Artisanat d'art


Embroidery with Straw

The Freiämter Strohmuseum has an interesting collection of embroidered church vestments. The oldest piece is a linen chasuble dating from 1750 which is embroidered with straw. There is also a large collection of straw and horsehair embroidered on to velvet dating from the 1850s and a white net alter frontal from the 20th century. These latter pieces were made locally. Elaborately decorated chasubles are on display at the Musée Gruérien in Bulle. We cannot be certain where this work was produced. It is believed to have come from the Jura region of France and in the convent at Nozeroy, France, there is a collection of straw embroidery.


The use of straw to decorate costume can be dated back to the 1600s. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK, has parts of silk image robes from the 1600s which are decorated with two-straw plait couched on to the surface to create decorative patterns. They have many pieces in their collection including a stomacher and bag from the mid 1700s.


Straw embroidered costume became very fashionable during the 1700s, reaching a peak at the end of that century and continuing until the mid 1800s. As its popularity grew workers throughout Europe began to produce various garments. In the USA, there are dresses in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York (New York), and the Costume Department of the Chicago Art Institute (Illinois). Some of these dresses are adorned with straw work made in Switzerland, which was exported to the USA.


In the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg there are court dresses embroidered by workers in Russia. In England, embroidered dress panels and other items of costume can be found in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London, Wardown Park Museum, Luton and The Straw Museum, in Norfolk.


Whole straw and straw plaits can be couched on to a fabric. Split straws can be couched on to the surface using laid or gold work embroidery techniques. Sheets of flattened straw can be cut out into decorative shapes and couched on to the surface.


On fabrics that have a more open weave, such as muslin and net, split straw and fine plaits can be stitched through the fabric. After their introduction in the early 1800s, straw threads were also stitched into fabrics.

Veronica Main