Thursday, 26 July 2012

Fishscale Embroidery

While digging through granny’s drawer I found another piece - pillow case - which might be interesting  because of once popular but now nearly forgotten technique. This manner of embroidery became a novelty during the nineteenth century. By using a variety of coloured fish-scales, very effective borders and designs could be made at a negligible cost.
The most suitable backgrounds for the opalescent tint of fish-scales were velvet, velveteen, plush, satin, or silk, in various shades of green, blue or pink.
 The best scales were those of brilliant iridescent hues with deep serrations, such as could be found in the perch and in some varieties of carp. Other type fish-scales that were beautiful were also utilised, amongst them the luminously coloured scales of the common goldfish. The most brilliant colouring, or rather iridescence, was found in the female; the scales were larger too.
Typically the scales were prepared while quite fresh by cleansing them thoroughly, or, if necessary, by soaking them in clear water until soft and pliable. The fishy smell would pass off entirely, and the thin membrane would roll up, only adhering at one side of each scale.
I remember soaking them in dishwashing solution before drying out as well as ironing them. In the picture you can see white little spots decorating scales – it’s simple punctuating by needle or awl.The edges were trimmed by scissors to fit the flat decor but Victorians managed to create really stunning 3D flowers.