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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  Machine lace:
can be produced mechanically by the embroidery machine with specially developed tools for making holes. During the second stage the pattern is embroidered with flat-stitch (Bohrware).

Another way is the chemical method, or Aetzstickerei (see notes 5 and 25). Here the pattern is first embroidered onto a base fabric which initially had to consist of an animal fibre such as wool or silk. The embroidery on it had to be made with a vegetable fibre, i.e. cotton or linen, and the subsequent chemical treatment caused the base fabric to disappear entirely leaving only the solid cotton embroidery.
Later a method was developed by which the previously treated fabric could be dissolved through mere washing in water.

Complicated shapes, like collars, were separated into individual pieces which subsequently were produced in large numbers on the embroidery machines. Later, before they underwent the dissolving process, they were joined together by sewing machine into their final form.

The dissolving technique was, moreover, very suited for a persuasive imitation of several kinds of lace, hand-made, with the needle, or even with the bobbin. Otto Alder, for instance, produced a mechanical Venetian lace which he claimed even the expert could not recognise as machine-produced work (25). Also Irish crochet-lace or Sol-lace from Paraguay, could be produced with the chemical method, and especially popular was the mechanical filet lace.

  Finally a very large group of machine embroideries, namely the coarse embroidery, must not be forgotten (26). This meant mostly the production of various types of curtains on the chain-stitch machine, an operation which was frequently carried out in neighbouring Austria (Vorarlberg) for firms in St Gallen.

Since the beginning of the hand embroidery industry, eastern Switzerland had close connections with Austrian embroidery.
St Gallen firms sent their fabrics and embroidery threads for finishing to Vorarlberg without having to pay custom duties or any tax. The products were then delivered back to Switzerland as finished embroideries (27).
The first chain-stitch machines (also called Kurbelstickmaschine or Parisermaschine) were installed in 1863 in Vorarlberg, and the first hand-embroidery machine was established in 1868 in Lustenau by the Brothers Hofer. 

Coarse embroidery was the name for chain-stitch on cotton muslin and on tulle. The Spachteltechnik (cutting-out technique) was very successful with curtain embroidery. Tulle and cotton fabric were put on top of each other, and both were simultaneously decorated with chain-stitch.
Afterwards, the part of the material not belonging to the pattern was cut off. A report of 1888 claimed that with the Spachteltechnique, "finally a weapon was found which successfully challenged the Nottingham lace curtain, and was able to retrieve ground which had been lost to this worst of all rivals so far encountered" (28).


Detail of chemical embroidery,
Imitation of Irish Lace

Chemical embroidery,
Imitation of Filet


Page of sample book
with chemical lace

Enlargement of sample
with chemical lace

  In the German area of Saxony (Plauen), too, machine tulle was embroidered. In 1881 the merchant Theodor Bickel, a linguist with great knowledge, attracted attention with it in Paris (29). Plauen's esteem on the international market rose since this new embroidery could be produced with the Schiffli machine. The St Gallen embroidery firm of Reichenbach kept a branch in Plauen for some time. Plauen also maintained a large production industry for coarse embroidery. A large number of pattern sheets from it are kept in the textile library of St Gallen.
25 - Alder,
Rückschau, p. 55.
26 - Marianne Gächter-Weber,
"Vorhangstickerei 1870 bis 1930", in: Stickereizeit (St. Gallen, 1989), p. 69, and Anne Wanner, "Maschinenstickerei", in ibid., p. 80. 27 - Gerhard Wanner, Vorarlbergs Industriegeschichte (Feldkirch 1990), p. 83
28 - Jahrbuch des kaufmännischen Directoriums (1888), p. 15
29 - Otto Tröger,
"Werde- und Entwicklungsgang der Plauener Industrie" (lecture published in: Neue Vogtländer Zeitung, n.d.).

Introduction Rittmeyer Grauer Alder Ikle Tschumper Fraefel Types Lace Reports

content  Last revised 25 July, 2004