July 24, 2007

Technique: Slips

Slips were a technique used widely during the Elizabethan period for decorating household furnishings.

In this technique a picture or image such as a flower or animal was drawn onto a linen ground and then worked with silk thread. It was then cut out and applied to a ground fabric, usually a luxurious and expensive fabric such as velvet or satin.

A famous example of this type of work are the Oxburgh Hangings, partly worked by Mary, Queen of Scots. The Oxburgh Hangings were produced by making slips and applying these to a velvet ground.

The main stitch used for this technique is tent stitch. It is basically a half cross stitch. It can be worked in several directions. It creates a strong, hardwearing surface, both on the front of the work and on the back. As such, it was often used for making cushions, bed valances and other items that would receive heavy, day to day usage.

Once the stitching was complete, the embroidery was backed with a piece of linen which was glued in place. This helped to consolidate and stabilize the stitching. It was then cut out and sewn onto a more luxurious fabric. Any rough edges were then covered by gold thread which was couched around the entire edge of the piece. The advantage of this technique is that the delicate silk embroidery could be removed if the backing fabric became worn or needed laundering or airing. They were also often worked over low count fabrics, so they were quick to produce.

Examples of Tent Stitch Slips:
Below is an image of a slip I am currently working on. It is being worked on 14 count linen canvas using flat China silk thread.

Additional Info:

As far as the cutting process goes, when the shape is cut out, a few threads of unworked area are left around the edge of the design. This unworked edge is then used to sew the slip onto the new background fabric and that is then covered by some sort of couched thread, in historical examples, usually gold thread. This acts as a second layer of sewing and covers the rough, cut edge.

As far as gluing as supporting fabric on the back, I'm not sure of the exact process, I am still doing the research! However, I plan to use a fine, lightweight linen to back the completed work. It will cover the whole back and I will use a spray adhesive as the glue. This should give the required support without saturating the stitching and causing bleeding. I will post more if I find anything during the research.


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  2. Your detailed stitching is always so amazing, Jane!!

  3. I'd like to know more about the details of gluing on the backing fabric before the slip is applied to the finish fabric. Was that glued completely on the back, do you know? Thanks!

  4. I'd like to agree with Debbie, and was there any allowance left when they were cut? a few threads or right up to the glued design. This is so interesting Thanks!

  5. Re gluing the back, you may find


    under the Documentation heading,
    last entry "Elizabethan Slips"
    a little bit of help, and Jane Stockton a contact for further information