ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History / publications

Swiss Whitework Embroideries
a paper, given at the CIETA meeting of 1989 in Chicago USA, by Anne Wanner-JeanRichard

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  In the 18th and 19th century there were several centres which produced whitework embroideries. The textile collection of St. Gallen has some pieces of these centres. Few of them are dated.

The earliest embroidery on cotton is an english apron with the date of 1711. As for the technique we find satin stitch, chainstitch, and drawn work.
Probably also from the first half of the 18th century is the cover or curtain of Dinant. I have not been able to find literature or documents of this region in Belgium. Again there is satinstitch, buttonholestitch and fine drawn work.
From Saxony I show an example with the date of 1763, which is the date of the peace of Hubertusburg. Drawn work is a speciality of Saxony.
In the 19th century whitework was done in Ayr, Scottland. In St.Gallen there is a collection of baby dresses. The example is not dated, but M. Swain gives some dates in her book: Mrs Jamieson of Ayr, Scottland, established a considerable business from 1814 to 1830. She is said to habe controlled a thousand outworkers. The finest pieces were done in the 1830s and they were voted equal to french work. The end of the Scottish embroidery came in 1857 because of a financial crisis in Glasgow and concurrence of machine embroidery.

In Bohemia Miroslava Ludvicova describes three waves of development. Specially the second, from 1830 to 1860 brought many fine works.
From 1850 to the end of the century there is a tendency to work quickly.

  Still in 19th century special caps were embroidered in "bourbonnaises", France. There is almost no literature on them, but there is an extremely high number of examples in the collection of St. Gallen. The lace stitch is very similar to the lace stitch used in Switzerland. On the reverse side we note the difference to swiss works. In France there is quite often chainstitch which gives the effect of small dots on the frontside.

In the 19th c. whitework embroideries were made in Denmark (Hedebo), in Norway (Hardanger), in Ireland (Mountmellik) as well.

Also of 19th century are the fine whitework embroideries with rich drawn work of Manila. Sandra Castro of Manila is writing a thesis of this kind of works: Several local fabrics made of vegetable fiber are usually identified as "grasscloth". New research work shows that 2 qualities can be distinguished: Pina means the cloth made from leaves of the pineapple plant. Nippis were exported specially to Spain. Primary sources say that this is a fine grade of cloth manufactured from plantain. With these fabrics it is possibel to make the finest drawnworks.

In the last years of 19th century, swiss machine embroiderers imitated Manila work with the machines.



Detail from Apron, England, 1711


Close up with embroidered Date




Whitework Embroidery, Saxony, 2nd half 18th c

Baby dress for Baptism, mid 19th c.,
Ayr, Scottland,
today Textilemuseum St.Gallen, Inv.Nr. 21992




to be used for a French Cap, France, 19th c.
today Textilemuseum St. Gallen

Detail from Headdress
from Roznov, Northern Bohemia,1840-1850
Collection of Museum Roznov pod Radhostem,
Inv.Nr. 1266



Detail of a Pina Cloth, Manila, end of 19th c.

Manila Embroidery, made in Switzerland
with Embroidery Machine, 20th century


Chikan Embroidery, India, 2nd half 19th c.

Introduction Swiss embroidery Exhibitions Historic Embroideries 20th century Literature

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