Depression Lace

This type of embroidery on gingham fabric was very popular during the depression when lace was a luxury most could not afford.

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Depression Lace Sampler. Pearle Cotton and Embroidery Floss on Cotton Gingham. Renata Bursten, 08/16.

I first learned about Depression Lace (aka chicken scratch embroidery, Hoover lace, Amish embroidery, gingham lace, snowflake embroidery, broderie Suisse) about a year ago and I really wanted to try it but I never managed to find any good cotton gingham so that I could try it.

But last week I went to Ikea, and to my joy, found that they have this nice pink cotton gingham for $6.95 Canadian a metre. Score! (They have some very nice linen as well, that’ll be my next purchase. 🙂 I love Ikea’s fabric department.)

So before trying a nice gingham apron (a la Dorothy and The Wizard Of Oz) or some nice depression lace throw pillows, I thought I would play around and experiment with a sort of sampler. It’s messy but I think it’s not too bad for a first try.  These three with black thread were first and are messiest. The next three (below) with the silver thread show some improvement.

Depression lace was very popular from about 1930 – 1950 in North America and then fell out of fashion. I like how it uses cheap fabric and threads along with very simple stitches to create a beautiful lacy pattern. We have a lot to learn about making beauty in tough times from our grandmothers!

It seems to be having a bit of a resurgence lately. Only a few stitches are typically used, cross stitch, double (Smyrna) cross stitch,  straight stitch and a few lacing stitches. Traditionally it is done with white stitches on the darker squares of the gingham, but there are many interesting variants out there.

If you are interested in trying it out, I have put some tutorial links at the bottom of the post. Or just do some searching for ‘Chicken Scratch Embroidery’ which seems to be the most well-known name for this style of embroidery.

I think next I will try the Star Pattern from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. There are instructions and a large star pattern on the last page. This is a great little instructional .pdf, in case you want to try making some Depression Lace too.

Happy Stitching Darlings!

Baba StringThings

More Resources:

Chicken Scratch Guide – Save the Stitches by Nordic Needle

How To Embroider on Gingham – Chicken Scratch Tutorial by Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread

Mooshi Stitch's Modern Chicken Scratch Embroidery
Mooshi Stitch’s Modern Chicken Scratch Embroidery

Author: Baba StringThings

I am a middle-aged mother of three grown-up sons, a thrifty, creative, and dedicated born-again spinster, and I have a serious string addiction. I teach crochet, hand-embroidery, weaving, spinning, kumihimo, darning, mending, and how to upcycle clothing. When I'm not doing that I pretty much play with string. All. The. Time. And I have an unholy love of Pinterest.

10 thoughts on “Depression Lace”

  1. I hadn’t heard of most of the alternative names for Chicken Scratch. Should you wish for more inspiration, here’s a Pinterest link ..even a Christmas tree there

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a fellow string addict, I am always excited to see where your string leads you. While I don’t fancy the ways you may use your own string I still find it very fascinating. Also, I get inspiration that makes me wants to grab my own string and create.
    Hurray, string!

    Liked by 1 person

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