Background-fully embroidered Design-flowing corded motifs filled with pulled fabric and counted thread stitches Fabric-coarse evenweave material e.g. Congress canvas


This embroidery is named after Jean-Baptiste Colbert, finance minister of Louis XIV in the 17thC who wanted to revitalize home industry, in particular the production of luxury goods such as lace which was in great demand but had to be imported from Italy and Flanders. These expensive imports were a drain on French finances. He set up lace making centres in France and brought over Dutch and Italian lace makers to teach.

The term “Colbert” became associated with a special type of pattern, inspired by the Baroque style of art, popular in the 17thC. In the 18thC, this embroidery aimed to emulate the needle laces (such as Dresden lace). It is not as fine as Dresden lace, and in fact, Colbert embroidery tends to look rather bold and coarse next to the delicate whitework of Dresden lace. Whereas Dresden is white on white, Colbert embroidery is usually worked in colour.

The design elements are bold, heavy flowing lines and curves outlined with couched braid or whipped stem or chain stitches. The structured, counted filling patterns contrast vividly with the flowing lines and curves of the designs. The background of the work is fully embroidered in counted thread geometric patterns.

This embroidery was adapted over the centuries. It was very much favoured in the Victorian era in England but soon went into decline.


Burda "Anna", September 1988, Volume number 9, page 157
Caulfeild, SFA & Saward, B.C The Dictionary of Needlework, Blaketon, England 1989
Clabburn, Pamela The Needleworkers' Dictionary, MacMillan, London, 1976
Therese Dillmont's Complete Encyclopedia of Needlework

© Valerie Cavill 2011