Broderie Anglaise

Mid-19th century English bonnet with whitework and broderie anglaise. Mid-19th century English bonnet with whitework and broderie anglaise. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK, acc. no. T.199-1916.

Broderie anglaise is a form of open whitework embroidery. It is also classed as a form of cutwork lace. Depending on the pattern, broderie anglaise may also be classed as an embroidered lace. Broderie anglaise became popular in the latter half of the nineteenth century, especially for women's and children’s clothing.

To produce the embroidery, a series of round or oval holes (eyelets) of varying sizes are pierced in the ground material (usually a fine linen or cotton) with a metal die or a stiletto and then the edges are turned under and neatened with overcast stitch or buttonhole stitch. The eyelets are generally arranged in the form of geometric patterns (especially the earlier examples) and floral motifs (flowers, leaves, stems, etc). The designs are often delineated with simple embroidery. Over time the eyelet holes became bigger, which meant they had to be cut out. This was done with a pair of fine scissors.

There were several other decorative effects associated with broderie anglaise. In particular there was ‘beading’ with a fine ladder effect, which was made by drawing out one or more threads and then making very small eyelets along the line. In the twentieth century the beading holes became large and the ‘laddering’ (rectangular or crescent shapes) became more pronounced. Often patterns in whitework embroidery are stitched around the holes. Initially this was carried out with stem stitch, although later padded satin stitch, as well as padded dots and embroidered lace fillings (in the larger holes) were applied.

The designs and techniques were copied by St. Gallen embroidery machines from the 1870's onwards.

Broderie anglaise is now also known as Ayrshire work, English work, Eyelet work, Madeira work, or Swiss work.


  • CAULFEILD, Sophia Frances Anne and Blanche C. Saward (1882), The Dictionary of Needlework, London: L. Upcott Gill, pp. 48-49.
  • EARNSHAW, Pat (1984). A Dictionary of Lace, Aylesbury: Shire Publications Ltd, p. 24.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 5 July 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 12:58