Recently, I was given a large piece of very old silk lace, measuring about 15″ wide by nearly 2 yards. It looks as if it might have been some sort of evening wrap, and I’m guessing it might be Edwardian or even late Victorian.
Very beautiful, as you can see, and almost weightless – but struggling to survive in any meaningful way. It is shedding fibres very liberally in the form of a very fine opalescent dust, and it is torn and ragged through most of its length. Despite its obvious age and fragility, there is something quite noble about it. It reminds me of a very frail old lady remembering her youth. It also reminds me of Miss Havisham – rather pitiful and tragic, but still strong enough to want to live.
Of course, I’d like to use this in my work, but it’s just too fragile to stitch to the surface of a cloth. I think it would disintegrate altogether. I’m trying several ways to enable it to live again. This is the first:
This piece has been laid on black muslin and covered with a very sheer chiffon scarf. I also laid two strips of black chiffon across each end and stitched a little.
The two red lines are rows of herringbone stitch in red silk thread. I’ve just begun to lay down a design over the surface:
The leaves are appliqued, using some of my antique silk fabric. The scissors are very old too, dating to the late eighteenth century. I’m trying out various other combinations of sheers to hold and support this lace.
I hope I can convince it to cooperate.