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Album of Shoulder Straps: Terminology

Embroidery is an ancient art form that was practiced around the world. During the middle ages rich vestments were worn by clergy and nobles and used embroidery thread drawn from fine gold or silver wire. During the 19th Century France had become a center for this type of work and some embroidered American insignia were imported. A domestic capability also developed and military outfitting firms that supplied military tailors no doubt had a network of embroiderers who did piece work. These same people no doubt were also doing other types of hand embroidery work, such as religious vestments or lodge regalia. The workmanship on many of these items is exquisite. There is evidence that the embroiderers used stenciled patterns on their foundation fabric in order to get a uniform product.

TERMS

Bright Bullion
Embroidery material created from a metallic ribbon, which is bent around a length of thread and catches the light to create an accent in the design. Bright Bullion is usually used along side of Dead Bullion.
Bullion
Embroidery material created from some type of metal. In some cases the metal is gold or silver (hence the name bullion), but copper was not uncommonly used as well.
Cable Pattern
A form of bullion embroidery that intertwines two lengths of bullion.

[Shoulder Strap]
This strap is made entirely out of cable pattern embroidery.


Dead Bullion
Embroidery material created from a metallic wire, which is coiled around a length of thread. Dead Bullion is the most commonly used type of material used in bullion embroidered military insignia.
Foundation Fabric
A piece of cloth often with a loose or open weave through which the embroidery threads are sewn.
Jaceron Wire (also called Pearl Purl)
Twisted copper strips used to frame and protect the edges of embroidery. If tightly twisted it has a bead-like surface. It is heavier and stronger than bullion. Many original insignia have lost lengths of the Jaceron originally used to frame their borders. The Jaceron Wire can be seen in the above image of a cable pattern strap pulled way from the one edge.
Sequin
A small metal disk with a central hole often added to certain embroidery designs. Sequins were used to form parts of the wings of eagles in the shoulder straps of colonels during the Civil War.
Underlay
A piece of cloth folded under the bottom of a shoulder strap often a dark blue wool material. It commonly forms a frame around the bottom of the foundation fabric. During the post-Civil War period it was common for the underlay to totally cover and hid the foundation fabric.


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