Stitch by Stitch

Andrej Abplanalp

Andrej Abplanalp

Historian and communications chief of the Swiss National Museum.

Next time you’re stuck with a boring task, take comfort from the following true story. The first World Expo took place in London in 1851 and featured 13,000 works from 25 countries and 15 British colonies. One of the works was a piece of whitework embroidery from the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden. It was hand-embroidered, probably by just one woman, who worked on the piece for a full year, setting tens of thousands of stitches to create the design on a piece of cotton muslin measuring four square metres. The embroidery was shown to six million visitors from all over the world as a representative example of the textile crafts of eastern Switzerland.

Although the economic importance of the textile industry later declined, it still plays an integral role in the world of haute couture.

Whitework embroidery, 1851, hand-embroidered by a woman from Bühler in the Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden. Photo: Swiss National Museum

A short documetation about the Great Exhibition which took place in London in 1851.

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