There is nothing that contributes to the finishing touches of a room as much as well-crafted accent pillows; pillows that are exquisite both in design and workmanship. Decorative throw pillows can feature matching or contrasting fabrics of the sofa and draperies, solid colors featured in the room, or unique designs to act as a complementary decorating accessory. Moreover, pillows make perfect display sites for hand-crafted needlework and embroidery, and they are easy to create. Many interesting needlepoint pillow tops are sold at fabric and craft stores, often with the design pre-printed in color, detailed instructions, and pre-cut wools. An alternative to mass produced needlework kits is to download nineteenth century free needlework designs and craft unique “antique” accent pillows for your home.
Berlin Wool Work was a popular 1800s class of fancy needlework, chiefly practiced by ladies as a pastime. Similar to modern day needlepoint, the foundation for this work was termed Berlin canvas and was available in most colors -- white, black, burgundy and yellow; although white was the needlepoint canvas most generally employed. The brilliancy and variety of the shades of German wool made this embroidery craft well-liked. Widely read women's magazines such as Godey's, encouraged (and provided patterns) middle- and upper-class women to do fancy work and ornamental needlework in their homes as a visible sign of their leisured status and womanly nature.
The wool was adapted for working all kinds of Berlin patterns and was conveniently skeined or knotted in small quantities so the ladies could build their own needlework kits. By the mid-19th century, Berlin patterns printed for needlepoint canvas contributed more towards the general advancement of decorative needlework, than any improvement that had been introduced into the art. Their value was not simply from the assistance they yielded the needle-worker, but, because of their mass demand, they brought about improved and superior embroidery materials.
The beautiful wools that came in every variety of color and shade would probably never have been manufactured, had they not been imperatively called for by the invention and mass distribution of these needlework patterns, especially in ladies’ magazines. Berlin patterns for needlepoint style work became an article of considerable commerce in Germany. They were copied either from renowned paintings, or, as was more frequently the case, from the many favorite engravings published in England, France, or Germany. In addition, countless needlework designs, such as flowers and Arabesques, were created for the purpose of Berlin work and distributed monthly in publications. From these paintings or drawings, an engraving or etching was made on a copper-plate that had been previously ruled in squares of the required size, corresponding to the threads of a needlepoint canvas. Various marks and hieroglyphics were engraved on each check or square, to serve as guides for those who afterwards colored the impressions on paper; the part for each color, or separate shade of color, being marked with a different figure.
Needlework on Canvas
All Berlin patterns are equally adapted for working either in cross or tent stitch. The wool may be split and worked on the finest canvas, or doubled and trebled on the coarsest. For working on needlepoint canvas, a needle sufficiently large should be employed to form a passage through which the wool may go without dragging. Berlin wool should not be wound on a card, or winder, as it is partially deprived of it elasticity by pressure. Needlework on canvas requires greater neatness in finishing the stitches at the back than in ordinary embroidery. The wools or silks must not be carried across from one part to another, but cut off as closely as possible; otherwise, when the work is mounted they will show through the meshes of the canvas, and greatly detract from the general appearance.