Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Whitework Wednesday

         Whitework Wednesday

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 Whitework Wednesday is here again and I have some more goodies for you! I am going to start with my first trip to Madeira.

     A view of a hill in Madeira.  If you ever get the chance - GO!  It is beautiful!  Madeira is an island about 300 miles or so off the coast of Portugal.  It is in a cluster of 3 islands,with Madeira being the largerst.  It is very mountainous - you can see here how steep it is.  The farmers carve out 'shelves' in the side of the mountain to farm - they are about 10m x 10m.  This helps to keep the soil from washing away.

     I read an add in Creative Needle about a trip to Madeira, led by Julia Golson.  I showed it to my husband and he said where do you sign up?  I had lots of friends help with carpool, etc., as I had all 4 of our kids by then, and Emma had just turned 1, but it was wonderful!  This is our group, and the 4 women sitting in the front were the embroideresses that worked at the factory that were our teachers.

     We had our lessons at the Imperial Bordados Factory in Funchal, which is the main city on the island of Madeira.  We were each given a hand towel that had been embroidered with the Imperial crest - it is amazing!  The women that taught us were considered the best of the best.  They worked in the factory and cleaned up any of the embroidered peices that came in and had to be 'touched up'.

This is the entrance of the Imperial.  There was a factory store on the first floor; we climbed the stairs every day to the 2nd floor where the work was done!

These are our teachers (and this was at the end of our stay), but this picture was taken in the store on the first floor.  You can see the tables set with the linens as displays.  There are displays on the walls - one of the displays is a replia of the tablecloth that was embroidered for Princess Grace of Monocco (have not found the picture yet).
     (My one big regret is that digital cameras were not the thing yet!  Had not heard of them on the first trip, and by the time the 2nd trip rolled around, you knew what they were, but they were extravagantly expensive - $1000 for a 2Mpixel camera, and you had to keep buying disks to store the pictures - each disk held about 100 photos.  My how technolgy has changed)!

     When we walked into this room, it looked like an architects storage room!

     There was a sea of what looked like blueprints, but were in actuallity, design prints for the embroidery.

Many of the prints had not been used in a long time.  In this picture, you can see the designs are flat - these designs are in a type of a book that the customer could look through and choose the design of his/her choice.  The rolled designs had alredy been used and the paper was rolled up after the design had been transferred.

     You can see a page in one of the design books here.

     Once a design was chosen, it had to be traced on to the paper.  Once it was on the paper, the design was traced with this little measuring wheel.

     It is about 5 inches long and looks like a mini surveyors wheel.  It measures the distance of the embroidery (cutwork or pinstitch, for example).  This is used to calculate the price that is paid to the embroideresses.  They know how many stitches are taken per cm, and that is how they figure out the labot cost.  Even thought the rate is changed (and it is still very low), this is the same the labor costs were figured out when this industry started, over 100 years ago.

     Once the design is traced, it is taken to a machine that looks like an unthreaded sewing machine.  The design is run under the machine, which pricks holes all along the design.  Then it is taken to the next station and a pounce ball is used to mark the design on the linen.  The pounce is blue, and once it is marked, the fabric looks like a blueprint!

     In the early days, the designs were carved onto little beads, like these.

     The beads were attached to rollers on this machine and the fabric was marked as it was rolled through.  Sorry about the flash - many of these pictures were taken at the museum through glass!
     I will continue with the next step onthe next Whitework Wednesday.  In the meantime, I am including a few more pictures of some whitework samples!

     Technically not whitework, since colors were used, but beautiful, none the less!  I bought this in a shop in Funchal - it is a doily aith cutwork edges and cutwork, satin stitch, and eyelets throughout.  You can see the little silver gremio seal (more about that in the future) that is attached to the end.

     This is a picture of the WRONG side of the doily - their work is almost as good on the back as it is on the front!

     A round table runner (much bigger than what you would think of as  a doily - it is about 20 inches wide)  with a beautiful edge!  I picked this up at an antique mall.

Until the next Whitework Wednesday!

My September newsletter was just posted and sent out.  If you did not receive the email link, you can go to and click on the newsletter link.

Happy Stitching,


  1. The doily is stunning. Thanks for sharing your photos of my dream trip. Maybe someday!

  2. Replies
    1. I am having so much fun going through these pictures - I do hope that I get the chance to go back again, even though I know so much has changed!