Ruffini, Louis (c. 1760-1804)

Louis Ruffini (c. 1760-1804; also written Luigi Ruffini or Luigi Ruffin) was an Italian entrepreneur who with his family settled in Edinburgh in 1782.

Originating from Turin, he set up an academy at 141 Nic(h)olson Street to teach arithmetic, French, Italian and writing, amongst other subjects. This venture was unsuccessful, and in 1783 he set up a workshop in the city to produce whitework on muslin, using the tambour technique. Although this technique was carried out at a domestic level, it would appear that this was the first mass-production of tambour work in Britain.

He modified professional, rectangularly-shaped embroidery frames by adding cloth rollers or beams at both ends. The undecorated cloth was on one beam and as the material was embroidered it was wound onto the other roller. Four girls worked together, two on either side of the embroidery frame. They embroidered small floral borders or all-over designs.

In 1790 Ruffini had severe financial problems and his estate was sequestrated. He had to petition his trustees for the use of the tambouring tools and furniture. Some money was raised, but not enough to save his business. Others copied his semi-industrial ideas and the technique spread to Ireland. By 1856-7 there were some 80,000 whitework embroiderers in Scotland and about 400,000 in Ireland.

See also the TRC Needles entry on flowerers.



Last modified on Wednesday, 03 May 2017 16:08