Redwork and Bobbin Lace Box

Submitted by Margot Walker

This redwork box was inspired by an altar cloth from the parish church of Appleby-in-Westmoreland, England, which was embroidered in the 1700’s.  The original is now in the collection of the Embroiderers’ Guild (U.K.).  These pictures are of a duplicate which was being stitched by four embroiderers in the parish in 2012.

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I fell in love with Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge and knew I had to duplicate that motif.  If you look closely, you can see that Adam and Eve seem to be tattooed!)

One day, as I was strolling through Dollarama, I spied a wooden box with divisions for storing teabags and a light bulb went off.  The box was 8.75″x6″x3.5″, and could be used for storing specialty embroidery threads.  I would buy it and cover it with redwork.

The first thing was to design the top.  After copying the Adam and Eve design, I realized that more was needed, so I added two trees.  For the sides, I scoured the internet and books of 18th century embroidery and copied motifs that appealed to me.  After choosing 17 of them, the embroidery started.

The embroidery is really quite simple: outline stitch and seed stitch using one or two strands of DMC floss. When the stitching was done, I saw that I needed a finishing touch of a braid or the like to go around the edges of the box. Since I wanted the colour of the braid to match the red of the embroidery, I made what I needed in bobbin lace, using the same thread.

The box needed sanding and then I painted the inside. To protect the embroidery from the acidity of the wood, I covered the outside surfaces with a coat of glue made from wheat paste (a glue used by book binders). While this was drying, I cut pieces of rag paper to fit all the outside surfaces. Another coat of wheat paste was spread on the outside of the box and on the paper, which was laid on each panel of the box and trimmed to fit when dry.

While the box was drying, I cut more pieces of the rag paper, each a little larger than the embroidered panels. These were pasted to the back of the embroidery. When dry, they and the box got another coat of paste and the embroidery was installed on the box. Once everything was bone dry, the edges were trimmed to size. The last step was to glue on the lace.

And voilà, my redwork box!!

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