ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History / publications

  Ideas about the Future of Textile Culture
Lecture in Kaunas, Lithuania, for the 16th ETN Conference 2011, September 20 to 26
by Anne Wanner, Switzerland

- what has been important in the past decades
- what remains still to be done
- why is textile culture so important

my visions

  Starting and initial point to this paper are the three questions of B. Sterk: and I shall try to find an answer for my specific occupation with textiles.

As places of memory Museums are also partners of the ETN, the European Textile Network, and I was invited as a representative of a Textile Museum. Therefore in the first part of my paper I want to give some information about my background as well as a short idea of my work in museums.

2nd I shall talk about the informative work one may find on my website, and also about the activities in documentation of textiles. There will be some thoughts about copyright questions.
3rd The Vocabulary Project will be presented and some future visions will be developed.

Finally I shall summarize my thoughts and try to answer the question: why is textile culture so important

  Already in my youth at home I learnt several textile techniques. My mother worked as a teacher of drawing, painting and arts and crafts. Very early she would draw my interest in knitting and textile techniques. One day my father discovered an old spinning wheel in the attic of a farmer’s house. It was broken, but he had it repaired and my mother and I learned how to use it. This was about 60 years ago, but today the wheel is still in use. To me spinning is more than just a textile technique it became a kind of meditative activity.
In Switzerland I took courses in weaving, in dying cloth and I also spent some time in a school for weaving in Finland.

Weaving school in Hämeenlinna, Finland, in the year 1961

Later on I was accepted as a student in the Abegg foundation in Riggisberg to study textile restoration. At that time the institute of Riggisberg was not yet built and the foundation had its seat in the Historic Museum in Berne. I then worked in several Swiss Museums. For instance I cleaned and repaired old flags at Rätisches Museum in Chur, in the canton of Grisons.
I then studied art history at Swiss Universities of Zurich, Berne, Basle and finished my studies with a thesis on "Printed Textiles in Switzerland from 17th to 19th c." Together with the text I worked out a catalogue of all printed fabrics preserved in Swiss museums.


After some family years and after some years of living in foreign countries, I started to work in the Textile Museum of St.Gallen, Switzerland. During the 20 years engagement in this museum I was responsible for historic embroideries. Among activities such as restoration of textiles, exhibitions, publications, I was engaged in the documentation of embroideries.
Together with a colleague who worked on lace, I set up an inventory of the museum collection. We photographed every object, studied and described them accurately. Inventory cards for each object in these early years were written with typewriter and on paper. Only in the last years of my activity the computer was integrated.
As a basis we used the catalogue of the Iklé collection of 1908 and a typewritten catalogue of the Jacoby collection by Marie Schuette. I also had to develop a kind of a thesaurus in order to describe the same things always with the same terms. And this was the start of my interest in a structure of embroidery stitches.

Resist dyed fabric in Switzerland, 18th century
Textile Museum St.Gallen, Switzerland

Printed cotton, Switzerland, 18th century
Textile Museum St.Gallen, Switzerland


Embroidered table cloth,
Textile Museum St.Gallen, Switzerland


Appenzell embroidery,
Textile Museum St.Gallen, Switzerland

  Since the 1990s I was responsible for the Newsletter of the CIETA Embroidery Group.
CIETA means: “Centre International d’Etude des Textiles Anciens”. This centre is based in Lyon France, and it is a professional organisation for textile historian working in Museums and similar institutes. Members meet every two years in a European capital, often in Lyon and also overseas. The Embroidery group is a specialised group under the banner of CIETA.
When I retired from the museum I continued to edit the Newsletter. And very soon, with the technical assistance of my husband, I made an online version of it.
  On this website I am informing members and all interested people about what is going on in the textile world. There is a calendar of exhibitions, a compilation of meetings and also a page with book reviews and so on. Sometimes it is difficult and also expensive to get permission for publishing photos. One of my wishes for the future is an adequate copyright policy for informative purposes.
  I already mentioned my simple thesaurus which I used for my documentation purposes. It is valid just for the museum of St.Gallen. Other museums like for instance the Textilmuseum in Plauen Germany also worked out thesauri, and they are not published either.
There are many possibilities of classification, but if each museum has its own structure, a worldwide connection will hardly ever be achieved.
Thesauri are important for all kind of documentation. There should be international groups working on standardized terminologies in order to facilitate international communication and it would be helpful for research projects.

As an example I mention a printed book with an attached CD. On the CD one finds an alphabetical list with keywords on textile terms. The main focus is on Costume, but other textile terms are also treated. The book was written by Roberta Orsi Landini and other Italian textile historians in 2010, the drawings are very nicely made by Thessy Schoenholzer. A disadvantage in this case, the publication was written in Italian language only.
  Some National and International Organisation take care of the thesaurus question.
The Icom Organisation (Interntional Council of Museums) for instance is occupied with the terminology of costume in 3 languages: German, English and French. It is accessible in the Internet. This online site is open to all Icom members.
On the information page of my homepage one may find the link to the Icom Homepage. With a link it is possible to enter the Icom Costume thesaurus.

On the first page there is an overview with several types of garments and if you click on your desired section another page will open and there are specific terms and also drawings.
This is the kind of terminology that is needed for other sections of textiles as well.
My wish for the future is that there should be very good drawings and good photos to help understand the terminology and procedures.
©ICOM International Committee for the Museums and Collections of Costume.

©ICOM International Committee for the Museums and Collections of Costume.

  Copyright was created long before Internet existed. Copyright laws require explicit permission in advance whether one is an artist, a scientist or just a regular user. Copyright laws make it sometimes hard to legally perform actions, be it with a presentation like this one or in Internet.

With Internet there also came the vision of universal access to research and to culture. A balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright law is needed.
A wish to the future in this question is to find an adequate copyright license for my website.

Regulations should be less strict as one may find in certain publications maybe similar to the ICOM regulation
I am hoping that a license of Creative Commons could be an appropriate instrument.


©ICOM International Committee for the Museums and Collections of Costume.
You may freely download this page for non-profit use, but must acknowledge the Committee in any output in which it is used.

  Since the start of the CIETA Embroidery Group its members wanted to work on a specific project. It turned out that everyone was looking for an instrument to improve the understanding among each other this means we wanted to have a Vocabulary of Embroidery Stitches in several languages.

There were meetings in Paris, Munich, Stockholm, Krefeld. It was not easy to find a way, especially as we did not have any financial support by Cieta or by anybody else. It was agreed that we would like to have a structure similar to well known authors. For the fundamentals of embroidery we therefore relied on the works of Charles Germain de St. Aubin, Thérèse de Dillmont, Mary Thomas, Ruth Grönwoldt. - Noémi Speiser’s descriptions were particularly helpful, as well as the treatises by Renée Boser/Irmgard Müller and by Annemarie Seiler-Baldinger and also by Anne Morell.

It turned out to be easier to first publish the Vocabulary on paper. The Iklé foundation in St.Gallen sponsored the translations and part of the printing costs. With the indesign program I was able to make the layout myself, the museum in St.Gallen contributed in letting me photograph the examples of embroidery. So far it was possible to publish four booklets and with these booklets the basic embroidery stitches are now published in german, english, french and italian.

  The aim and wish to the future is to put the Vocabulary online.
The first page shows a list of all terms of embroidery stitches in English, in French, in Italian or in German. These keywords are linked with pages where one finds drawings and descriptions of the stitches in question. This is not really the final layout. I am looking for a better way of presentation, it should be simpler and more clearly laid out.
I would also be very happy to have more languages on the list. My vision is that historian of other countries would add their list of keywords and translate the structure according to the printed Vocabulary.
  Two pages of the Vocabulary on paper:
Chapter of running stitch, Nr 1-200:
  Embroideries with running stitch and variations, Textile Museum St.Gallen, Switzerland.
  Finally I want to mention some technical developments:
During my work in the museum I photographed with a Leica camera. I always wished to have more insight in the character of fibres. With the digital camera and the program of picture editing on Computer this became a lot easier.
Very helpful is the scanner: All the embroidered samplers were put directly under the scanner and scanned right into the PC.
Some weeks ago I discovered the digital Microscope, which is available for something like 30 Euros and I am making now tests to find out in which way I can use it.
The video camera is also a useful device.
My wishes to the future of textile documentation:
- standardized terminologies in order to facilitate international communication.
- good drawings and good photos to really understand terminologies.
- vision that the copyright question may be solved:
with the aim to make a creative, artistic or scientific content more compatible with the potential of internet. for instance with a license of creative commons: which gives everyone a simple standardized way to keep the copyright and allows certain uses of one’s work.
- Vocabulary: online version, convincing presentation, addition of more languages.
- Technical development: digital microscopes provide more insight in the textile itself.
Integration of Video.
  Why is textile culture so important ?
Textile culture was important in the past as a basis of the development of civilization.
Trading with fibres and fabrics all over Europe. Textile industry gave hundreds of people an living.
With the means of textile, the social status of men and women may be recognized.
Fibres, garments are very close to our skin, they protect us.

Maybe new materials will protect us better.
Traditional textile techniques like spinning, weaving, braiding, dying might be replaced by basically different procedures with machines and computers.

Textile will remain important.
- With its specific quality it will allow its own and specific expression in art.
- Our active vocabulary is full of expressions borrowed from textiles, and from textile techniques.
- It will be important for people’s mental and physical health: textile techniques as meditative activity, textiles for the need of a haptic feeling

content Last revised 31 October, 2011