ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History / Fraefel & Co

Fraefel & Co., a Swiss manufacturer of vestments
a paper, given at the CIETA meeting of 1987 in Lyon, France, by Anne Wanner-JeanRichard

page 2 of 2
II. Development of machine embroidery
  In eastern Switzerland different machine types for machine embroidery have been used:

The Handmachine was invented by Josua Heilmann in Mülhausen. In 1829 the tradesman Mr. Mange of St. Gallen bought two of these machines. It was agreed, that Heilmann would sell no more of them within Switzerland. And he was to sell them only in areas which were at least 20 hours distant from the city of St. Gallen.
In 1834 there were 6 Heilmann machines in Lyon, 4 of them in Saxony and 12 - 14 in Manchester.

In St. Gallen the mechanic Franz Anton Vogler improved the machine and in the 1850's it was possible to use them successfully for embroidery.
In 1854 Rittmeyer installed the first factory with 120 machines.

Two points turned out to be important for the success:


- the sewing machine had been invented around the middle of the 19th century. It simplified the manufacturing of the so called "bandes" and "entre-deux", and there was an ever increasing demand for these trypes of embroideries.
- The sale to the United States:
In 1855 the American purchasing agent, Mr. Hamel arrived at St. Gallen. He sent the embroideries to the United States via Hamburg in order to conceal the place of origin. And he called them "hamburghs".

The commerce with machine embroideries developed in Switzerland as well and Swiss tradesmen travelled to European countries, for instance:
- in 1872 Iklé brothers opened a branch in Paris and in 1874 a branch in Berlin. In 1874 Otto Alder gained customers in England. These are only some examples out of many.


The embroiderer guides the pantograph with his left hand, with his right he uses a crank to stick the needles through the fabric, with is feet he removes the clips that hold the needles in place. The threader prepares the needles.


back of handmachine embroidery

back of handmachine embroidery


The Schiffli embroidery machine was invented by the Swiss Isaak Groebli of Oberuzwil (Switzerland) in 1863. Like the Handmachine, the Schiffli machine also consists of a system of a great number of needles.
In the beginning the two types did not work much quicker than the human hand, but simultaneously 100 or 200 identical motifs depending on the distance from one needle to the next one, could be produced.


Like the the sewing machine, the Schiffli machine works with 2 threads. Since 1900 it has become possible to combine the Schiffli with a Jacquard system and from then onwards the so called automatic machine developed rapidly.


With the first Schiffli embroidery machines, the embroiderer still guides the pantograph with his left hand. Instead of the threader, the inspector now checks that needles and threads are working properly. A second helper fills the Schifflis.

The automatic Schiffli embroidery machine was invented in 1898 by Isaak Gröbli's eldest son. The embroiderer was replaced by cards. Now only one person, the inspector, controls the embroidery process





Schiffli embroidery by Alder & Rappold, "Indiens" 1905, sample book from 1873-1900

Schiffli embroidery with pierced holes:
the interlocking of the 2 threads can be seen on the back



  For the sake of completion it is important to mention the 2 systems of single needle machine-embroidery:

The Chainstitch machine was invented by Antoine Bonnaz in Paris and sold in 1868 by the firm of Emile Cornély to St. Gallen. It is still called the Cornélly machine. This machine made it possible to produce a chainstitch-line by using a hook shaped needle. It worked with one thread.

The Lorraine machine works like the sewing machine with a system of 2 threads. Satin stitch-work and also "ajour-work" can be done here.

Embroideries which are produced on the Schiffli or on the Lorraine machine can be identified very easily as machine works, because the second thread can be seen clearly on the reverse side of the embroidery.

The Handmachine however works exactly like the hand ad it needs some practice to identify these embroideries as machine products. The machine works more evenly than the hand, and on the reverse side of the work it can be seen that the thread passing from one small part of the design to another has each time an identical point of entry and exit.


        Fraefel machines        

content Last revised July 16, 2004