Monday, February 20, 2012

Quest for a Lambrequin

   In late spring of 1861- Richmond, Virginia, became the Capitol of the Confederate States of America. With that title came responsibilities to have a new congress, government offices and  a President. Jefferson Davis was elected to do that job. Davis and his wife, there children and various members were housed in the newly purchased Confederate White House, at the corner of 5th and K Street. The previous owner had just added a third floor and redecorated the interior of the home. He sold the house and the furniture for $43,000.00. to the Richmond City authorties - which then rented it to the Confederate Government as an executive mansion. Davis and his 35 year old wife, Varina and there children made this there new home for the next 4 years. The house was made into a museum in 1890, only a few years after the war. Mrs. Davis was of much help with this project. Today it is one of the most intact Historic Homes in America. I used this house as my Bible when restoring ,My Old Historic House.

Mrs. Jefferson Davis
The Confederate White House mantle and Lambrequin made by Mrs. Davis that inspired me to make mine.
The  Confederate White House.
Another  Lambrequin, made by Mrs. Davis at the Confederate White House.

     When I  visited the Confederate White House Museum many years ago, I  was taken by the wonderful needlepoint Lambrequins that were on the fireplaces. They were all hand stitched by Mrs. Davis and were still hanging there after all these years. To make a long story short, I wanted a Lambrequin for my house. So I went on a quest to find one. I looked in antique shops, on the internet,called pickers in Europe, but was not able to find any. Luck was with me, when I went to an antique show in Chicago and  found an old clock shelf Lambrequin. Being affordable, I bought it and decided to use it as a pattern and make my own.
   For those of you who do not know what a lambrequin is: Webster Dictionary defination is: a kind of pendent, scarf or covering attached to the fireplace to protect the mantle  from heat and smoke. An ornament or short decorative hanging from a shelf or fireplace mantle. Sometimes known as a cornice, pelment or valance.
    Opulent Victorian Houses of the Antebellum period had such decorations on there mantles, most often hand made by the house owners. They would purchase a pattern or design ,from a mail order source, usually in Europe and needlepoint was the most often used method used. Some were made from fabric that matched the rooms curtains and  furniture.

The antique clock shelf Lambrequin that I copied to make my Lambrequin.

   For my Lambrequin, I drew the pattern on graph paper, using the piece that I had found as a pattern. I made a chart for all the colors and worked them one at a time.  Much like counted cross stitch is done.The background was all done last. After weeks and weeks of counting stitches, the Lambrequin was still not long enough for my mantle. I could not force myself to do one more block. So, I decided to make the middle one different. When all the needlepoint stitches were done, the edges were finished out with black bias tape, turned under and hand stitched to the back. I used a black cording to finish it off and highlighted it all with tassels. I did the needlepoint using the basket weave  stitch, it does not distort the canvas so much, so very little blocking was needed.

The center block that I designed and made different.

    Someday, 100 years or so from now, I hope some one will be inspired by my Lambrequin , like I was by Mrs. Davis's. I hope it will be still hanging on the mantle, I made it for. I know as long as I own this house, it will be,
    My Lambrequin is on the mantle in the Gentleman's parlor. I designed the curtains for this room to match. They were all hand made by my dear sweet sister. I used the same pattern for the overall design and hand  trimmed them  with satin cords and tassels.
    I wish you could come by sometime soon for a tour and see the Lambrequin.I will leave the lights on and Sissy Dog will meet you with a jump and a Kiss.

Close up of the needlepoint Lambrequin I hand made.
The center block I made and altered the pattern from the original I found.

The curtains I designed, made by my sister, to match the Lambrequin.

A view showing the Lambrequin on the mantle and the curtains in the Gentlemen 's parlor.