Secret Life of Antiques: Heirloom Antique Appenzell Embroidery



There are some things that make my heart skip a few beats {and make my children roll their eyes!} Amazing hand embroidery is one of them. I always secretly {or just plain out in the open} do a little dance when I can acquire some heirloom Appenzell embroidered Bridal Handkerchiefs for my clients who avidly collect. Appenzell is amazing. It is beyond gorgeous, highly collectable, and well…you’ll see what I mean.




Appenzell is exceptional embroidery, world renowned for the gorgeous, meticulous hand work, it is the finest, most beautiful hand embroidery you will ever find. It was made by the women of Appenzell region at the foot of the Alps, in Switzerland during the 18th and 19th century.  Since the 1700’s, this exquisite white on white, or whitework needlework was produced by cottage industries, thousands of hardworking women contributed to their family finances with their work on embroidery frames, stitching the tiniest, most precise stitches to form beautiful patterns of white on white.






Appenzell work was stitched on the finest Swiss Linen Batiste, very fine satin stitches and the most delicate seed stitches that are so minuscule, it’s hard to imagine it was done by hand. You practically need a magnifying glass to fully appreciate the intricate patterns and designs. The background for Appenzell work is Buratto work, a fine, delicate net or grid needlework, true Appenzell will feature beautiful flowers, extremely rare pieces have figural designs with historical figures. Because the designs were printed on the linen with a fine soft grey ink, often unwashed Appenzell will appear to have a soft grey or light blue shadow.




During the Industrial Revolution, when most embroidery work around the world was industrialized, the Appenzell area women continued to make their lovely and quite amazing hand work. In the late 1800’s, Swiss merchants traveled to the European Spa centers, where aristocrats and high society patrons would buy the Appenzell handkerchiefs, bed linen, and tablecloths as a souvenir of their vacation.




This is a hand embroidery skill that was passed down from generation to generation, girls would learn the basics from their grandmothers, mothers, and other family members. In the late 1800’s there was actually a state funded school where young women could learn intricate embroidery work and special design skills to further their deftness at the embroidery. You can see larger photos and what is still available of these amazing embroidered handkerchiefs HERE.



There are only a few embroiderers who continue to do this fine, time-consuming needlework, Appenzell has a beautiful museum which showcases their hand embroidery. I think it would take me a lifetime to learn and execute just one small handkerchief!


Do you love heirloom antique Appenzell embroidery ?

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9 thoughts on “Secret Life of Antiques: Heirloom Antique Appenzell Embroidery”

  1. These are absolutely amazing! Someday, I would love to visit the museum to see some in real life. Thank you for sharing this fine artwork.
    Michelle from

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment, Michelle. I hope you see the museum, I’ve never seen it in “real life” either, but I’m sure it is beyond amazing!

  2. Tammy Rey

    These are just beautiful and the history behind them makes them even better. I just LOVE your articles. I learn something every time. Thank you for this Lidy!

  3. Hi Lidy, I have a couple of pieces of Appenzell work and adore it. I enjoy doing embroidery but not like that. It is truly art work in it’s finest form. Thank you teaching me a little more about it today. Jo

    1. Jo, I am always so in awe of anyone who can do embroidery. It’s not one of my gifts, but I DO appreciate its beauty!

  4. Simply beautiful! You do such involved work to share these beauties with us, Lidy. Thank you!

    Jane x

  5. Oh my Lidy…. that is some gorgeous work! I collect and use handkerchiefs and really appreciate any embroidery on them, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Amazing.

    I hope you have a lovely weekend, my sweet friend 🙂


  6. Lidy, absolutely stunning work, it is amazing to me, to see what artisans have created so lovingly!

    The Arts by Karena
    Jackson Pollock Mural

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