Tricia wrote, “Do you have any knowledge of Broderie Perse appliqué? I heard that it is an old technique using chintz fabric?”

Broderie perse is French for “Persian embroidery” though I don’t know exactly why.

According to the book Art of the Needle: 100 Masterpiece Quilts from the Shelburne Museum by Henry Joyce, European-made chintzes were introduced to America in the 1900s. Chintz fabric cost a pretty penny back then, and quilters made crafty use of it by cutting out motifs, spreading them out in pleasing arrangements, and appliquéing them onto a larger background.

“Chintz fabrics were extremely expensive, and by cutting pieces to appliqué on a quilt, a small amount of costly fabric could be used to provide a design for a much larger surface. Only well-to-do women could afford the fabrics and had the leisure to make chintz appliquéd quilts.”

In our modern times, when I think of broderie perse, I think of Judy Severson.

Judy once gave a lecture at my quilt guild, where she showed us glorious examples of the broderie perse method of appliqué that she is so wonderful at. She told us that one of the secrets for success is to find a perfect match in the color of the background fabric that you’re going to use and the background of the printed motifs that you’re going to cut out.

The noted quilt historian Barbara Brackman wrote about Judy on her blog Material Culture. In the post she also includes information on how to see examples of antique broderie perse quilts on the website of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

Christine Maxwell Bonney has a gorgeous slide show over on her blog Garden Cottage Quilts that shows Judy’s work in addition to some historical examples of broderie perse.

Here’s my one foray into the form.

It’s an example in my book Baskets to Appliqué, to show how you can get creative with the designs. I used fusible web, cut the bouquet out, stuck it in a basket, and stitched it with a small machine blanket stitch. Judy, move over! (Not.)

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie