Berlin wool work

Berlin wool work is a style of embroidery. It is a subtype of canvas work. Typically it is executed with tapestry wool on canvas, in petit point stitch only. It was traditionally executed in many colours and hues, producing intricate three-dimensional looks by careful shading. The design of such embroidery was made possible by the great progresses made in dyeing in the 1830s.

This kind of work produced very durable and long-lived pieces of embroidery that could be used as furniture covers, cushions, bags, or even on clothing.

History

Berlin wool work patterns in colour were first published in Berlin, Germany, early in the 19th century. The first Berlin wool patterns were printed in black and white on paper and then hand-coloured. The stitcher was expected to draw the outlines on the canvas and then stitch following the colours on the pattern. But soon it became usual to publish counting patterns on charted paper, much like our cross-stitch patterns today. This made it easier to execute these patterns, because there was no need for translating the patterns into actual wool colours by the stichers themselves. They were published as single sheets mostly, which made them affordable for the masses.

Soon they were exported to Britain and the USA, where "Berlin work" became a craze. Indeed, "Berlin work" became practically synonymous with "canvas work".

In Britain, Berlin work received a further boost through the Great Exhibition of 1851, and by the advent of ladies' magazines such as "The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine."

The popularity of Berlin work was due largely to the fact that, for the first time in history, a fairly large number of women had leisure time to devote to needlework.

Subjects to be embroidered were influenced by Victorian Romanticism and included Victorian paintings, biblical or allegorical motifs, and quotations such as "Home Sweet Home" or "Faith, Hope, Love".

In the 1850s to 1870s, the demand for Berlin wool work decreased dramatically, largely because the taste of the populace had changed, and the publishers failed to accommodate Berlin work to new tastes. Other, less opulent styles of embroidery became more popular, such as the art needlework advocated by William Morris and his Arts and Crafts movement.

Berlin wool work today

Today, embroidery resembling Berlin work is available as kits, usually they are not worked after counting patterns but are printed directly on the canvas. The motifs still resemble classic Berlin work, but are typically less intricate. Such kits are stitched by a dwindling minority.

Modern needlepoint has lost almost all resemblance with Berlin wool work, it uses a great variety of stitches and threads, often with emphasis on creative work by the stitcher rather than simply copying patterns.

In many ways, some styles of modern cross-stitch can be seen as the true descendants of Berlin work. Of course, modern cross-stitch is a kind of surface embroidery rather than canvas work.

External links

* [http://www.needlepoint.org/Archives/01-01/berlinwork.htm Berlin Work] by Pat Berman, a technical history at the American Needlepoint Guild site


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Berlin wool — Berlin Ber lin, n. [The capital of Prussia] 1. A four wheeled carriage, having a sheltered seat behind the body and separate from it, invented in the 17th century, at Berlin. [1913 Webster] 2. Fine worsted for fancy work; zephyr worsted; called… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • berlin wool — noun Usage: usually capitalized B : a fine worsted yarn for knitting and embroidery * * * a soft woolen yarn for embroidery or knitting. Also called berlin. [1840 50; after BERLIN, Germany, where such wools were orig. dyed] * * * Berlin wool noun …   Useful english dictionary

  • berlin wool — /bɜlɪn ˈwʊl/ (say berlin wool) noun a soft woollen yarn for tapestry work, etc …   Australian English dictionary

  • Berlin work — Berlin Ber lin, n. [The capital of Prussia] 1. A four wheeled carriage, having a sheltered seat behind the body and separate from it, invented in the 17th century, at Berlin. [1913 Webster] 2. Fine worsted for fancy work; zephyr worsted; called… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Berlin — Ber lin, n. [The capital of Prussia] 1. A four wheeled carriage, having a sheltered seat behind the body and separate from it, invented in the 17th century, at Berlin. [1913 Webster] 2. Fine worsted for fancy work; zephyr worsted; called also… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Berlin black — Berlin Ber lin, n. [The capital of Prussia] 1. A four wheeled carriage, having a sheltered seat behind the body and separate from it, invented in the 17th century, at Berlin. [1913 Webster] 2. Fine worsted for fancy work; zephyr worsted; called… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Berlin blue — Berlin Ber lin, n. [The capital of Prussia] 1. A four wheeled carriage, having a sheltered seat behind the body and separate from it, invented in the 17th century, at Berlin. [1913 Webster] 2. Fine worsted for fancy work; zephyr worsted; called… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Berlin green — Berlin Ber lin, n. [The capital of Prussia] 1. A four wheeled carriage, having a sheltered seat behind the body and separate from it, invented in the 17th century, at Berlin. [1913 Webster] 2. Fine worsted for fancy work; zephyr worsted; called… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Berlin iron — Berlin Ber lin, n. [The capital of Prussia] 1. A four wheeled carriage, having a sheltered seat behind the body and separate from it, invented in the 17th century, at Berlin. [1913 Webster] 2. Fine worsted for fancy work; zephyr worsted; called… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Berlin shop — Berlin Ber lin, n. [The capital of Prussia] 1. A four wheeled carriage, having a sheltered seat behind the body and separate from it, invented in the 17th century, at Berlin. [1913 Webster] 2. Fine worsted for fancy work; zephyr worsted; called… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English


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