Swiss textile industry

History of the Swiss Textile Industrie: Klöppelspitze (Bobbin Lace)

schwaches Verb
Spitze[n] herstellen durch Kreuzen, Drehen o. Ä. von Fäden, die auf Klöppel gewickelt sind

Bobbin lace is a lace textile made by braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbins to manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a lace pillow, the placement of the pins usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the pillow.

Bobbin lace evolved from passementerie or braid-making in 16th-century Italy. Genoa was famous for its braids, hence it is not surprising to find bobbin lace developed in the city. It traveled along with the Spanish troops through Europe.

In the 17th century, the textile centers of Flanders and Normandy eclipsed Italy as the premiere sources for fine bobbin lace, but until the coming of mechanization hand-lacemaking continued to be practiced throughout Europe, suffering only in those periods of simplicity when lace itself fell out of fashion.

(source: Wikipedia)

Also in Switzerland, bobbin lace making became a popular craft done at home to generate an additional income, especially in rural areas. Most of the bobbin lace was thus sold to the aristocracy in neighbour countries or to clerics.

The Valley of Lauterbrunnen was one central point of this handiwork. When I visited Lauterbrunnen last summer, I passed by a shop window featuring bobbin lace works. And I learned that there is still an active bobbin lace making culture in the village (Lauterbrunner Spitzen-Klöpplerinnen).


I made this collage with photographs of works displayed in the shop windows.


Traditional ethnic Swiss costumes called “Trachten” use bobbin lace embellishments as well, up to this day:

copyright by Ballenberg

If you want to learn about bobbin lace making, you can do so while visiting the open-air museum Ballenberg in Bern. There, you can watch a craftswoman make bobbin lace or even attend an introductory workshop.

copyright by Ballenberg

Substantiv, maskulin [der]
1a. im Innern einer Glocke (1) lose befestigter Stab mit verdicktem Ende, der beim Läuten an die Wand der Glocke schlägt und den Klang erzeugt
1b. [an einem Ende verdickter] Stab zum Anschlagen von etwas
2. Spule aus Holz für Klöppelarbeiten
aus dem (Ost)mitteldeutschen, zu kloppen, eigentlich = Klopfer



Swiss textile industry

History of the Swiss Textile Industry: Bündner Kammtaschen

tasche_herger2copyright: Beatrice Herger-Kieliger

Kammtaschen (toilet bags to hang up on bedroom or living room walls) were very popular during the late 17th and the 18th century. They were found in households all over Europe.
Usually there were three or four compartments to fill with toiletries, notes or letters.

The Kammtaschen of the Grisons were of a very particular type: made of black taffeta, embroidered with silk threads and occasionally metallic thread.
The embroidery technique used was silk shading.

Beatrice Herger-Kieliger is a Swiss textile artist to continue this tradition; the two pictures show some of her beautiful works.

tasche_herger1copyright: Beatrice Herger-Kieliger

(text source: Schneider, Jenny. Bündner Kammtaschen : einige Bemerkungen
zur Seidenstickerei des 18. Jahrhunderts. in: Bündner Monatsblatt : Zeitschrift für Bündner Geschichte, Landeskunde und Baukultur. 1969.)

Swiss textile industry

History of the Swiss Textile Industry: Appenzeller Weissstickerei (The Whitework of Appenzell)

5130a6ef28copyright: Tourismus Appenzell

The Appenzeller Weissstickerei (whitework of Appenzell) evolved from three related craft industries: tapestry, cotton spinnery and chain stitch embroidery.

Handkerchiefs, collars, christening robes and scarfes were worked and attracted wide interest in France and the United States.

The Appenzeller Weissstickerei industry reached its peak in the fifties of the nineteenth century. Afterwards, machine embroidery largely repressed hand embroidery. But filigree work (e.g. for costume making) was (and is) still done by hand. However, there are only few hand embroidery artists today practicing this art.

e143818267copyright: Tourismus Appenzell

You can find more information about this specific whitework tradition on

(text source: Tourismus Appenzell)

Swiss textile industry

History of the Swiss Textile Industry: Silk Ribbon Weaving

seidenband2image by Martin Friedli, Museum.BL

From the beginning of the Common Era, members of the aristocracy as well as prosperous citizens in Switzerland wore valuable silk clothings and ribbon. In early 16th century, wealthy Protestant merchant families flew from Catholic regions to Basel. There, they started the silk ribbon weaving industry that soon became flourishing. Basel silk ribbons were very popular and were also exported internationally. The silk came from Northern Italy and the Ticino.

seidenband7image by Georgios Kefalas, Museum.BL

Soon, there was a shortage of crafters in Basel and guild regulations put some restrictions on ribbon weaving. So the Basel merchant families (the “silk gentlemen”) employed  smallholders in rural Baselland to weave their ribbons on rented looms. These weavers were farmers and could use an extra income.

After 1800, silk ribbon factories were built by the “silk gentlemen” both in the city and in rural Baselland. Home weaving and factory production existed side by side then; the factories created the stock whereas home weaving produced commissions. (This was decided for the home weavers to bear the greater business risk.)

seidenband3image by Georgios Kefalas, Museum.BL

The silk was coloured with natural dyes until the middle of the 19th century, when synthetic dyes were manufactured for the first time in the silk ribbon factories. From then on, the chemical industry evolved to being one of the most important sectors of economy in Switzerland, up to today.

During the two world wars, the market for luxury goods such as silk clothing collapsed. After 1945, silk ribbons were no longer in fashion. The ribbon manufacturers had to switch to another source of income or go bankrupt. Such was the case with Seiler & Co, one of the biggest silk ribbon manufacturers in Gelterkinden BL, who closed its door in 1974. 1988, the last home weaver in Baselland stops working due to her old age, and the last factory was shut down in 2001.

seidenband8image by Georgi0s Kefalas, Museum.BL

Today, samples, prototypes and machinery of previous Seiler & Co. is stored at the Museum.BL in Basel. The collection provides valuable information about the history of the Swiss silk ribbon industry. Some articles are on display in the permanent exhibition “Seidenband. Kapital, Kunst & Krise” (“Silk Ribbon. Capital, Art & Crisis”).

(text source: Museum.BL)