Berlin Woolwork

Antique Berlinwork Chart

Antique Berlinwork Chart

Berlin Woolwork is a needlework phenomenon that began around 1850 with the invention of aniline dyes. These dyes made mass production of beautifully colored yarns possible, which in turn, launched the Berlin Woolwork needlepoint craze that continued into the 1930’s. Enterprising European artists, especially some in Berlin, began painting stitch charts for gorgeous florals, landscapes, animals and geometric motifs. These charts were grids on which each tiny square was painted individually to represent each stitch on canvas. They are very beautiful in their own right, although not as precise as we expect our charts to be, today.

Many years ago I stumbled upon a large collection of antique charts that had been destined for a new textiles museum in New England. The museum never opened, however, and the charts became mine. I have stored them for years, waiting for a time to share them. Here is the first (above), a narrow panel of flowers with detailed cartouches. I especially love the little fuchsia, which I have graphed in a larger format to share with you.

Berlin Fuschia chart GJN


In the photo below, a digital photo of my original chart lies on top. You can see that I have begun working the pattern on two different sizes of canvas, which makes the difference between a bellpull and a rug!

(7 mesh on top and 18 mesh on the right). Berlin Chart Fuchia Lg & SM P1100560


It would also be fun to use the pattern for ribbon embroidery or to isolate the flowers and rearrange them into other patterns. Feel free to adapt any of the ideas from this chart. The color scheme, layout, and individual motifs could each be starting points for original projects. If you would like to have a copy of the entire original chart, it is available here. I will also be posting more elements from this chart in the future.

, , ,

3 Responses to Berlin Woolwork

  1. Lynn Lambert March 18, 2014 at 7:21 pm #


    I’m doing research on costume accessories and I have a question: I’m just not getting it- IS BERLIN WOOLWORK THE SAME AS NEEDLEPOINT?

    What I’ve read says it was done on canvas- can this be true? don’t you need a GRID to do it? or is it like cross stitch where you have to count threads and THAT’s the grid?

    I’d be most grateful for any help you can give!

    Thanks so much

    • gretchen March 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

      Hi Lynn, Yes, Berlin Woolwork is needlepoint – or worked on needlepoint canvas. However, it is worked from charts, much like cross-stitch is. It’s also commonly worked as a cross-stitch on the canvas, to make things even more confusing. The charts are grids of vertical and horizontal lines which form tiny squares. Each square on the chart represents one stitch, which will be worked over an intersection of threads on the canvas. The charts were handpainted, square by square, and are quite beautiful in their own right.

      The title “Berlin Woolwork” refers to needlepoint done with the first yarns that were dyed with aniline dyes that were invented around 1850(as opposed to vegetable dyes used up until then). These dyes made mass production of needlework projects possible. The Berlin Wool was used in other types of projects, as well, but they are not called “Berlin Woolwork”.

      There are several wonderful books about Berlinwork. The ones by Rafaella Serena are my favorites. I believe they are out of print, yet still available at used book dealers.

  2. Hilary May 11, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

    I have a. 6′ by4′ picture of Scotsmen watching the spoils of their hunting being weighed One of the men looks a bit like Prince Albert. Do you have any records of a Berlin Woolwork pattern

Leave a Reply

Footer Logo