ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  book reviews, articles

  Bobbin Lace from Steckborn, history by Anne Wanner, translations by Mireille Finger, Hetty Leuthold, Angela Baier, techniques and sample patterns by the swiss bobbin lacemakers VSS/FDS group under the direction of Vrena Mathis.
168 pages, 35 Sample Patterns, many black and white and coloured photos, reproduction of documents, text in German, English and French, Schiers Switzerland 2003
ISBN 3-95229663-0-9

can be ordered at Sfr. 58.00, Euro 39.00

at: VSS-Boutique - FDS
CH-8192 Zweidlen

The history of Steckborn Bobbin Lace, the development and the renewal period, the influence of southern Germany, couloured pictures of the straw and horsehair lace, Illustrations of the use of the lace, style and technique, 35 reconstructed lace patterns, mainly with corners, 10 pattern variations.


around 1890:
Dorothea Pauline Labhart-Wüger,
her daughter Mathilde and
her grand children Marie, Walter, Martha
from the Oberhaus in Steckborn, Switzerland

Sample book, with the names:
J.J. Wüger, Ferdinand Wüger and date of foundation 1798

Steckborn is situated on the "Untersee" - the westernmost, smaller end of the Lake of Constance. On the opposite bank is the German peninsula called "Höri". The origin of lacemaking here is not known. According to a story which has been handed down, this skill was started by a lady who came there from Saxony (Germany). This has however never been recorded officially, but it is very plausible, that a woman from the southern region of Germany brought the art of bobbin lacemaking to Steckborn.

In southern Germany and in the upper Rhine area, the art of bobbin lacemaking probably goes back to the 17th century. Traces can also be found in the 18th century. Unfortunately, there are no early documents to be found in Steckborn. The swift spread and flourishing of this home craft, from approximately 1820 until mid 1800's and later, led one to suppose that there could have been lacemaking equipment stored in the attics of many a house, left over from earlier lacemaking episodes.

The highpoint in the 19th century of Steckborn bobbin lacemaking is connected with the spread of bobbin lacemaking, which radiated from the Stuttgart Institute. The first teacher there was Zélie Fatio from Neuchâtel, who had patterns and prickings sent to her from her home town. Also her pillow which came from the Neuchâtel area, was used as a model for those pillows made in Stuttgart. Her pupils were allowed to buy their equipment, when they had finished their training and returned to their home towns and villages. They, in turn, trained other women and girls to make lace. In this way, the influence spread from the Stuttgart Institute. It is a fact, that there is no documentary proof connecting Steckborn with the Stuttgart Institute but Steckborn, undeniably, was affected and influenced by the northern neighbour.

The customers, at that time, were primarily the nobility who lived in the various castles and mansions around Steckborn. In general, the Biedermeier fashion, with its froth of lace on clothes and household linen, assisted the boom. The production of bobbin lace proved, compared to the other textile techniques, and other home crafts, to be advantageous, because poor people and children, could make lace. They had a relatively short training period of more or less six months, and the pillows and other equipment, were easy to transport. They also used, to a greater or lesser extent, local materials, and so could earn enough to keep themselves.

In Steckborn, it is not clear, where the women learnt the art of bobbin lacemaking. There were needlework classes here, but bobbin lacemaking is not specifically mentioned. A mother could have taught her daughter the skills. There are many instances where patterns and designs travelled across borders. Therefore, it is not surprising, that the later Steckborn sample books of 1900 reveal the different influences. The peculiarities of the Steckborn Lace are to be found in the earlier sample books. These books, which were well documented, and were compiled in the first half of the 19th century, are very special. Without doubt, the horsehair and straw lace, is something exceptional. In Württemberg, horsehair and straw lace is only once documented, in Spaichingen. One can presume that the bobbin lacemakers who made it, were influenced by the Steckborn Lace.


pattern books from "Oberhaus", Steckborn, around 1850

between Stuttgart and Steckborn

  an example of the newly designed sample patterns
made after old Steckborn bobbin lace pattern

home  content Last revised May 5, 2003

For further information contact Anne Wanner