Feather Stitch. Vulgarly called long and short stitch, long stitch and sometimes embroidery stitch. We propose to restore to it its ancient title of feather stitch—Opus Plumarium, so called from its supposed resemblance to the plumage of a bird.
We shall now describe it as used for handwork as worked in a frame. These two modes differ very little in appearance, as the principle is the same, namely, that the stitches are of varying length, and are worked into and between each other, adapting themselves to the form of the design, but in handwork the needle is kept on the surface of the material.
Feather Stitch is generally used for embroidering flowers, whether natural or conventional.
In working the petal of a flower (such as we have chosen for our illustration), the outer part is first worked in with stitches which form a close, even edge on the outline, but a broken one towards the centre of the petal, being alternately long and short. These edging stitches resemble satin stitch in so far that the same amount of crewel or silk appears on the under, as on the upper side of the work: they must slope towards the narrow part of the petal.
The next stitches are somewhat like an irregular stem, inasmuch as they are longer on the surface than on the under side, and are worked in between the uneven lengths of the edging stitches so as to blend with them. The petal is then filled up by other stitches, which start from the centre, and are carried between those already worked.
When the petal is finished, the rows of stitches should be so merged in each other that they cannot be distinguished, and when shading is used, the colours should appear to melt into each other.
In serrated leaves, such as hawthorn or virginia creeper, the edging stitches follow the broken outline of the leaf instead of forming an even outer edge.
It is necessary to master thoroughly this most important stitch, but practice only can make the worker perfect.
The work should always be started by running the thread a little way in front of the embroidery. Knots should never be used except in rare cases, when it is impossible to avoid them. The thread should always be finished off on the surface of the work, never at the back, where there should be no needless waste of material. No untidy ends or knots should ever appear there; in fact, the wrong side should be quite as neat as the right. It is a mistake to suppose that pasting will ever do away with the evil effects of careless work, or will steady embroidery which has been commenced with knots, and finished with loose ends at the back.
The stitches vary constantly according to their application, and good embroiderers differ in their manner of using them: some preferring to carry the thread back towards the centre of the petal, on the surface of the work, so as to avoid waste of material; others making their stitches as in satin stitch—the same on both sides, but these details may be left to the intelligence and taste of the worker, who should never be afraid of trying experiments, or working out new ideas.
Nor should she ever fear to unpick her work; for only by experiment can she succeed in finding the best combinations, and, one little piece ill done, will be sufficient to spoil her whole embroidery, as no touching-up can afterwards improve it.