CharacteristicsDesigns are usually simple conventional floral motifs and scrolls Ladderwork may be a feature. A very narrow ladder is made using a stiletto for the holes Semicircular scallops are worked in finest buttonhole stitch Stitches include running, overcast stitch, buttonhole and padded satin stitch Often worked in pale blue cotton thread as white easily soiled in the climate Fabrics include white or bleached Portuguese cotton fabric or the finest of fabrics with a firm fine texture such as cambric, muslin, cotton, lawn, fine linen, or good crepe de chine Applique may be applied. Sometimes small pieces of cotton fabric were hemmed to the main ground and embroidered with pin stitch (Point de Paris) hemming, point de turc or buttonhole Used for dresses, lingerie, baby clothes, fine household linen, handkerchiefs.
The archipelago of Madeira, off the Atlantic coast of Portugal, was and is a prolific centre for the output of embroidery. Thousands of women embroidered towels, table mats and other domestic items for sale not only in Madeira and mainland Portugal but also overseas, particularly in America.
Unlike the embroideries of Spain which had links with North Africa and South America, those of Portugal have more affinity with work of the Indian sub-continent characterised by curving scrolls. The Indian influence dates from the 15th century when Portuguese explorers opened the sea route around Africa to India.
The finest of buttonhole stitches around the edges of items is the main characteristic. Madeira work was copied by other countries, mainly China, but few were able to reach the standard of the Madeira women.D31
Walker, C. and Holman, Kathy, The embroidery of madeira 1987
de Banneville, Francoise,The book of fine linen translated from French by Deke Dusinberre, 1994 Fammarion
Piecework magazine, Article, Madeira.
© Valerie Cavill 2008