ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  publications

The Sample Collections of Machine Embroidery of Eastern Switzerland in the St Gallen Textile Museum
in: Textile History, 22 (2), p. 165 - 176, 1992, by Anne Wanner-JeanRichard

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The Firm of Iklé Frères (15)
the Iklé family became important for St Gallen, its industry, and also for the textile museum.
Father Iklé sold muslin goods from St Gallen in Hamburg, and is said to have received machine-produced embroideries from his son Leopold as early as 1854.
Leopold, who was born in 1838, received orders from Denmark, Sweden and Russia. Aged 19, he travelled to St Gallen as a purchaser, and it was then that the town of St Gallen granted him the right of residence.

Subsequently, there came the time of a general expansion in the machine embroidery industry, and this also happend to Iklé's enterprise: at the start of the 1870s, brother Adolf Iklé entered the St Gallen business. In 1880, Iklé's firm produced the first Schiffli embroidery in Eastern Switzerland which underwent considerable expansion in 1895 and 1907.

The connections with the world's metropolises proved to be of great importance: brother Ernest settled in Paris in 1871; soon afterwards a branch was established in England (Ernest's daughter married her cousin Max Jacoby whose brother opened in 1885 the branch Jacoby-Iklé Ltd in London). There were warehouses in Berlin, Vienna and New York.

Leopold Iklé, initially a business man, became more and more interested in old lace and embroideries; he first used them as patterns for the industry and soon became a passionate collector.
Around 1900, he gave a large part of his collection to the St Gallen Textile Museum, and this donation became an important foundation pillar of the present museum collection.


Ernest Iklé
in Paris was mainly interested in the technology of the machine-produced embroideries, and he edited a basic work about machine embroidery (16). This work also formed the foundation of an exhibition which was held in the St Gallen Textile Museum from 1932-45.

In addition to white embroideries, Ernest Iklé also described in his book coloured machine embroideries, such as the "cravattes brodées" which were especially popular between 1872 and 1882, or whole sets for robes, later cross stitch for bags or splendid dress fabrics. Corresponding patterns can be found not only as illustrations in Iklé's books, but also among the fabric samples in the sample books of the firms which are discussed here.
Nevertheless, coloured embroideries were in the minority, and - accordingly to a report about the world exhibition in Paris - they formed only one quarter of the exported machine embroideries; in the USA, their relation to white embroidery was only 1:25 (17).
The yarn used was a coloured silk thread, specially produced for machine embroidery, since the normal silk yarn disintegrates during the process of embroidering on the machine.

A designer (18) at Rittmeyer's described in his memoirs the work process for coloured embroideries:
first the choice of colour was noted on a piece of paper, as an instruction for the threader. A flower or a butterfly often contained 20 or more colours, and frequently, the painted original pattern had do be translated freely into different shades (19).

To revert to Ernest Iklé's collection: this manufacturer donated to the Textile Museum his meticulously dated collection which presents an important testimony of the production in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.



Leopold Iklé, 1838 - 1922


15 - Adolf Fäh, Leopold Iklé (1838-1922),
Gedenkblätter unter Zugrundlegung seiner Memoiren (St. Gallen, n.d.) and also: Gisela Graff-Höfgen, Spitzen von Iklé und Jacoby, in: Hamburgische Geschichts- und Heimatblätter, vol. 9, book 11 (October 1976), p. 274.

16 - Ernest Iklé, la Broderie Méchanique, 1928.

17 - Otto Alder, Weltausstellung in Paris (1889), p. 18 - Walter Siegfried, Aus dem Bilderbuch eines Lebens (Zürich und Leipzig, 1926) p. 125.

18 - Walter Siegfried, Aus dem Bilderbuch eines Lebens (Zürich and Leipzig, 1926), p. 125.

19 - Ibid



Business house called "Washington" built 1891/92,
Rosenbergstrasse 20/22, St Gallen


Factory, built around 1901, Feldlistrasse 31, 31a.
St Gallen


Introduction Rittmeyer Grauer Alder Ikle Tschumper Fraefel Types Lace Reports

content  Last revised 25 July, 2004