Beneath my grandmother’s small Christmas tree lies a beautiful, winter-white tree skirt made by my mother years ago using the candlewick technique.
Candlewick embroidery is rustic yet elegant, and it speaks of a pioneer history. Travelling across North America in covered wagons, pioneer women didn’t have the luxury of embroidery floss and pretty fabrics in their supplies, so they embroidered onto muslin using strands of cotton string meant for candle wicks – hence the name “candlewicking”.
Traditional, white-on-white candlewicking used backstitch and colonial knots – the latter adapted from the French knot to save thread (floss was wrapped twice around the needle for a French knot, whereas the colonial knot used one wrap of thread in a figure-eight pattern). However, most embroidery stitches can be used for contemporary candlewicking, though the thicker cotton thread can be less forgiving than smoother embroidery floss.
The longer I gaze at this tree skirt, the more I am drawn to this embroidery technique. I am fascinated by the history – the idea that people facing extreme hardship and the challenges of surviving in a new land still felt compelled to embellish items with stitches. The human spirit yearns for beauty! The fabric seems so rustic, the thread so basic, yet the finished product is very tactile and charming.
This tree skirt was made from a candlewick kit with pre-printed fabric. I have some New Year ideas in mind using one of Carina’s motifs, which I think would lend themselves beautifully to candlewicking. Watch for a tutorial in January...
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at &Stitches!
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