Aloe Thread Embroidery

Aloe vera plant. Aloe vera plant.

Aloe thread embroidery is a product introduced in Britain in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Aloe thread embroidery was made with the threads from the aloe plant (genus Aloe; family Xanthorrhoeaceae). 

Based on an account in The Dictionary of Needlework (1882, p. 5) it would appear that it was made by “peasants of Abbissola and the nuns of Oldivales,” who were used to making lace from the fibres of the aloe. It would appear that they had recently started to embroider with aloe threads instead of silks. The aloe threads had the colour of pale straw and were worked using satin stitch and generally laid over a padding of wool to raise it from the ground material (foundation) of silk or serge cloth. It was regarded by Caulfeild and Saward as interesting for its novelty value, but apparently not for much else.

It should be noted that The Dictionary of Needlework would appear to be the original source of printed information in English about this form of embroidery and it has been copied on various occasions elsewhere. It is not clear, however, where Abbissola is or exactly who were the nuns of Oldivales. Oldivales is a small town in Portugal, but there appears to be no village of Abbissola in that country. There is, however, a village called Abbissola (as well as one called Albissola) in Italy.

Fibres of the aloe vera plant are nowadays being used in India for weaving saris.

Source: CAULFEILD, Sophia Frances Anne and Blanche C. SAWARD (1882), The Dictionary of Needlework, London: L. Upcott Gill, p. 5.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 6 July 2016).


Last modified on Tuesday, 17 January 2017 17:57
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