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Berlin Wool Work Picture

From an ornate beadwork vase on a column, abundant three-dimensional flowers spill forth, their sculpting done in plush stitch, in which loops of wool are secured by cross stitches, and then cut, brushed and clipped to the desired shape and height.

Artist/maker unknown, English

Made in England, Europe

c. 1840-1860

Linen plain weave with wool embroidery in cross and plush stitches (Berlin wool work); glass and metal beads

Framed: 34 1/2 x 28 1/2 x 1 inches (87.6 x 72.4 x 2.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986

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In the nineteenth century, the widespread deterioration of needlework skills encouraged the proliferation of easy-to-execute embroideries, such as Berlin wool works. Their designs, which were originally published in Berlin, were copied by hand from paper patterns onto open mesh canvas or linen, and sewn by counting stitches. This picture’s surface was achieved with plush stitches, formed by looping the wool on the linen foundation and then securing them with a cross stitch. While visually impressive, Berlin work was considered a superficial needlework skill. One contemporary writer remarked, “Twenty can do . . . Berlin work for every one who can make a shirt.”