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A Regency bonnet veil

Earlier this summer I received an inquiry about making a Regency bonnet veil, which was exciting because I hadn’t considered that application for my embroidery designs. The inspiration example showed a length of wide antique lace, very delicate and flowing.

Of course, embroidery and lace are different, but good lace in wide widths can be difficult to find, not to mention expensive.  We discussed fabrics and settled on using some sort of netting – silk or cotton – as the base, to somewhat mimic the look of the lace. She loved this design from 1826, which has a scalloped edge and a delicate floral design.

I knew the embroidery, especially the scallops, would add a bit of body to the bottom of the veil, and so I wanted to make sure the netting itself was as delicate as possible. I was nervous about ordering online without being able to touch the fabric, and wasn’t sure a small sample would tell me much about the drape. Luckily, I was headed to Costume College soon, and decided to stop at Lacis along the way so I could see a variety of netting types in person.

The choices were silk netting or several sizes of cotton netting. The silk illusion was absolutely gorgeous – airy and gossamer, and would be an amazing fabric in the right application. Unfortunately, it also felt like it would snag as easily as silk stockings, and I wasn’t sure it would hold up to being handled as much as a bonnet veil might be.

I ended up choosing the 18 holes per inch fine cotton in a natural color.  The extra fine seemed a little too dense, and the medium was much too coarse. Even though the netting was sized (like most fabrics are when sold), I could tell that it would drape nicely once washed, and the staff assured me that it would only get softer with age.

While soft and flowing is good for a veil, it’s NOT good for the embroidery process.  The first order of business was to stabilize it as much as I could, so I started by spraying it with dissolved wash away. That added quite a bit of body to the netting, though less than it does for other sheer fabrics, because there really isn’t much actual “fabric” in something made mostly of holes. However, it was no longer a wiggly fabric, which was perfect.

Then I used my usual combo of temporary spray adhesive* and wash away stabilizer, so that all layers would be held together securely. This was a great place to use up scraps, since I was only embroidering a narrow band along the edge. I also used my 4″ hoop, partly because the scraps were narrow, and partly because I hoped it would hold the netting more securely than some of my larger hoops.

The design barely fits in a 4″ hoop, so I also got to practice lining things up the old fashioned way. I have to admit, I’ve been spoiled by the fanciness of my machine, and rarely worry about precise hooping. I drew a line on the fabric where the inside edge of the hoop needed to line up, and made a small pencil mark on the hoop where the scallop needed to start. I found that spraying the top of the fabric with a little spray adhesive helped me stick the top hoop right where I wanted it, and then I could align it easily with the bottom hoop. I think that little bit of stickiness also reduced any possible slippage from the fabric, which I need to remember for future applications.

For thread, I used Mettler 50 weight silk finish in Candlewick* as both top and bobbin thread, because it matched the natural colored netting perfectly. It’s not technically a machine embroidery thread, but it is the same weight as the DMC cotton I often use and I already had it on hand. I also considered silk thread, but it sometimes gets crunchy feeling after washing – fine on a gown, but not good for a veil that might touch your face. I also figured that the cotton would hold up to repeated washing better than silk, and a veil might well need to be washed.

Embroidered veil detail

It worked perfectly! It was actually one of the easier fabrics I’ve worked with once it was stabilized, so this felt like an easy project.  The netting didn’t have any issues with the cutwork edge, and after washing, it’s still soft and flowing.  The cutwork does add body to the bottom edge – it’s a lot of stitches, and if I were going to do more veils, I might see if I could lighten it up a little. Again, probably not an issue on a gown, where the hem could use a little body anyway.

The floral part of the design turned out amazing. It’s very difficult to tell the front side from back, and it almost looks woven in, like it’s part of the netting itself.  I love the way it looks, and think it bears some further exploration. In fact, I was inspired enough that I started a Pinterest board just for embroidered netting. I think this would make a great Regency gown or embroidered shawl.

Before I shipped it off, I took a moment to drape it over a bonnet and see how it might look.

Regency bonnet veil

 

What project would you make with embroidered net?

 

*Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. If you want to see a full list of the products I use, check out the Products I Love page.

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