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That reminds me to say a word on the fish-dye of the ancients: it was a
substantive dye and behaved somewhat as indigo. It was very permanent.
The colour was a real purple in the modern sense of the word, _i.e._ a
colour or shades of a colour between red and blue. The real Byzantine
books which are written on purple vellum give you some, at least, of its
shades. The ancients, you must remember, used words for colours in a way
that seems vague to us, because they were generally thinking of the
tone rather than the _tint_. When they wanted to _specify_ a red dye
they would not use the word purpureus, but coccineus, _i.e._ scarlet of
kermes.

The art of dyeing, I am bound to say, is a difficult one, needing for
its practice a good craftsman, with plenty of experience. Matching a
colour by means of it is an agreeable but somewhat anxious game to play.

As to the artistic value of these dye-stuffs, most of which, together
with the necessary mordant alumina, the world discovered in early times
(I mean early _historical_ times), I must tell you that they all make in
their simplest forms beautiful colours; they need no muddling into
artistic usefulness, when you need your colours bright (as I hope you
usually do), and they can be modified and toned without dirtying, as the
foul blotches of the capitalist dyer cannot be. Like all dyes, they are
not eternal; the sun in lighting them and beautifying them consumes
them; yet gradually, and for the most part kindly, as (to use my example
for the last time in this paper) you will see if you look at the Gothic
tapestries in the drawing-room at Hampton Court. These colours in fading
still remain beautiful, and never, even after long wear, pass into
nothingness, through that stage of livid ugliness which distinguishes
the commercial dyes as nuisances, even more than their short and by no
means merry life.

I may also note that no textiles dyed blue or green, otherwise than by
indigo, keep an agreeable colour by candle-light: many quite bright
greens turning into sheer drab. A fashionable blue which simulates
indigo turns into a slaty purple by candle-light; and Prussian blues
are also much damaged by it. I except from this condemnation a
commercial green known as gas-green, which is as abominable as its name,
both by daylight and gaslight, and indeed one would almost expect it to
make unlighted midnight hideous.

WILLIAM MORRIS.




OF EMBROIDERY


The technicalities of Embroidery are very simple and its tools
few - practically consisting of a needle, and nothing else. The work can
be wrought loose in the hand, or stretched in a frame, which latter mode
is often advisable, always when smooth and minute work is aimed at.
There are no mysteries of method beyond a few elementary rules that can
be quickly learnt; no way to perfection except that of care and patience
and love of the work itself. This being so, the more is demanded from
design and execution: we look for complete triumph over the limitations
of process and material, and, what is equally important, a certain
judgment and self-restraint; and, in short, those mental qualities that
distinguish mechanical from intelligent work. The latitude allowed to
the worker; the lavishness and ingenuity displayed in the stitches
employed; in short, the vivid expression of the worker's individuality,
form a great part of the success of needlework.

The varieties of stitch are too many to be closely described without
diagrams, but the chief are as follows: -

Chain-stitch consists of loops simulating the links of a simple chain.
Some of the most famous work of the Middle Ages was worked in this
stitch, which is enduring, and of its nature necessitates careful
execution. We are more familiar with it in the dainty work of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in the airy brightness and
simplicity of which lies a peculiar charm, contrasted with the more
pompous and pretentious work of the same period. This stitch is also
wrought with a hook on any loose material stretched in a tambour frame.

Tapestry-stitch consists of a building-up of stitches laid one beside
another, and gives a surface slightly resembling that of tapestry. I
give the name as it is so often used, but it is vague, and leads to the
confusion that exists in people's minds between loom-tapestry and
embroidery. The stitch is worked in a frame, and is particularly
suitable for the drapery of figures and anything that requires skilful
blending of several colours, or a certain amount of shading. This
facility of "painting" with the needle is in itself a danger, for it
tempts some people to produce a highly shaded imitation of a picture, an
attempt which must be a failure both as a decorative and as a pictorial
achievement. It cannot be said too often that the essential qualities of
all good needlework are a broad surface, bold lines and pure, brilliant
and, as a rule, simple colouring; all of which being qualities
attainable through, and prescribed by, the limitations of this art.

Appliqué has been, and is still, a favourite method of work, which
Vasari tells us Botticelli praised as being very suitable to
processional banners and hangings used in the open air, as it is solid
and enduring, also bold and effective in style. It is more accurately
described as a _method_ of work in which various stitches are made use
of, for it consists of designs embroidered on a stout ground and then
cut out and laid on silk or velvet, and edged round with lines of gold
or silk, and sometimes with pearls. It requires considerable deftness
and judgment in applying, as the work could well be spoilt by clumsy and
heavy finishing. It is now looked upon as solely ecclesiastical, I
believe, and is associated in our minds with garish red, gold and white,
and with dull geometric ornament, though there is absolutely no reason
why church embroidery of to-day should be limited to ungraceful forms
and staring colours. A certain period of work, thick and solid, but not
very interesting, either as to method or design, has been stereotyped
into what is known as Ecclesiastical Embroidery, the mechanical
characteristics of the style being, of course, emphasised and
exaggerated in the process. Church work will never be of the finest
while these characteristics are insisted on; the more pity, as it is
seemly that the richest and noblest work should be devoted to churches,
and to all buildings that belong to and are an expression of the
communal life of the people. Another and simpler form of applied work is
to cut out the desired forms in one material and lay upon another,
securing the appliqué with stitches round the outline, which are hidden
by an edging cord. The work may be further enriched by light ornament of
lines and flourishes laid directly on the ground material.

Couching is an effective method of work, in which broad masses of silk
or gold thread are laid down and secured by a network or diaper of
crossing threads, through which the under surface shines very prettily.
It is often used in conjunction with appliqué. There are as many
varieties of couching stitches as the worker has invention for; in some
the threads are laid simply and flatly on the form to be covered, while
in others a slight relief is obtained by layers of soft linen thread
which form a kind of moulding or stuffing, and which are covered by the
silk threads or whatever is to be the final decorative surface.

The ingenious patchwork coverlets of our grandmothers, formed of scraps
of old gowns pieced together in certain symmetrical forms, constitute
the romance of family history, but this method has an older origin than
would be imagined. Queen Isis-em-Kheb's embalmed body went down the Nile
to its burial-place under a canopy that was lately discovered, and is
preserved in the Boulak Museum. It consists of many squares of
gazelle-hide of different colours sewn together and ornamented with
various devices. Under the name of patchwork, or mosaic-like piecing
together of different coloured stuffs, comes also the Persian work made
at Resht. Bits of fine cloth are cut out for leaves, flowers, and so
forth, and neatly stitched together with great accuracy. This done, the
work is further carried out and enriched by chain and other stitches.
The result is perfectly smooth flat work, no easy feat when done on a
large scale, as it often is.

Darning and running need little explanation. The former stitch is
familiar to us in the well-known Cretan and Turkish cloths: the stitch
here is used mechanically in parallel lines, and simulates weaving, so
that these handsome borders in a deep rich red might as well have come
from the loom as from the needle. Another method of darning is looser
and coarser, and suitable only for cloths and hangings not subject to
much wear and rubbing; the stitches follow the curves of the design,
which the needle paints, as it were, shading and blending the colours.
It is necessary to use this facility for shading temperately, however,
or the flatness essential to decorative work is lost.

The foregoing is a rough list of stitches which could be copiously
supplemented, but that I am obliged to pass on to another important
point, that of design. If needlework is to be looked upon seriously, it
is necessary to secure appropriate and practicable designs. Where the
worker does not invent for herself, she should at least interpret her
designer, just as the designer interprets and does not attempt to
imitate nature. It follows from this, that it is better to avoid using
designs of artists who know nothing of the capacities of needlework, and
design beautiful and intricate forms without reference to the execution,
the result being unsatisfactory and incomplete. Regarding the design
itself, broad bold lines should be chosen, and broad harmonious colour
(which should be roughly planned before setting to work), with as much
minute work, and stitches introducing play of colour, as befits the
purpose of the work and humour of the worker; there should be no
scratching, no indefiniteness of form or colour, no vagueness that
allows the eye to puzzle over the design - beyond that indefinable sense
of mystery which arrests the attention and withholds the full charm of
the work for a moment, to unfold it to those who stop to give it more
than a glance. But there are so many different stitches and so many
different modes of setting to work, that it will soon be seen that these
few hints do not apply to all of them. One method, for instance,
consists of trusting entirely to design, and leaves colour out of
account: white work on white linen, white on dark ground, or black or
dark blue upon white. Again, some work depends more on magnificence of
colour than on form, as, for example, the handsome Italian hangings of
the seventeenth century, worked in floss-silk, on linen sometimes, and
sometimes on a dusky open canvas which makes the silks gleam and glow
like precious stones.

In thus slightly describing the methods chiefly used in embroidery, I do
so principally from old examples, as modern embroidery, being a
dilettante pastime, has little distinct character, and is, in its best
points, usually imitative. Eastern work still retains the old
professional skill, but beauty of colour is rapidly disappearing, and
little attention is paid to durability of the dyes used. In speaking
rather slightingly of modern needlework, I must add that its non-success
is often due more to the use of poor materials than to want of skill in
working. It is surely folly to waste time over work that looks shabby in
a month. The worker should use judgment and thought to procure
materials, not necessarily rich, but each good and genuine of its kind.
Lastly, she should not be sparing of her own handiwork, for, while a
slightly executed piece of work depends wholly on design, in one where
the actual stitchery is more elaborate, but the design less masterly,
the patience and thought lavished on it render it in a different way
equally pleasing, and bring it more within the scope of the amateur.

MAY MORRIS.




OF LACE


Lace is a term freely used at the present time to describe various sorts
of open ornament in thread work, the successful effect of which depends
very much upon the contrasting of more or less closely-textured forms
with grounds or intervening spaces filled in with meshes of equal size
or with cross-ties, bars, etc. Whence it has come to pass that fabrics
having an appearance of this description, such as embroideries upon
nets, cut linen works, drawn thread works, and machine-woven
counterfeits of lace-like fabrics, are frequently called laces. But
they differ in make from those productions of certain specialised
handicrafts to which from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries lace
owes its fame.

These specialised handicrafts are divisible into two branches. The one
branch involves the employment of a needle to loop a continuous thread
into varieties of shapes and devices; the other is in the nature of
making corresponding or similar ornament by twisting and plaiting
together a number of separate threads, the loose ends of which have to
be fastened in a row on a cushion or pillow, the supply of the threads
being wound around the heads of lengthened bobbins, so shaped for
convenience in handling. The first-named branch is needlepoint
lace-making; the second, bobbin or pillow lace-making. Needlepoint
lace-making may be regarded as a species of embroidery, whilst bobbin
or pillow lace-making is closely allied to the twisting and knotting
together of threads for fringes. Embroidery, however, postulates a
foundation of material to be enriched with needlework, whereas
needlepoint and pillow lace are wrought independently of any
corresponding foundation of material.

The production of slender needles and small metal pins is an important
incident in the history of lace-making by hand. Broadly speaking, the
manufacture for a widespread consumption of such metal pins and needles
does not date earlier than the fourteenth century. Without small
implements of this character delicate lace-making is not possible. It is
therefore fair to assume that although historic nations like the
Egyptian, Assyrian, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman, made use of fringes and
knotted cords upon their hangings, cloaks, and tunics, lace was unknown
to them. Their bone, wooden, or metal pins and needles were suited to
certain classes of embroidery and to the making of nets, looped cords,
etc., but not to such lace-making as we know it from the early days of
the sixteenth century.

About the end of the fifteenth century, with the development in Europe
of fine linen for underclothing, collars and cuffs just visible beyond
the outer garments came into vogue, and a taste was speedily manifested
for trimming linen undershirts, collars and cuffs, with insertions and
borders of kindred material. This taste seems to have been first
displayed in a marked manner by Venetian and Flemish women; for the
earliest known books of engraved patterns for linen ornamental borders
and insertions are those which were published during the commencement
of the sixteenth century at Venice and Antwerp. But such patterns were
designed in the first place for various sorts of embroidery upon a
material, such as darning upon canvas (_punto fa su la rete a maglia
quadra_), drawn thread work of reticulated patterns (_punto tirato_ or
_punto a reticella_), and cut work (_punto tagliato_). Patterns for
quite other sorts of work, such as point in the air (_punto in aere_)
and thread work twisted and plaited by means of little leaden weights or
bobbins (_merletti a piombini_), were about thirty years later in
publication. These two last-named classes of work are respectively
identifiable (_punto in aere_) with needlepoint and (_merletti a
piombini_) with bobbin lace-making; and they seem to date from about
1540.

The sixteenth-century and earliest known needlepoint laces (_punto in
aere_) are of narrow lengths or bands, the patterns of which are
composed principally of repeated open squares filled in with circular,
star, and other geometric shapes, set upon diagonal and cross lines
which radiate from the centre of each square to its corners and sides.
When the bands were to serve as borders they would have a dentated
edging added to them; this edging might be made of either needlepoint or
bobbin lace. As time went on the dimensions of both lace bands and lace
vandykes increased so that, whilst these served as trimmings to linen,
lace of considerable width and various shapes came to be made, and
ruffs, collars, and cuffs were wholly made of it. Such lace was thin and
wiry in appearance. The leading lines of the patterns formed squares and
geometrical figures, amongst which were disposed small wheel and seed
forms, little triangles, and such like. A few years later the details
of these geometrically planned patterns became more varied, tiny human
figures, fruits, vases and flowers, being used as ornamental details.
But a more distinct change in character of pattern was effected when
flowing scrolls with leaf and blossom devices, held together by means of
little ties or bars, were adopted. Different portions of the scrolls and
blossoms with their connecting links or bars would often be enriched
with little loops or _picots_, with stitched reliefs, and varieties of
close and open work. Then came a taste for arranging the bars or ties
into trellis grounds, or grounds of hexagons, over which small
ornamental devices would be scattered in balanced groups. At the same
time, the bobbin or pillow lace-workers produced grounds of small
equal-size meshes in plaited threads. This inventiveness on the part of
the bobbin or pillow workers reacted upon the needlepoint workers, who
in their turn produced still more delicate grounds with meshes of single
and double twisted threads.

Lace, passing from stage to stage, thus became a filmy tissue or fabric,
and its original use as a somewhat stiff, wiry-looking trimming to linen
consequently changed. Larger articles than borders, collars, and cuffs
were made of the new filmy material, and lace flounces, veils, loose
sleeves, curtains, and bed-covers were produced. This transition may be
traced through the first hundred and twenty years of lace-making. It
culminated during the succeeding ninety years in a development of
fanciful pattern-making, in which realistic representation of flowers,
trees, cupids, warriors, sportsmen, animals of the chase, emblems of all
sorts, rococo and architectural ornament, is typical. Whilst the
eighteenth century may perhaps be regarded as a period of questionable
propriety in the employment of ornament hardly appropriate to the
twisting, plaiting, and looping together of threads, it is nevertheless
notable for _tours de force_ in lace-making achieved without regard to
cost or trouble. From this stage, the climax of which may be placed
about 1760, the designing of lace patterns declined; and from the end of
the eighteenth to the first twenty years or so of the nineteenth
centuries, laces, although still made with the needle and bobbins,
became little more than finely-meshed nets powdered over with dots or
leaves, or single blossoms, or tiny sprays.

Within the limits of a brief note like the present, it is not possible
to discuss local peculiarities in methods of work and styles of design
which established the characters of the various Venetian and other
Italian points, of the French points of Alençon and Argentan, of the
cloudy Valenciennes, Mechlin, and Brussels laces. Neither can one touch
upon the nurturing of the industry by nuns in convents, by workers
subsidised by State grants, and so forth. It would require more space
than is available to fairly discuss what styles of ornament are least or
most suited to lace-making; or whether lace is less rightly employed as
a tissue for the making of entire articles of costume or of household
use, than as an ornamental accessory or trimming to costume.

Whilst very much lace is a fantastic adjunct to costume, serving a
purpose sometimes like that of _appoggiature_ and _fioriture_ in music,
other lace, such as the carved-ivory-looking scrolls of Venetian raised
points, which are principally associated with the _jabots_ and ruffles
of kings, ministers, and marshals, and with the ornamentation of
priests' vestments, is certainly more dignified in character. The loops,
twists, and plaits of threads are more noticeable in laces of
comparatively small dimensions than they are in laces of great size.
Size rather tempts the lace-worker to strive for ready effect, and to
sacrifice the minuteness and finish of hand work, which give quality of
preciousness to lace. The _via media_ to this quality lies between two
extremes; namely, applying dainty threads to the interpretation of badly
shaped and ill-grouped forms on the one hand, and on the other hand
adopting a style of ornament which depends upon largeness of detail and
massiveness in grouping, and is therefore unsuited to lace. Without
finish of handicraft, producing beautiful ornament suited to the
material in which it is expressed, lace worthy the name cannot be made.

The industry is still pursued in France, Belgium, Venice, Austria,
Bohemia, and Ireland. Honiton has acquired a notoriety for its pillow
laces, many of which some hundred years ago were as varied and well
executed as Brussels pillow laces. Other English towns in the Midland
counties followed the lead chiefly of Mechlin, Valenciennes, Lille, and
Arras, but were rarely as successful as their leaders. Saxony, Russia,
and the Auvergne produce quantities of pillow laces, having little
pretence to design, though capable of pretty effects when artistically
worn. There is no question that the want of a sustained intelligence in
appreciating ingenious hand-made laces has told severely upon the
industry; and as with other artistic handicrafts, so with lace-making,
machinery has very considerably supplanted the hand. There is at present
a limited revival in the demand for hand-made laces, and efforts are
made at certain centres to give new life to the industry by infusing
into it artistic feeling derived from a study of work done during the
periods when the art flourished.

ALAN S. COLE.




OF BOOK ILLUSTRATION AND BOOK DECORATION


Book illustration is supposed to have made a great advance in the last
few years. No doubt it has, but this advance has not been made on any
definite principle, but, as it were, in and out of a network of
cross-purposes. No attempt has been made to classify illustration in
relation to the purpose it has to fulfil.

Broadly speaking, this purpose is threefold. It is either utilitarian,
or partly utilitarian partly artistic, or purely artistic. The first may
be dismissed at once. Such drawings as technical diagrams must be clear
and accurate, but by their very nature they are non-artistic, and in
regard to art it is a case of "hands off" to the draughtsman.

Illustration as an art, that is, book decoration, begins with the second
class. From this standpoint an illustration involves something more than
mere drawing. In the first place, the drawing must illustrate the
subject, but as the drawing will not be set in a plain mount, but
surrounded or bordered by printed type, there is the further problem of
the relation of the drawing to the printed type. The relative importance
attached to the printed type or the drawing is the crucial point for the
illustrator. If all his thoughts are concentrated on his own drawing,
one line to him will be much as another; but if he considers his
illustration as going with the type to form one homogeneous design,
each line becomes a matter of deliberate intention.

Now, in the early days of printing, when both type and illustration were
printed off a single block, the latter standpoint was adopted as a
matter of course, and as the art developed and men of genuine ability
applied themselves to design, this intimate relation between printer and
designer produced results of inimitable beauty. Each page of a fine
Aldine is a work of art in itself. The eye can run over page after page
for the simple pleasure of its decoration. No black blots in a sea of
ignoble type break the quiet dignity of the page; each part of it works
together with the rest for one premeditated harmony. But gradually, with
the severance of the arts, the printer lost sight of the artist, and the
latter cared only for himself; and there came the inevitable result
which has followed this selfishness in all the other arts of design.


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