An Embroidery Pattern and A Balloon

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, July 25, 1912:  Spent nearly all afternoon in getting an embroidery pattern reversed so as to have the whole design. It’s finished now and stamped on the material.

For several evenings I’ve seen a balloon go up, but tonight I saw only the gas.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Help!! I don’t understand this diary entry—and am hoping that some of you can help me make sense of it.

Embroidery Pattern

How do you reverse an embroidery pattern and then stamp it on cloth?  I can remember using an iron to transfer the patterns to cloth when I was child—but I have no idea how Grandma reversed the pattern and then stamped it.

Balloons

Was Grandma referring to a hot air balloon?

Hot air balloons were popular attractions at fairs and festivals in the early 20th century. Steve Shook has a wonderful picture of hot air balloons at a festival in Valparaiso, Indiana that was taken around 1910.

But what did she mean when she said that she only saw the gas?

10 Responses

  1. I would be interested in finding out what she means too about the pattern…looks like I will be doing some research too! Will let you know what I find out. Maybe, if it was a a fair they were letting the gas out of the balloon to move on to the next fair? The Hughesville County Fair just finished could that be the fair the balloon was at? It is usually held the third week of July and finishes on a Sunday.

    • The balloons at the Hughesville Fair are always awesome. I attended it several years ago–and it was just amazing how many balloons they had there.

  2. Maybe the design she wanted to use was not a ready-to-iron-on design and it had words or something that had to be a mirror image? Wonder how she did the transfer? Stamp it? Tracing paper? Interesting. And the balloon reference is curious.

    • I feel like I need to do some more research in old handiwork books and magazines to figure out how embroidery patterns were transferred onto cloth back then.

  3. I found some possible transfer methods on http://www.hobbyloco.com:

    For transferring a pattern to light colored fabrics:
    One method you may use is graphite or carbon paper. Simply print your pattern on regular paper, then insert a piece of carbon paper between the pattern and your fabric (carbon side down) and trace the pattern.
    ———————————————————————————————-
    A second method of transfer uses tulle netting or veiling, which is generally inexpensive. Simply lay a piece of the tulle onto your pattern and trace the pattern onto the tulle netting. Then lay the tulle netting onto your fabric and trace over the design again. The pencil or pen that you use will draw through the gaps in the tulle and your pattern will be drawn onto your fabric.
    ———————————————————————————————-
    Another method you may use if you do not have graphite or carbon paper, is to print your pattern on regular paper. Trim the pattern to the edge of the design with scissors or a craft knife. Place the pattern on your fabric and trace around the design with a pencil or pen. This will work for simple patterns.

    For transferring a pattern to dark colored fabrics:
    One method you may use is dress makers carbon paper. This paper is sold in both light and dark carbons. You would need light colored carbon for use on dark fabric. Simply print your pattern on regular paper, then insert a piece of the light carbon paper between the pattern and your fabric (carbon side down) and trace the pattern.
    ———————————————————————————————-
    Another method to transfer a pattern onto dark fabric is to use a white colored pencil and tulle netting or veiling, which is generally inexpensive to transfer your pattern. Simply lay a piece of the tulle onto your pattern and trace the pattern onto the tulle netting. Then lay the tulle netting onto your fabric and trace over the design again. The white pencil will draw through the gaps in the tulle and your pattern will be drawn onto your fabric.

    I’m not sure how available carbon paper would have been 100 years ago, but the pencil and tulle method sounds very probable, as does the paper pattern method.

    The balloon message is indeed cryptic. I would think she would be talking about a hot air or gas balloon. Perhaps her chores kept her from seeing the balloon go up that day.

    • Thank you for finding this information. I don’t do much embroidery or other handiwork–and it’s really interesting to learn how patterns can be transferred. The link is great.

  4. She could have had a transfere pencil. Colored pencils were manufactured by Faber-Castil in 1905. They contained pigment and wax. You traced your pattern on tissue paper and then ironed it on the fabric. They left a very light stamp on the white fabric. Most people then just copied the pattern with a lead pencil on to white cotton. She probably had to reverse the pattern to give a mirror image to make a dresser scarf or table cloth. Stamp was just a generic term for copying a pattern to fabric. Most likely she sat in bright light and traced with a pencil what took a long time was tracing on one side of the paper then flipping it over to trace the reverse so she could trace the mirror image onto her white fabric.

    I have a red Faber-Castil that I use today to transfere with using tissue paper.

    • Thanks for describing the process. I can’t quite understand how it was done–but after reading what you wrote I can picture how it is done. One thing that I love about this blog is how I’m always learning new things.

      • I was sitting here thinking about needle work before WWI. I have needlework books that go all the way back to 1856. I used to give talks on quilt history to local guilds. Girls her age were expected to make pretty house hold linens for when she got married. It was the mothers who made sure their daughters could do passable needlework. Short of bad eye sight or two left thumbs, young girls didn’t get out of doing that. Moms took great pride in showing off their daughter’s skills. Many of the girls enjoyed the creative part and it filled their time with something to do. The things that was most often done was pillowcases, dresser scarf sets, tea table cloths and tea towels. Crocheting was in it’s hayday as well as white work (cut work on white) eyelet. Quilt tops were made and saved to be quilted by family and friends during her engagement. Fine needle work was done out side during good weather because of the light. She may have been getting a project ready to make during the winter. She needed the bright July sun light to trace her embroidery pattern to her fabric. If she was really good at needlework she could buy prestamped linens at the 5&10 store that was hemstitched for crocheted edging. There was also red work that came prestamped. It depended on what held her interest and how skilled her mother was to teach her also on how much money there was to spend.

        • I love the old-fashioned embroidered, crocheted, and white work pillow cases. Until I read your comment I hadn’t known what the cut work was called.

          I remember when I was young that lots of girls had hope chests. I haven’t heard of anyone having a hope chest in recent years.

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