BERLIN WOOL WORK

Characteristics

Berlin Wool - a soft untwisted woollen yarn using bright colours Fabric canvas - linen, cotton, hemp, wool, silk - various sizes Stitches-at first, tent, cross, satin but later added cushion, leviathan, rep, and plush which created a thick dimensional pile adding to the richness and reality of floral designs. Beads often added for accent Designs taken from coloured charts - floral sprays, land and seascapes, animals and figures Uses pictures, chair coverings, cushions, rugs, bell pulls, slippers, braces, handbags

History

Berlin Wool is a soft untwisted woollen yarn for embroidery or knitting. The name is derived from the wool which came from merino sheep in Saxony, Germany, taken to Gotha to be spun and on to Berlin where it was dyed and packaged with the charts which were also printed and painted there. With the development of chemical aniline dyes in Germany, the wool was dyed in brilliant colours reflecting popular German taste.

Berlin wool work, developed in Germany in the early 19th century for the amateur needlewoman, and was based on the hand-painted charts (‘point paper’ with one square = one stitch). These evolved from the tent stitch and cross stitch embroideries of 16th, 17th, 18th centuries.

The first twelve charts were released in 1804 by a Mr. Phillipson, and within the next forty years, at least 14,000 different designs were produced such as floral sprays, figures, animals, land and seascapes.

When the brightly-coloured wools became commercially available in 1820, it was given the name Berlin Work. These wools began to replace English crewel, lamb’s wool and silk threads.

Prior to these Berlin patterns, it was very rare to find any indication about the choice of colour. Designs were drawn on the canvas and coloured in allowing for limited variations in shades of colour. At first, Berlin paper patterns were always coloured by hand until the emergence of industrial printing techniques, allowing for much greater range of colours and shades. The names of a few Berlin pattern makers are often seen; Hertz and Wegener, L.W.Wittich, Carl F.W.Wicht, A.Todt and G.E.Falbe

The widespread availability of the patterns and the yarn made Berlin work an easily accessible form of needlework for all classes. Berlin Work was done on various types and sizes of canvas and on perforated paper in a variety of colours. A new large sized canvas was introduced which caused the figures and designs to become coarse and inartistic. Parrots, animals and groups of flowers copied patterns not according to true art principles, thereby debasing the technique.

Berlin wool work was a craze in England and America in the latter part of 19th century. It dropped out of fashion in early 20th century with the emergence of art needlework and the Morris movements and with improved design elements. The production of this wool was discontinued in the 1930s.

References

Clabburn, Pamela THE NEEDLEWORKERS' DICTIONARY, Macmillan, London, 1976
Caulfeild, SFA & Saward, B.C THE DICTIONARY OF NEEDLEWORK, Blaketon Hall, England, 1989
http://www.agsas.org/howto/crafts/needlework.shtml

Valerie Cavill, 2010

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