Friday, October 31, 2008

Fortuny Applique'

Recently I created a new border using a Fortuny fabric as an applique' on a Michael Smith Jasper Collection velvet. The design is inspired from an architectural element in a book on the work of Alberto Pinto.

I simplified the design, adhered an iron-on backing to the Fortuny and sent both to a company that could laser cut the pattern. Once that process was complete, I could iron the Fortuny in place on the velvet, then outline the shapes with cording and chain stitch. This pattern is suitable for both drapery and furniture.

Custom Monogram

DMC is one of the most important names in the embroidery world. Having been established in the mid 1700’s as a fabric printing business, it later developed it’s now famous reputation in the production of mercerized cotton thread and with the help of Therese de Dillmont in the 1800’s became responsible for the development of the embroidery program well known to so many generations.

At the request of many interior designers, I needed to add cotton thread to my palette and knew DMC was the place to go. I purchased about 350 colors in cones that were compatible with my Tajima computerized embroidery machine. Above is a large scale monogram that is scaled for pillows or a chair back. Although the design is actually two A initials artfully combined, a found example in one of my many books on monogram initials, it is a pleasing shape simply as a flourish and can add great style to a modern or traditional interior.

The fabric is from Cowtan & Tout and of course the thread is from DMC. My very good friend and magnificent digitizer Jerilee Auclair is responsible for the digitizing of this beauty. Her artistry is beyond compare!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Philippe Stark Embroidery at the SLS Beverly Hills

Today I shipped 6 embroidered leather panels that will be used as chair backs. The project is the new SLS hotel in Beverly Hills and the designer is Philippe Stark working with SBE.

The images are stylized “Mom” tattoos for oval back chairs that will grace a pastry lounge which will undoubtedly be my favorite place in the near by hotel.

Along with these chair backs, I’ve also embroidered the wool skirts on 6 pool tables and banquette backs in the “Tapas Bar” – black bull heads on black leather. The playful nature of this work is charming and I’m so pleased to be a part of this exciting project.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Custom Pillows

A cording technique is used to create these two custom pillows made by using a Cornely embroidery machine from the turn of the last century. These machines are the precursors of the computerized embroidery machines of today and require the competent hand of a specialist to control the placement of embroidery on the fabric surface.

The Cornely combines a core yarn with a multiple thread bobbin. The bobbin thread covers the core creating the final cord. The bobbin uses as much as 10 threads allowing a wide range of color options.

The inspiration of the design came from a fabric design which included paisley and other motifs which became nicely abstracted when simplified. I ironed the pleated trim – a nice touch. The ground fabric is a subtle pattern which brings interesting depth to the design.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bed Canopy Border

Yesterday I completed the last three of five panels for Michael S. Smith. The panels will be used as bed drapes and canopy valences for a project in Rancho Mirage.

The border is inspired by eastern European traditional cross-stitch embroidery and utilizes computerized technology. The pattern was selected because it works well with the character, colors and images of the room’s area rug.

Typically the embroidery process includes the use of stabilizing backings. These backings are generally tear-away or cut-away paper like substances that remain in part under the embroidered thread. This pattern has large areas of cross-stitch like pattern worked on a woven hemp fabric from Rose Tarlow Melrose House. I decided to try something different – a water soluble backing. This allowed me to soak the completed panels in water to remove all the backing thus allowing thread on fabric only and a gentle, appropriate drape to the fabric.

After soaking the fabric overnight, I rolled the panels in toweling to absorb as much of the water as possible, then I steam pressed the panels dry to finish them properly. The result, though time consuming, results in a beautiful, flowing, natural flowing fabric.

There are many challenges in our industry – I always look for ways that I can use the best of current technology to give the richest look possible; the best of both worlds, so to speak. Although the process is time consuming, I had the help of my associate, Darlene Dando and her amazing 4 head embroidery machine to speed up this process and love the end result.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Satin Stich Leaves

A new book once again provides inspiration. This pattern was created by a gentleman in the early 1700’s. The design is rather direct and bold for that time period thus it has a very modern look, especially when translated to thread.

The leaves measure about 3/8” at their widest point, which makes the satin stitch glow. The rule with using rayon thread is the shorter the stitch, the more matte it appears; the longer the stitch, the more lustrous. Rayon is my preference when using my computerized embroidery machine as it has a flexibility that works well with most designs and technical aspects of the machine and it has a great color choice. Oddly, polyester thread, which is stronger, washes well and withstands harsh light, used to have a more matte appearance; but recently, there has been a trend by thread manufacturers to give it the same glossy texture of rayon.

Cotton thread is the conceptual choice by most designers. Valued for its matte appearance and its natural origin, it offers a look that is unique yet traditional. The downside to cotton is the limited color palette and the lack of local stock. I buy DMC cotton by the cone for my machine and own about every color available (approximately 350.) Ordering a cone can take a minimum of 6 weeks from France: if the color is out of stock, it can take longer. On the other hand, I have a local supply of thousands of colors of rayon thread.

I hope to use the branch of leaves and berries on Kerry Joyce "Lynne" dining chair backs. Each of the 8 backs would be individually designed and no two backs would be the same. I will also use the design to make some pillows.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Elective art classes in college were great – Edinboro University of Pennsylvania was known for having a large art department. My undergraduate work was in art education; my MFA work in weaving and textile design.

During my education I was introduced to Trapunto. In Italian, the word means “to embroider.” Traditionally used by quilters, this technique originated around the fourteenth century – possibly in Sicily. The concept spread throughout Europe and made its way to this country by immigrants.

In school, I was taught that stitching through two layers of fabric was the first step in achieving the design. This created a double layer part of which could act as a pocket. One would make a small cut in the back fabric, use it to stuff fiber into the “pocket” then sew it closed.

Today, I can embroider two layers of fabric at once on my computerized embroidery machine and then, using a hollow needle threaded with a large spool of cotton thread, I can use an air compressor to basically blow fiber inside the pocket. Muslin is generally used for the backing of my more decorative front fabric.

Here is a chair back that I have digitized using bean stitch and satin stitches. I selected areas for the filling based on size and impact. Because the chair back is highly detailed, the relief is more subtle.

The effect is lovely – I’ve not only used it for pillows and chair backs but have also used it for borders on curtains and roman shades for interior designer Kim Alexandriuk.

Curtains Away

Here is a picture of part of my curtain project. My garment rack is 5’ high which will give you an idea of the scale of these panels. They have been steam pressed, folded carefully and delivered to the drapery workroom.

I will next be starting banquette backs for the new SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills. The design is by SBE in conjunction with Philippe Stark. The image is this wonderful bull head which will be embroidered on black leather. Then I have 6 chair backs to do with a design by Stark – four variations of “Mom” Tattoos with Roses for chairs in the Pastry Lounge. That’s where I want to be!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Graphic Elegance

I’m just about to finish production on two pair of curtains for Madeline Stuart as mentioned below. The fabric is medium-blue gray wool sateen from Rogers & Goffigon, available at Cowtan & Tout in the PDC. It is one of my favorite embroidery fabrics. The stitches seem to relax into the material with the steam from my iron and the thread melds together to form a lovely embellished surface.

The design is a classic two color modified scallop using a tone-on-tone thread color for the lower element and an ecru color for the repeating overlay. The effect is graphic elegance. Here is a photo of the pattern sewing on my Tajima computerized embroidery machine. As you can see – I must make many modifications and repetitions to fill a leading edge of 105 inches in length and a full width hem at 55 inches.

I’ll post another photo of the ironed panels. I greatly enjoy working with Madeline and her associate, Laura Smith. Madeline’s work is beautiful as you can see by her web site portfolio.

Custom Embroidered Acanthus Curtain Border

Custom embroidered curtains have become a much sought after element in elegant interiors today. I am currently working on two pair of curtains for interior designer Madeline Stuart. They are going to be installed next month in a residence in New York and have to be at the workroom tomorrow for final construction.

The photo above is a pair of custom embroidered leading edges of one pair of curtains I recently completed for interior designer Ann Holden of the New Orleans’ firm Holden & Dupuy. The design, a modified version of my large Acanthus pattern was increased in size to accommodate the great height of the windows and the size of the room: scale is important in the design of a border.

The outlines of this custom embroidered treatment are created with a turn-of-the-century hand guided embroidery machine and consist of about 10 threads circling a core thread at the same time it is attached with a bobbin to the silk satin. That treatment is followed by areas of shading accomplished with chain stitch.
More on Madeline’s curtains – I’ll post a photo in a few days.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Fine Art of Hand Beading Fortuny Fabric

Nearly 20 years ago, I started to hand bead fabric. My first attempt was on a panel of African Mud Cloth. I selected sienna colored glass seed beads and stitched every one myself. The effect was at once primitive and lush and wonderfully decorative. I now don’t remember who purchased that first pillow, but I do remember about the next pair.

Fortuny fabric was my next attempt. I had some left over pieces of some brown and gold Corone that was used on a project, and found some wonderful bronze beads that accented the surface beautifully. These two pillows were heavily beaded with both seed and 3-cut beads if I remember correctly and may have even had some bugle beads, too. My partner at the time, Steve Luxenberg and I took them to a place we thought they should be: Therien on La Cienega here in West Hollywood. After a very short time and the interior designer Leonard Stanley purchased them. We were told he bought them for himself, which is a real compliment.

Pictured is a detail of a beautiful pair of rust and gold Fortuny pillows with bronze beads and gold lined crystal beads. Steve used to say, "beading Fortuny is like gilding a lily." He was right, but sometimes gilding can make such a lovely difference! Every now and then there is that combination of materials and technique that just feels so correct, and I think this is one of them. I hope you agree.

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Floral Border

Having been a collector of antique embroidery for many years, I have had the opportunity to study the handwork used to create embroidery of the past. Donna Cardwell has written a book on these wonderful antique pieces – see my book review below.

I enjoyed the opportunity to interpret the spirit of the antique pieces in a project I completed last week for interior designer Suzanne Rheinstein, who’s showroom Hollyhock, located in West Hollywood a few blocks from the PDC, is a great testament to her taste and talent.

The pattern is a traditional floral. On off white linen, it is a breath of fresh air. Using the elements from a fabric draping the master bed, I created my own design using computer digitizing software. After many layout and color samples and direction from Suzanne, we came up with the pattern pictured here. I very much enjoyed working with Suzanne and her associate Kate O'Dorisio.

Have a look- I’ll provide you with a nice detail shot of the corner motif.

Silk Art Embroidery by Donna Cardwell

Collecting antique embroidery has been an obsession for years. Long before I started creating embroidery myself, I have been drawn to this art of the past. Throughout the centuries the purpose of embroidery has basically remained the same: to embellish. The result of embroidery evolved into a status marker. Around the turn of the 19-20th century for a short period of time there was an effort to combine the fine art of embroidery with commerce. Donna Cardwell explores this period of time and highlights the people responsible for this national phenomenon.

We are lucky to have this historic narrative as often times these details are lost to history. Deemed somewhat trivial after the passing of several generations, there is now a rebirth of interest in this lovely work that is still so accessible today.

Donna’s book is available at a Schiffer Books, Donna’s website Society Silk and other book sales websites available through Google and other search engines.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Mlinaric On Decorating" by Mirabel Cecil & David Mlinaric

Having been a book addict for many years, I have decided to periodically tell readers about new acquisitions as well as my personal all time favorites. Yesterday I purchased a new book from one of my favorite book shops, Potterton Books at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. Their other US shop is located in the D&D building in NY. The book "Mlinaric On Decorating" by Mirabel Cecil & David Mlinaric is exceptionally photographed with the most beautiful rooms - richly understated and timelessly elegant. There is much valuable reading material here as the book covers an extensive time frame and projects ranging from important public galleries such as London's National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum but also interiors for many private clients such as Mick Jagger and the Rothschild family. Being an embroiderer myself that specializes in interior furnishings, my eye for detail is very much satisfied by each photo. I only wish the bed featured on page 254 from the Muse residence in Dallas had detail shots of the embroidered treatment on the headboard, canopy, hangings and bed skirt - they appear wonderful but are appropriately subtle and pale - so I can't see details clearly enough. This is truly one great addition to my library. I hope you will enjoy it, too! Published by Frances Lincoln Limited $65