I came across this little doll bib today as I was going through some old teaching samples. This will be included with 5 year-old Laurel’s Christmas doll, the American Girls Molly.
Made on my Elna Diva, circa 1994, the bib was, to me, a miracle of machine embroidery. I know I am easily impressed, but the perfect decorative stitch of elephants was strong testimony to the quality of the sewing machine. It still is a fine machine, but its embroidery has long been surpassed by hoop embroidery capability.
The sheer ivory Swiss lawn from Capitol Imports allows the candy pink lace tape to shadow through. A pin stitch is worked on the inside edge of the lace tape while an entredeux stitch is worked along the outer edge. Madeira Cotona 80 wt. thread and a size 80 needle were used for the hemstitching. The excess fabric was cut away up to the entredeux and the Binche elephant lace joined with a tiny zig zag.
Machine made entredeux also finishes the neck edge, which has been whipped with silk ribbon. Silk ribbon ties at the side have been tucked under the bib to eliminate clutter from the picture, but that is how it was tied to the yoke underdress.
My trip down Memory Lane, while examining this lilliputian sample, got me thinking about my stash of Binche lace, from which the elephant lace came. Lace and its history has always fascinated me. Oh dear, I feel a history lecture coming on, so be forewarned.
All of my information about Binche lace came from Mr. Russell, of M.E.Feld Co. in New York City. Until its recent closure, this was the oldest, and by many, most favored source of imported laces and trims. Their goods were so highly sought that today those shops still holding Feld inventory include the name in the description (see www.farmhousefabrics.com look at antique laces).
Legendary Sarah Howard Stone bought exclusively from him and praised his 100% cotton laces. In a workshop, she bemoaned the fact that someday the supply of 100% laces would be depleted and for her, that would be a sad day. As you probably know, today’s heirloom laces, both French and English, are 90% cotton and 10% nylon. Mr. Russell was extremely knowledgeable about the laces in his warehouse and we often chatted when I placed orders with him.
Binche lace, he explained, was originally made in Binche, Belgium, and is recognizable by its Star of David “field.” If you look carefully at the background, you will see the horizontal lines intersected by diagonal lines, creating the star effect.
One of my next projects will be an outfit for 7 month old Alastair, using this fisherboy lace.
But back to the Binche lace. Compare it to the French Val lace above which has a diamond shaped pattern in the field or background. Upon this the decorative part of the lace pattern is stitched. I won’t even go into “round thread” lace, another French Val style with a hexagonal field. Suffice it to say that most French Val laces have the diamond background and all Binche laces have the Star of David field.
Apparently, this pictoral lace was very popular. On several surviving vintage handkerchiefs and guest towels, I have seen the tennis lace as well as puppies and kittens. At a quilting workshop I attended some 15 years ago, I took along several pieces, including the pink elephant pattern shown on the doll bib for crazy patch embellishment. An 80+ year old lady rushed over to me and asked if she could buy some from me. She had used that exact same pink elephant lace on a diaper shirt for her newborn son.
Today, I could take any piece of the Binche lace and duplicate the design in machine embroidery. What cute bibs I could make now, for dolls and grandbabies! Daily, I feel enormous gratitude for the advance technology of our embroidery machines.