Belle Époque Pinks

Lynn Schoeffler © 2007

   
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La Belle Époque, or “The Beautiful Era” was characterized by the French as a wonderful period of peace, prosperity and new trends in art, music and fashion; many crazy quilters are drawn to the gorgeous Art Nouveau illustrations of Alphons Mucha and Mary Golay. Vintage poster and advertising art also makes great focal points and additions to CQ. One of my personal favorites is this advertisement for Brunswick Sewing Machines by L. Charbonnier.  
Another favorite poster and advertising artist is Privat Livemont. Livemont was a skilled lithographer in Belgium who created this ad for the Manufacture Royale de Corsets, circa 1897. This young lady epitomizes Livemont’s style: long tresses, rich gown and ornamentation that practically engulfs her: the fluid style was a perfect choice for my carnations—or “pinks” as they were known to my Grandmother (instructions below). 
The frame for this piece is a “vintage” pedestal dresser mirror found in an antique shop. Always shop with an eye to interesting items that might work to house your latest block! The photo below shows the frame disassembled, with the layers of batting used to pad the finished CQ piece. 

The background fabrics for the piece reflect my love of patterned silk ties, along with a few pieces of dupioni silk, and vintage brass buttons. One of the buttons had a corroded spot on one side, so I simply tucked it under the edge of the larger button. To give this flat button a little more presence, I added a smaller brass button on top. Because the shank of the top button was too heavy to bend flat, I clipped it off with small wire cutters and then attached it to the bottom button with clear nylon thread.

I like to sign and date my pieces, and one of the best ways I've found for really small lettering is to couch the initials in a single thread, as illustrated by Christine Dabbs in her book “Crazy Quilting”. Silk buttonhole twist works very well for this application, and two that I often use are the Japanese YLI and KNK threads. I also recently purchased a silk buttonhole twist from RibbonSmyth, which is what I have used here. It is a slightly lighter weight and tighter twist, which makes it nice for small, fine script lettering. 

Making the Pinks

You will need:

- ½ inch wide soft ribbon in a carnation color—I used a vintage rayon ribbon
- matching sewing thread
- 4 mm green silk ribbon
- background fabric
- size 12 Sharp needle
- embroidery scissors
- silk pin if necessary (these pins are long and very thin—they don't leave big holes in the ribbon)
- fray check product, if desired

To start:

For a finished flower approximately 1 ¾ inch wide, cut a piece of ribbon about four inches long. Because rayon ribbon frays so easily, you might find it helpful to use a fray check product on each cut end before you begin. Turn back one edge about l/8 inch, and finger crease. Using the matching sewing thread, sew a line of short running stitches about l/8 inch from the top edge of the ribbon. 

 

Gently gather the ribbon to approximately 1 ¾”, using the point of your needle to evenly distribute the gathers. Knot at the end of the gathered ribbon, but do not turn this edge under. Cut sewing thread close to knot.   
Re-knot sewing thread. Starting with the turned under edge (cut side down), tack the ribbon to the background fabric at the bottom edge. Begin to pleat the ribbon at the bottom edge, holding the fold with your thumb or a silk pin, if necessary. Use the point of the needle to help form the pleat, and tack with sewing thread at the bottom of each pleat. Layer the pleats on top of each other, slightly separating them, forming the ribbon into a fan shape as you go.   
When the top edge of the flower is about ¾ inch wide, reverse the direction of the ribbon, and pull it down slightly so that the ruffled edge of the second row sits about l/8 inch lower. Begin to make another layer of pleats over the top of the first layer; again keeping the pleated ends narrow and tacking them as you go, as at the bottom of a fan. Use the point of the needle to edge the ribbon into place.   
In this photo, I have colored the edge of the ribbon exactly where it turns to move across the first layer of ribbon at the right side in the photo), beginning the second layer of ribbon. Continue pleating the second layer with the point of the needle, tacking as you go, until your flower is the width you want it. Turn the edge of the ribbon under and tack.   
Don't worry about the build up of ribbon at the base of the flower, because this forms the padding for the calyx of the carnation.

To finish the carnation, you might want to ‘sculpt’ it with tiny tack stitches—you can see them in the photo near the base of the flower. The long stitch on the upper right shows where I have pulled the edge of the flower downward to create a slight arch. Do this on both sides of the flower.

The calyx is simply three long Japanese ribbon stitches, using 4 mm silk ribbon. Make one stitch to the right of the flower base, and one stitch to the left. The last stitch is centered on top of the other two. For the stems in the finished piece, I used Brazilian Embroidery thread in Lola weight in an overhand stem stitch. The stem stitch is then whipped with a contrasting green every two stem stitches. 

 

Resources:

"Crazy Quilting" by Christine Dabbs
Silk Buttonhole Twist

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