Woman holding some kind of needlework pattern, probably
transfer paper, and fabric with the pattern transferred
This post is about patterns for needlework and how seamstresses transferred their purchased patterns in the past---stamping, pouncing, hot iron transfers, waste paper and tracing the design onto fabric.
"If one is near a first-class art embroidery shop she can of course have this stamping done for her...."
explained Home Needlework magazine in 1906. So we know the services a first class needlework shop would offer.
However, the home needleworker or the home pattern designer had many options to reproduce designs.
The ad above ran in the Brooklyn Eagle for weeks in 1858.
"Quilting Patterns---Something New---A very useful and time saving article for forming patterns on bed quilts and ladies' skirts, price 25 cents at J. Bunce's, 94 Fulton, corner Henry Street."
John and Richard Bunce ran a hardware and furnishing store on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. They may have been selling some kind of transfer or stamping kit.
Tracing the Pattern onto Paper
1829 needlework advice:
"Patterns...may be purchased at most of the fancy-shops...A pattern may be copied, by placing a thin piece of paper over the original, and tracing it through, against a window."
(I still use this method when I'm too lazy to find the light box.)
One might trace onto a suitable translucent sheet of paper but if you had none you could make tracing paper by soaking the paper in lard or kerosene, according to a set of directions in Blakelee's Industrial Encyclopedia in 1889. (Do not try either of these methods at home, especially by candlelight.)
Blakelee's had you glue the tracing paper to a piece of cardboard and then cut the cardboard for patchwork templates. A time-honored tradition.
François-Hubert Drouais, Madame Pompadour, 1760s
Collection of the National Gallery in London
She may be hooking in a tambour frame, using a hook to chain stitch
An 1884 patent case from William Briggs discussed pattern for needlework. The plaintiffs contrasted their new method with the customary techniques. In old and new methods a commercial design is first printed with ink onto paper using block printing.
International Quilt Study Center & Museum
has archived Mountain Mist's steel plates for printing
patterns on paper for batting wrappers.
"In domestic embroidery it is customary to use paper upon which the pattern to be embroidered is printed from surface blocks or otherwise. This paper is stitched upon the fabric to be embroidered, and when the embroidery is complete the paper upon which the pattern had been printed is torn out."
Nancy Zieman showing how to tear away a pattern printed on stabilizer
This transfer method is sometimes called waste paper. I have used it many times for hand embroidering words. You write words on high quality paper and baste it to the fabric; embroider through both the paper and the fabric and when finished tear away the paper. It works quite well if the paper doesn't shred too much.
Heat transferring ink was invented in the 1850s or '60s.
The Briggs patent lawsuit discussed their new method of pattern copying, patented in England in . 1874, which involved printing designs in a novel ink---"a bituminous substance or varnish and transferring the said pattern to the fabric when required, by the application of heat to the back of the paper....A beautiful clear pattern of any colour is marked on the fabrics."
Transferable patterns were sold in this 1886 book
from Briggs in Manchester, England, who may have held
most of the early patents.
The patterns were bound into the book. It's a wonder any of the books are left but here's a digital version:
Pouncing or Stamping Through Perforations
A fourth method of transferring pattern is by punching holes through the paper pattern, securing it to the fabric and sifting a powder through the holes. The powder is called pounce powder or stamping powder.
An old pounce shaker
One can make a tool for applying powder by stitching a small coarse cotton bag, filling it with powder and banging or pouncing the bag against the pattern lines. Powder sifts into the holes.
You can still buy pounce powder
Cardboard pattern with pounce powder sticking to the holes
Many patterns sold by professional designer were pre-punched with holes. A clever mechanic could perforate several sheets of paper at once with her designs. Or the customer could punch holes herself in a printed pattern with a sharp needle or a special tool, a pounce wheel.
Vintage tracing wheel
A perforating wheel looked like this but probably sharper and with spikes spaced further apart.
We used to use this type of tracing wheel with dressmaker's
carbon paper (yet another way to transfer designs).
See a post on Emma here:
The blogger at Q is for Quilter found a catalog advertising "Perforated Stamping Patterns"
from the 1880s
This 1915 ad in a needlework magazine for a battery-operated perforator tells you that it's a "money maker." "Greatest help in [a] Fancy Work Shop. Perforates as a pencil writes. Several patterns at once."
Well, I wouldn't invest 6 of your 1915 dollars in this item but it does give us a little insight into making money by making patterns.
Contemporary pattern to be perforated
And the machine to do it with
I think this punch would be more reliable than the "Midget Perforator." See a recent Threads post on perforating design.
J.B. Marchais, Girl in a Blue Skirt Sewing
Collection of the Bowes Museum
She has Berlin work in her lap
With all the trials and troubles detailed above you can see why counted or charted needlework has
always been so popular. No tracing, just counting.
Here's a post on a New York fancy store:
Read more about pattern transferring in Molly Proctor's Art Needlework & Embroidery Transfers: