Hooked on Needles

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chain Stitch embroidery on Irish Step Dancing Dress

When my older daughter was somewhere around 10 or so, she had some friends in school who were very much into Irish Step Dancing and had gotten to the point in their dance careers where they were ready for their velvet dress with hand embroidered designs. These dresses were sort of a symbol of their progress and were only worn by those who had been with this dance group for 3 years or more. It was a very big step, so to speak.

I saw one of the moms diligently practicing the chain stitch on a piece of scrap fabric one day while she was waiting in the car after school and I asked her what she was doing. Up to this point, I had no idea about anything having to do with Irish Step Dancing. She showed me her practice piece and I gave her a few tips that might make it easier for her. Jokingly, or so I thought, she said, "I'll pay you fifty bucks if you'll do this for me!" And my entry into the world of Irish Step Dancing dresses and embroidery was made! I soon discovered that $50 wasn't nearly enough for the work involved!

That year, I did the "third year" embroidery on two dresses. Third year embroidery consisted of a large Celtic pattern on the front of the skirt, a smaller version of the same pattern on the bodice...

Chain Stitch embroidery on Irish Step Dancing Dress

and two Celtic knot patterns along the hem of the skirt.

Chain Stitch embroidery on Irish Step Dancing DressWhen I took these pictures many years ago, I had no idea I would need good close-up shots in the future, so please excuse the poor quality!

All the embroidery is done in DMC embroidery floss, six strands separated and then reunited so the floss wouldn't get all bunchy and weird. The stitch used throughout is the chain stitch which you can see demonstrated HERE.

Chain Stitch embroidery on Irish Step Dancing Dress
This is a picture of my daughter's third year dress which I made and embroidered about three years after I started doing the embroidery for her friends. By then I had worked out some kinks, the worst of which was how to embroider on velvet with a hoop without crushing the pile of the velvet. I share that secret with you HERE. I also crocheted the Irish Lace color for her to wear.

Each year the girls could choose certain other designs to add to their dresses, depending on how many years they had been dancing. The longer they danced, the more embroidery they could add to their dresses. At the 5th year, they could also add a brat or scarf that would be worn on the back, pinned at the shoulder and the opposite hip. The brat could also have embroidery on it. An embroidered belt and embroidered initials on the sleeve could also be added at the 5th year.

So I ended up doing the fourth and fifth year embroidery for the same two girls I had started with, and making and embroidering several other girls' dresses over the next few years before my daughter was ready for her first velvet dress. By then I was an old pro!

Chain Stitch embroidery on Irish Step Dancing DressThis is one of the girls' 5th year dresses. You can see the many extra designs added to the skirt, more of the Celtic knots added to the hemline, the embroidered belt and the initials on the sleeve.

Next time, I will show you a few more dresses I embroidered and some close up shots of some of the designs. Stay tuned!
Happy Stitching!


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