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Straw Embroidery

The earliest examples of straw embroidery we are aware of date to the 17th century. Interestingly, straw is not what breaks down over time, but rather the material it is affixed to; historically silk and velvet.

From the tiny town of Nozeroy, France, are found exquisite examples of straw embroidery works by approximately 50 nuns of the Convent of the Annunciation Celestial dated about 1650.   The Straw Shop acknowledges and is grateful to Barbara Fitch, Straw Worker and Textile Artist, of England for her research specifically in straw embroidery.

With respect to The Good Shepherd alter front (shown below) she describes:  “It has a medallion in the centre surrounded by wheat straw embroidery worked on a heavy white silk fabric.  A two-strawplait using whole straws surrounds all motifs. The medallion depicts the good shepherd carrying a lamb across his shoulders and surrounded by sheep and pasture land. This (scene) is embroidered with tiny beads which gives the eyes of the shepherd a particular compelling appearance.  Some very fine straw stalks have been used for the two-straw plaits in this altar frontal, others  thicker in diameters and therefore heavier.”

Straw embroidery, Nozeroy - Collegiate Church Saint-Antoine

“The Good Shepherd”, Nozeroy – Collegiate Church Saint-Antoine

Continuing with her description, she notes: “There are also examples of raised darning cord whilst couching has been used throughout. ” Altogether she observed seven different techniques utilized in the straw embroidery for the motifs of The Good Shepherd panel.

Straw embroidery detail The Good Shepherd Nozeroy

Detail The Good Shepherd Nozeroy

Straw embroidery The Good Shepherd Panel Nozeroy France

The Good Shepherd Panel Nozeroy France, Courtesy Certiferme dot com

 

The detailed center of The Good Samaritan alter frontal below is also from the 17th century.  Fitch goes on to describe this piece as having “a medallion in the centre surrounded by embroidery of natural wheat straw. The whole looks to have been worked on a duping slub silk and it would appear that some restoration has been done. The medallion depicts the Good samaritan ( a woman by a well) giving water to a man less fortunate (Jesus).  Again this piece is worked completely in small coloured beads and mother of pearl.   The Good Shepherd and The Good Samaritan are very similar, except that the wheat straw embroidery in the Good Samaritan is a little more compact, and the work on the sides would appear more advanced.  A large scroll motif of raised darning with inlaid smaller motifs of padded brick pattern half way up on both sides, and another motif on the corners, portrays a more sophisticated technique than that depicted on The Good Shepherd.”

straw embroidery, Straw panel Nozeroy, The Good Samaritan Nozeroy,

Detail The Good Samaritan, Photo courtesy of thethinkinghousewife

The third alter frontal is the Red Alter Frontal at Nozeroy.  Also attributed to the seventeenth century.

Straw embroidery, Nozeroy France

The Red Altar Frontal is different to The Good Shepherd and The Good Samaritan in that there are no beads.  All the embroidered embellishments on the what looks to be velvet  cotton, are also made of wheat straw .  This panel is approximately 10 feet long by 3 feet wide.  According to Fitch’s observation,  due to the sophistication if the execution of this piece, she is of the opinion this piece was made somewhat later than the previous two.   Over all, it is extraordinary to realize at least 9 different embroidery techniques were discovered by fitch based upon her observation.  The 9 techniques were, two-strand plait, zig-zag (or open pattern work), couching, laid work, brick pattern padding, raised darning over straw, satin stitch over cord and straw braid.

Described as possibly French, this portion of a robe is described by the Victoria and Albert Museum as, “This straw plait decorated piece is probably the back of a small image robe (used to dress a religious statue). It was originally of crimson silk satin, but has drastically faded to cream. The robe is embroidered with two straw plait of whole stalks, couched with yellow silk to form a design consisting of scrolls forming ogee-shaped compartments which enclose a fleur-de-lis. Traces of cut thread and discoloured stitch holes within the straw design suggest that precious embellishment has carefully been removed at one point. It is likely that the use of straw was intentional and of specific importance, perhaps dressing religious statues during Michaelmas. Maybe the local saint was dressed in a straw decorated robe to further empower the blessing and protection of next year’s harvest.”   Thought to be dated between 1670 and 1690.

straw embroidered robe 1670-1699-Courtesy-Victoria-and-Albert-Museum

straw embroidered robe 1670-1699-Courtesy-Victoria-and-Albert-Museum

Straw embroidery continues for the next two centuries.

The below straw embroidery panel by an anonymous artist is said to be from the  Italian regions of Tuscany and Liguria from approximately 1750.

Courtesy PierGabriele Vangelli Gallery. London.

Courtesy PierGabriele Vangelli Gallery.
London.

Thought be 1750 this fashion piece, known as a stomacher, comes from Victoria and Albert Museum.

straw-embroidered-1750-stomacher-Courtesy-VA

straw-embroidered-1750-stomacher-Courtesy-VA

Described as ” Alongside straw-plaiting and straw marquetry, a method of utilising straw in embroidery developed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Flattened straw splints were used as thread for traditional embroidery stitches, such as satin and stem stitch, couching and padded work. Straw couching can be seen in this mid-18th century stomacher. It consist of seven bands of straw splints couched to a linen band, where the straw splints are embroidered with silks in shades of blue and green in floral motifs. In the centre of each band is a six-petalled flower embroidered in silver thread with a sequin centre.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This hat of straw plait and intricate straw designs on silk is thought to have been produced about 1780. Additional information about this hat is unknown at this time.

Embroidered straw lace hat, circa 1780

Embroidered straw lace hat, circa 1780

Another detailed straw embroidered hat thought to be made between 1750 1775. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection

straw embroidery 1750 1775 Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection

Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection

The Straw Shop is pleased to share additional examples of straw embroidery.

Collar of white net with straw embroidery, Circa 1830, courtesy of Beccles & District Museum, UK

Collar of white net with straw embroidery, Circa 1830, courtesy of Beccles & District Museum, UK

 

Also from Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, this bodice is described as, “Floral sprays embroidered with straw on pink silk taffeta.” Described simply as French, 18th century.

Straw-embroidered-pink-silk-bodice-18th-century-French-Courtesy-MFA-and-The-Elizabeth-Day-McCormick-Collection

Straw-embroidered-pink-silk-bodice-18th-century-French-Courtesy-MFA-and-The-Elizabeth-Day-McCormick-Collection

The skirt for the above bodice is also embroidered on pink taffeta silken is shown below:

Straw-embroidered-pink-silk-dress-Courtesy-MFA-The-Elizabeth-Day-McCormick-Collection

Straw-embroidered-pink-silk-dress, 18th century Courtesy MFA The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection

 

 

Every non-blue area of the below photograph is made from wheat straw, either as threads or as plaits or flattened shapes.

A detail on an 1867 panel, from the Stiftung Freiamter Strohmuseum, Wohlen, Switzerland collection.

A detail of an 1867 panel, from the Stiftung Freiamter Strohmuseum, Wohlen, Switzerland collection, Copyright The Straw Shop

Courtesy Straw im Park, CH

Larger view of the above 1867 straw embroidered panel; courtesy of Straw im Park, Wohlen Switzerland.

 

Embroidered straw detail Courtesy Strohmuseum im Park

Center of panel detail Courtesy Strohmuseum im Park, Wohlen, Switzerland

straw embroidery detail courtesy Freiamter Museum Wohlen

Courtesy Freiamter Museum Wohlen

 

Alongside straw plaiting and straw marquetry, another method of utilizing straw in embroidery developed in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Flattened straw splints were used as thread for traditional embroidery stitches, such as satin and stem stitch, couching and padded work.  The following piece is courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum.    Circa 1760, this shoe  is an example of embroidered straw splints.

couched straw, embroidered straw, straw splints

 

The straw embroidered house shoes shown below are thought to be from the 1830s. The shoes feature interesting uses of straw  plaits, horsehair and straw embroidery.

Exquisite straw shoes, antique straw fashion

Straw house shoes, Photo courtesy Kyoto Costume Museum

Embroidered straw circa 1860

Embroidered straw circa 1860

Straw has also been found to be embroidered onto netting. The Azores are most known for the following type of straw embroidery onto netting.

Embroidered straw piece museum piece Courtesy of copyright of isadofedora

Photo Courtesy and copyright of Isadofedora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an early 19th century straw work letter case. Designed in an envelope style.  A blue silk  background embroidered with straw work and silk thread depicts foliate motifs, dogs, birds, and two entwined love hearts.

The case was reputedly made by Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales (1796-1817).  The Princess was  the only child of George Prince of Wales and Caroline Brunswick who unfortunately died at the young age of 21 during child birth.

 

antique straw embroidered envelope

Another clutch is gratefully shared with permission by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art  (LACMA).  Thought to be Swiss or French in origin and dating from the 18th century:
LACMA straw pocketbook

LACMA straw pocketbook, copyright The Straw Shop

With special thanks to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art  (LACMA), The Straw Shop is exclusively able to share additional photos of this extraordinary purse.  Below is the reverse side:
LACMA straw pocketbook photo of straw shop,LACMA straw pocketbook photo, copyright The Straw Shop

LACMA straw pocketbook photo, copyright The Straw Shop

Back to the front of this clutch, please notice the couched straw work located in the center section:
LACMA straw clutch couched straw detail Straw Shop photo

LACMA straw clutch couched detail photo, copyright The Straw Shop

The workmanship is exquisite.  Here is another view:
LACMA pocketbook detail taken by The Straw Shop

LACMA pocketbook photo, copyright The Straw Shop

Also in the Collection at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a fan.  This fan is thought to be dated in the early 1700s.  Though applied to a now dark green fabric affixed to a wooden base, the straw work on this fan mimics embroidery styles of the day:
LACMA straw fan circa 1740

Straw fan circa 1740, courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Straw Shop is pleased to exclusively share these additional photos  of this 1740 embroidered fan with you:
LACMA fan Straw shop photo LACMA straw pocketbook photo, copyright The Straw Shop

LACMA straw fan, copyright The Straw Shop

LACMA straw fan detail photo by The Straw shop

LACMA straw fan detail, copyright The Straw Shop

To further substantiate the style of straw embroidered pieces of the day, we are pleased to share the additional images:

Straw embroidered cap, Courtesy Museum of Fine Art Boston

Straw embroidered cap, Courtesy Museum of Fine Art Boston

The embroidery style appears on this clothing piece called a stomacher:
Straw Stomacher circa 18thc, British, photo courtesy metmuseum.org

Straw Stomacher circa 18thc, British, photo courtesy metmuseum.org

We could not resist sharing this wonderful hat attributed to be 18th century, courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
straw embroidery, the straw shop, antique straw embroidery

Below are some additional images to scroll through for more inspiration using straw thread as embroidery.

One image we want to share with you is this spectacular gown, mis-identified as being straw embroidery:

metal wired embroidery mis identified as a straw fashion embellished ball gown circa 1865 courtesy Vienna museum

Misidentified as straw embellished ball gown circa 1865 courtesy Vienna Museum

We believe, based solely on the above image, describing this as a straw embellished ball gown circa 1865 is incorrect.  The dating of the gown may be accurate, but we believe the embroidery to be of wire or another man-made material rather than straw for several reasons.  The style of straw lace and straw embroidery done was not similar to this, based on known examples of straw work from the period.  For that reason, as well as its appearance in general, we feel it is identified incorrectly as straw.  It may be silk, or perhaps metal work or such as these were a common embellishment in high fashion of the period.

The straw thread needed for the above shown pieces were time consuming to create. The advent of mechanized thread production essentially ended this 300 year era of straw embroidery.

Several embroiderers today consider the use of straw threads in their work. The Straw Shop is pleased to offer our completely hand spun antique straw threads. As a result, we have been approached and congratulated for making this fine, elusive material available.

 

Straw Threads

Wheat Straw ThreadsStraw Threads made of rye in both natural and dyed colors are sturdy and create additional dimensions to work.

The  Straw Shop carries small 13 count packages of antique natural colored rye straw threads from Switzerland. The cost of these packages are $5 each.

These packages are ideal for those who would like to add a unique texture to their designs.  The antique threads average approximately 12 inches in length and should be slightly dampened prior to use.

The images below show several uses of  spun rye thread.   This type of work is referred to as Swiss straw work.  If you look closely, you will see several designs comprise each element.

Rosettes for example are made with a tool and then are tied or sewn one to another. The Straw Shop has the tool you will need to create this look.  Our book selection also offers “how to” instructions for many of the motifs.  To inspire you, please enjoy this video by Mrs. Barbara Fitch, of England, who is known through-out the straw community as a most valuable resource who has shared her knowledge  of  Swiss Straw work and straw lace with so very many.

 

 

 

Straw fashion straw embroidery straw thread work

Courtesy of the Friemter Museum

 

Although the days of  fine straw embroidery appear to be over, the new interpretation on straw embroidery is practiced by a few artisans.

The below images come from 20th and 21st century straw thread artists.  Perhaps the mere use of these materials today, more than 300 years later, is a tribute in itself to the artform.

Elaine Lyndsey Scotland

Elaine Lyndsey Scotland

Antique and Modern Table Runner by Donna Hall, California

Antique and Modern Table Runner by Donna Hall, California

Grain to Grain II by Veronica Main England - more artistic use of straw thread.

Grain to Grain II by Veronica Main England – more artistic use of straw thread.

Straw lace by Olga Polyakova entitled Gold Fields

Straw lace by Olga Polyakova entitled Gold Fields

swiss lace iliinoiswheatweaversdotorg

Swiss lace Courtesy iliinoiswheatweaversdotorg

straw thread

Veronika Maczko Hungary

Though nearly unheard of today, a few straw artists interpret straw embroidery in their creative ways.   The sculptural image below is by 21st Century Joan Dulcey, USA.

Embroidery St Raphael, Joan Dulcey, USA 2014

St Raphael, Joan Dulcey, USA

 

Another sensational artist working in her interpretation of straw embroidery is Natalia Lashko, Ukraine. Please link on her name to read more about this exceptional artist.  We are pleased new forms of straw embroidery are still expressed today.

Straw embroidery, Natalia Lashko, sculptural straw, star art, the straw shop, the straw shop collection, straw fiber art, fiber art

Straw embroidery, Natalia Lashko entitled Iris 2004