marsh]
[Please see The Study for full references.] Lots of examples to study in these three favourite books!
This stomacher is unusual in that it is all linen. Fine linen to the face and lined in probably homespun linen as mentioned earlier.
It is also unusual because of the background decoration. Now, there is an early type of embroidery decoration often used in flat quilting, called vermicular embroidery. This is a pattern that has the literal meaning of 'worm like'! It was used quite often in the first half of the 18th Century and appears as a continual sewing line of stitching in the shape of lozenges or curves. In the early 18th Century this was almost always decorated in yellow thread. I have written about this in one of my Blogs [Can't remember which one!]
So, now, lets look at the background embroidery to this stomacher. Not vermicular, but in yellow silk thread, we find tiny crosses embroidered randomly all over the piece. In yellow silk thread! I am quite sure that this is an alternative method to vermicular.
In my research, I cannot find any stomacher with a linen face and with this vermicular type yellow thread background after 1750. The linen one's I have found mostly date to c1730. If you have the above books, here is where to find some good examples, and also comparisons with the very grand types embroidered in professional workshops.
In the Kyoto Institute Volume 1 book, see pages 42 - 47 for numerous examples, with one linen example on page 45, dating to the 1720-30's.
In Linda Baumgarten's book, there are 4 stomachers on page 10, two of linen. See the bottom example for a similar design dated 1700 - 1730. Baumgarten also shows the best contrast between those made in fine workshops and those made at home.
Finally, Gail Marsh shows illustrations of quilted stomachers with the latest date, also in linen, which she dates to 1730 - 1750.
This stomacher does not have tabs to attach the stomacher to the foundation garments. These un-tabbed stomachers can also be seen in the above books, often pinned to the stays and then secured over with criss cross cords on the gown. But not always. Remember that English examples, such as these, were no longer required when the closed bodice front English gowns came into fashion.
This is a small stomacher, measuring just 11.75" long at front from central dip to base, 7.5" wide at the top and side top to centre of base being 13". I have examined larger and one's of a similar neat size.
The inwardly curved top edge has a line of silver thread binding, and all the other edges are bound in linen.
The naive but charming design is beautifully balanced and includes motifs of carnations, fushia and roses. I am hopeless at identifying motifs, so invite you to claim the others!
The colours of the silk thread used are predominantly red, green and yellow and I really like the subtle use of silver thread to add a little sparkle for those dark rooms of the period! [There is a wonderful story that ladies took a bag to the theatre, with the sole purpose of gently unwinding the silver & gold thread from Court coats of gentlemen sitting in front of them, without the poor gent having any idea that the precious metal was being stolen from them during the performance! Such was the demand for these most expensive threads!]
So, although home made, this accessory was only worn by grand ladies. Never by the 'ordinary' people of trade.
There are several embroidery techniques here - French knots, long & short stitch, stem stitch & chain. Even the flower heads are outlined in couched metal thread - so delicate but all adding depth and a little 'bling'!
Please be sure to read the condition report below, but this family preserved the stomacher with great love and care.
NB: For customers outside the UK.
Royal Mail International Tracked & Signed For have a maximum insurance claim value of £250.00. I cannot be responsible for excess insurance, so please either arrange your own insurance or contact me for an alternative shipping method with full cover.
As explained above, removing the stomacher from the awful modern sticky tape of the mount caused the backing linen to 'melt' at the lower section of the piece. I managed to remove the top section without causing any damage.
The bright side of this is that the holes caused enable us to see the original vibrant colours of the embroidery threads! These are not too different from the colours at the face, but naturally there is always some slight dulling after almost 300 years!
The top edge binding of silver thread has very slight losses.
There is slight darkening of the linen in places as you can see at some angles of the photographs. This is completely natural for a garment so old. The lining is amazingly light in colour apart from the damn residue from the sticky tape [excuse my frustration!]
I cannot find any losses at all to the embroidery!