In a few hours I will leave for Switzerland. Together with a friend, I will go to Verena Schiegg in Appenzell. Verena is one of only a handful of people who teach the very fine Appenzeller Whitework. I am so looking forward to the coming days! Will tell you all about it next Monday. In the meantime, for all of you not familiar with this type of whitework embroidery, here's some background information.
Hand embroidery as a way to earn a living dates back to the early 19th century in this rural alpine area near St. Gallen in Switzerland. Times were hard and hunger was either present or never far away. Talented people of either sex and children started to earn a little extra by stitching handkerchiefs, collars, christening robes, shawls and the like as home workers. The older pieces use fine chain stitches to stitch out the patterns. After only a decade or so, satin stitch took over. The products were highly valued and exported to France and the United States.
The decline set in the third quarter of the 19th century with the introduction of embroidery machines. However, some very delicate work couldn't be done with a machine. Finely embroidered handkerchiefs, dresses, men's shirts and bed sheets were still highly valued around the turn of the century. Finely worked pieces were the stars of national and international exhibitions with young embroideresses demonstrating their skill.
The Second World War led to the final demise of this type of home work. Export opportunities broke away and after the war, fashion had changed and Appenzeller embroideries were no longer 'hot'.
For those of you who haven't seen the documentary 'Fleiss auf Weiss' (Diligence on White), do click on the video above. Flash forward to 54 minutes for English spoken commentary.
And last but not least, a very warm welcome to all my new readers who signed up after last week's blog post was featured on Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread on Friday! It is amazing to think that Appenzell will soon be known in Australia, Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Guatemala, Gabon, Morocco, New-Zealand, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Tanzania, United Kingdom and the United States.
Jessica M. Grimm
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