Ribbon Embroidered Regency Reticule

an embroidered regency reticule lies on a piece of pink silk

A few weeks ago, rummaging in my fabric stash, I found a piece of soft peach silk fabric. Unfolding it, I saw that at some point I’d begun embroidering wild dog roses. It took a bit of remembering, but eventually I worked out I’d started this piece back in High School.  That’s quite a while ago now.  Why on earth had I abandoned it? I decided that i would finish it.  It would become an ribbon embroidered regency reticule!

partly finished ribbon embroidery

Going back to the stash, I pulled out a frame, my silk ribbons, a box of silk threads –

Oh boy.  It was pretty quickly VERY clear why I’d abandoned the project the first time round. I use dupioni often for ribbon embroidery as I find that silk ribbons pass very cleanly through the fabric – far more easily than they do through silk taffeta. But this particular soft-and-supple-seeming dupioni was so tightly woven and so tough that I could hardly get a needle through it.  To drag a ribbon through it, I had to pull the needle through the fabric with a pair of pliers.

pliers drag a needle through a piece of embroidered silk

The mystery now wasn’t why I’d abandoned the project the first time round – it was why I hadn’t burned it in a fire and salted the earth afterwards.

Presumably I was as much a stubborn idiot then as I am now.  The roses were pretty. I would not waste them. I abandoned my first plan –  to unpick the rather-badly-laid-out stems and start the composition over, and instead. Leaf by leaf, I dragged the thin ribbon through the blasted silk.  The resulting tension issues mean that my little rose bush is not the healthiest-looking rose bush in embroidered history – in fact I’m pretty sure some of the leaves have sawfly. But I pressed on, swearing ineffectually, until there was a nasty snap, and only the front half of the needle came through.

Yep.  My, soft and supple silk had actually broken a tapestry needle in half.

a snapped needle lies next to a green silk ribbon

Dropping plans for any  further leaves, I tied off and threaded up the smallest needle I could get away with and started embroidering rose thorns instead.  Lots of rose thorns. This was NOT a FRIENDLY rose bush.

yellow roses embroidered on peach silk with pink silk ribbons

Once I’d wrestled the embroidery into submission, turning it into something I could show off was practically a walk in the park. I needed a regency reticule, so I made that.  

I figured out some dimensions, cut out a template, marked it up, cut it out, and stitched it up.

a paper template sits over a piece of silk embroidery

A hand-stitched drawstring channel was next.

a drawstring channel being backstitiched into pink silk

Then a pair of ribbon drawstrings to match the roses, and lastly, I used up a hank of green silk thread making a set of little silk tassels for the corners.

A hank of silk thread is wound around a folded piece of card to make a tassel

And voila – a ribbon embroidered regency reticule!

an regency reticule embroidered with yellow silk roses

The embroidery might not be perfectly accurate to the period, but it is very pretty and photogenic, and I never need to sew this AWFUL silk again. So there.

close-up of silk ribbon embroidered roses

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