Jacket, made in Athens (Greece), 1830-1879
Silk velvet, embroidered with metal thread
Adding embroidery to silk velvet, which is one of the most sumptuous fabrics, can seem unnecessary, but few will deny that the results can be astonishing. This red velvet jacket has been smothered with gold thread, laid on the surface in intricate interlacings and secured to the velvet by minute, almost invisible silk stitches. The use of the couching technique ensured that no expensive metal thread was wasted by being taken through to the reverse side.
Lines of yellow tacking stitches were used to mark out the main areas of the pattern, and were often left in place when the embroidery was finished. Pins would have been used to secure small areas of metal threads in their convoluted swirls until they were couched in place. Because velvet is a pile fabric it is difficult to mark a pattern onto it for the embroiderer to follow. At best only the general outlines could be given, so although the pattern on the two front panels is very similar, it is not identical.
courtesy V&A Museum