Part of the fascination lies in the ingenuity that Victorian needlewomen had when faced with a pattern. Very often, patterns were simply line drawings and it was left to the imagination of the stitcher to interpret the drawing. Here's an example:
This line drawing of a fan was taken from the 1886 Ingall's Pattern book. A lovely fan. Here are some stitched versions of this drawing which I have found on antique crazy quilts.
The fan above was stitched with a metallic thread for the surround. Note the painted flowers and butterflies on the velvet ground.
This exquisitely stitched fan is in the NY State Historical Society's collection and dates from 1884. The fan was in the border of a fabulous crazy quilt. The outer blue portion is a silk ribbon which has been tacked down and then stitched upon.
Here's the same pattern, this time as a block in the middle of a lovely antique crazy quilt. Some of the embroidery is chenille work.
And here is the pattern done in redwork. Okay, bluework. Just an stem stitch, but very effective.
Other options might have been to paint the fan onto fabric. Or to use stuffed, dimensional work for some of the flowers. It's lovely that each pattern was open to the imagination of the stitcher.