Embroidered chenille satin waistcoat fronts, mid 18th century
Chenille embroidery, which originated in the 18th century, was used to decorate the finest garments. These hand-embroidered satin waistcoat fronts are superb examples of textiles as art.
The chenille yarn is couched on the satin surface with fine silk floss—see the bottom picture of the back side. In couched embroidery, a yarn too large or too stiff to pass through the fabric is tacked down by another lighter yarn that can be passed through to the backside.
Chenille yarn, made by wrapping short lengths of fluffy yarn around a tightly wound core yarn, might be flattened and/or lose some of its pile if it were pulled through the fabric. That is why the couching method is used for chenille.
In the first picture down, we see how the embroidery artfully balances positive and negative space in the fern-and-floral motif to achieve a rich and complex design suitable for an exceptionally fine satin waistcoat.
The waistcoat fronts are backed with linen. The embroidery is stitched through both layers.
The condition is almost excellent.
Each front piece is 32" long by 14" wide at the bottom.