Swimming in Swatches

No matter the type of handiwork, I’ve always hated making swatches. I do them because I know how valuable they are, but it’s still my least favorite part of a project. So of course, I decided to launch an idea that would require me to swatch things over and over and over again until they’re just right. What was I thinking??

Well, mostly I was thinking about how awesome it would be to bring period embroidery designs to life in a way that didn’t make them look flat and modern. It’s been a very interesting learning curve, figuring out how to translate historic pieces into something a machine can reproduce, and it hasn’t been without a few hiccups. I know enough about good digitizing to know I don’t know how to do it myself, but most professional digitizers need some coaxing to step outside their comfort zones. Once it looks good on the computer, then comes the work of making sure it looks good in practice – and that means endless swatches, in silk, cotton, and wool threads, on a variety of cotton and linen fabrics.

This silk on cotton voile swatch was stunning...until I washed away the stabilizer and the edge collapsed.

This silk thread on cotton voile swatch was stunning…until I washed away the stabilizer and the edge collapsed. Working on potential fixes, because this is gorgeous on sheer fabric!

As you might expect, some combinations work better than others, or look more period.  For example, take a peek at the same pattern in both silk and wool.  What a difference, right?

Wool on the left, silk on the right.  Can you see the difference in texture?

Wool on the left, silk on the right. Can you see the difference in texture?

It’s helped me discover issues – for example, cutwork on linen doesn’t act the same as cutwork on cotton voile.  I’ve also learned, and been frustrated by, the fact that some color ranges are available in some threads but not others. So my beloved yellow-greens are readily available in silk and wool, but ridiculously hard to find in cotton. Some colors that look great on the spools just look garish or clash when stitched out together. With each new discovery comes a new swatch or two… or five.

Just a few of the swatches so far.

Just a few of the swatches so far.

The good news is that although I’m long past my original target date, I am getting close to having something to publish. I’m also thinking ahead to the next few patterns.  So far I’ve only worked on 18th c. and Regency era designs for women, but I’d like to expand my range to include earlier pieces as well as some items for men, like pocketbooks and caps.

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