Back in the spring, I found myself very inspired by strawberries. There were, naturally, too many projects to fit in that season and too little time. One of these hopeful projects had been a scissor case featuring a beautiful Victorian strawberry design. Strawberries may be out of season now, but I’m bringing them back in this unintentionally festive-looking project!
I came across a beautiful strawberry pattern while browsing through a Briggs & Co. collection of patterns to transfer from the 1880’s. I immediately thought that it would be perfect to embroider on a scissor case. If you didn’t know, Internet Archive is FULL of historical books about needlework, embroidery, floriography, and so much more! There are some absolute gems to be found there. The Briggs & Co. embroidery designs for transfer are definitely among them.
The Briggs & Co. Embroidery Patterns
“Universally known” by the 1880’s, these embroidery patterns were all the rage because they were ready to be transferred with an iron “on any fabric” (clearly they did not have polyester felt back in the 1880’s, haha!). This obviously sped up the process and lowered the costs for ladies’ embroidery projects. The particular book I’m referring has a large selection of floral and ecclesiastical patterns, as well as village scenes illustrated by Kate Greenaway. We are big fans of Greenaway here on this blog and I reference her Language of Flowers dictionary often. 😉
I absolutely love working with historical designs and knowing that somebody else also embroidered it a long time ago. (I like to imagine a fancy lady sitting at her embroidery frame, flowy skirt billowing about her, and intricate fire-screen shielding her from the fire, while I’m here in my pjs stitching in bed…lol)
The strawberry pattern can be found on p. 37. I’ve adapted it to fit on my case by only transferring part of it, and moving a few elements slightly.
For some reason, I was really set on making the scissor case out of felt, so I had to find a good way to transfer the pattern… Since you know, as fabulous as these patented designs for transfer are, I sadly don’t have access to a physical copy. I love embroidering on felt (although I don’t do it very often) because the needle glides through so easily. It’s not so easy to transfer a pattern on it, however. I decided to give the tissue paper method a try, and it worked SO well! Definitely recommended it if you want to transfer something on felt.
Transferring the Pattern…the “old-fashioned way”!
I just used a piece of white tissue paper (the kind for gift-wrapping), and transferred my design on it with a pencil. Then I pinned the paper in place over the felt and started stitching my design right through both felt and paper. It tears a little as you go, but that’s ok! I was able to follow the pattern pretty easily. I only stitched the necessary outlines, leaves, and sepals before pulling the rest of the paper away.
Lovers of fancy work cannot but remember with a sigh how much money and trouble they have been obliged to expend over their designs in past days. If they wanted a braiding pattern they either had to tack on strips of tissue paper, and after stitching the braid on to pick the paper out laboriously with their fingers […]Ladies’ Pictorial, May 6th 1882, in Briggs & Co. Patent Transferring Papers.
Well, excuse me, Ladies’ Pictorial, but removing the tissue paper was an immensely satisfying step! I used a pin and a pair of tweezers to grab the little pieces of paper stuck under certain parts of the stitching. Now there’s no trace of tissue paper anywhere! Plus, it leaves no visible pencil or water-soluble/heat-erasable pen marks, which is really nice. (I only traced the outline for the scissor case piece in water-soluble ink, and that washed away very easily.)
And now I feel as though I’ve completely defeated the purpose of using a pattern from genius groundbreaking 19th century innovative embroidery technology, by reverting to the method which these patented transfers were intended to supplant. Oh, dear.
Stitching the Design
I kept the stitching very simple for the most part; the stems are done with stem stitch, the leaves and sepals with satin stitch, and the flowers with satin stitch and French knots. I outlined the strawberries with backstitch before filling them with trellis stitch. Needle-painting was quite popular in the 1880s, so it’s very possible that the design was intended to be stitched that way, but I went for a quicker route.
For the strawberries, I was partly inspired by a series of posts I saw on Mary Corbet’s Needle n’ Thread. She used some lattice work over satin stitch for one of the strawberries in her sampler. The effect was so lovely and such a good idea for filling a berry! I skipped the satin stitch and just did the lattice work (trellis stitch). I used one strand of gold DMC metallic thread for the little “x”s anchoring the lattice. It adds such a nice touch and I love it!
Making the Scissor Case
I designed the case myself, and it’s 2 very simple pieces designed to hold a pair of small embroidery scissors. I used my 4 1/2″ long stork scissors for reference.
After adding a bit of decorative lace to the top of the pocket piece, I simply laid this piece atop the bigger one. Then I sewed them together with a whipstitch. I used 2 strands of floss instead of sewing thread to create a nice border, and it worked really well! The best thing about felt is that the raw edges don’t fray, so there’s no need to worry about seam allowances and how to finish edges.
Because I used rather thin felt and the scissors are very pointy even when closed, I reinforced the bottom with a bit of interfacing. (Applied to each case piece before I sewed it together.) And to prevent the scissors from slipping around, I also added a little ribbon to hold them in place with a bow. All I did was poke two holes with a tailor’s awl on the back piece just above the pocket, and thread the ribbon through. When the scissors are in, you can easily tie the ribbon in a bow to hold them in place 😊.
And that’s all there is to it!
It was a pretty quick project, perfect for a day of quiet stitching with warm coffee, watching the snowflakes flurrying outside. The red, green, and gold were a nice festive bonus! On its own the case doesn’t look strictly “Christmas” and works year-round, but it was fun to work with holiday colours at this time of year.
I hope you enjoyed this little project and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you also have a scissor case? What do you think of the trellis stitch? I can’t wait to stitch another Briggs & Co. embroidery pattern, they’re so beautiful. (And read what other snarky comments such periodicals have to offer!) Again, you can find the book where I found the strawberry pattern here.