Embroidered Slips

Embroidered Slips
No – we’re not talking the underwear type of slip here!

In embroidery terms, a slip is a piece of embroidered fabric that is appliquéd to another.

This was a technique very popular in the 16 & 17th centuries, with the slips usually being of linen, and being applied to either velvet or brocade.

Historical Slips

Some of the very finest examples of the use of slips is at Hardwick Hall, and the beautiful embroidered hangings there.

These hangings were embroidered primarily by Bess of Hardwick and her “guest” Mary, Queen of Scots. The picture below is of one of the beautiful slips that make up some of the different hangings in Hardwick Hall.

Slip from Hardwick Hall hangings

These fabric used for these slips is linen, and they are embroidered using tent stitch. There is evidence of un-started slips with the design drawn onto the linen, as well as evidence of partially completed ones.

This same technique was also used to make bed hangings and table carpets.

In earlier periods, there is some evidence to show that it was used with goldwork. This is a technique particularly suited to the use of slips, as the embroidery can be done on the linen and then appliquéd to the more expensive silk, velvet or brocade. I

It also allows for removal of the slips if they need repair, or if a change of background was wanted – no need to get rid of your hard done embroidery! Just remove the slips, and re-apply them to a different piece of backing fabric.

The Technique

Slips are a great project for beginning embroiders, and can be adapted to freestyle, counted thread and machine embroidery.

The design is transferred to the fabric you wish to use, and then stitched. Historically, tent stitch was used, however you can use whichever stitches you wish.

It is important that you stitch your slips using a hoop or frame to ensure that the tension is kept even.

All the fabric of the slip should be covered, as with a piece of needlepoint.

When cutting your slip, leave about 3 rows around the stitching. Turn this under as a hem. To attach the slip to your fabric, use a hemming slip stitch (and yes, it became called a slip stitch as it was the stitch used to attach slips!) as this is a strong yet invisible stitch.

To disguise your edge even further, you may want to couch some cord around the slip.

Where you can use your slips

A great modern use for slips is for quilts. Either buy a bedspread, or a gorgeous and sumptuous brocade to use. You can use any motifs you like for your slips – which should be approximately 4 inches diameter in total.

You don’t need to cover the fabric – in fact it looks best if the slips are just scattered across it.

Attach your slips, and then make up your quilt – and presto! A one of a kind piece that shows of both your quilting and embroidery skills!

Slips can also be used on chair and couch covers, or to personalise a winter coat.

Come on over to the forum and tell us how you could use embroidered slips.


Bell Pull Quilt

Recommended Reading

The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots by Margaret Swan

Exploring Elizabethan Embroidery by Dorothy Clarke

Needlepoint Stitches by Susan Higginson

Is there anything that you would particularly like to see an article on? If so, please contact me with your suggestions.

Happy Stitching

Happy Stitching from Megan

© 2007 Megan McConnell

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