Madeira Embroidery

Postcard showing women from Madeira engaged in local embroidery. Postcard showing women from Madeira engaged in local embroidery.

Madeira embroidery (or Madeira work) is a type of fine whitework embroidery and cutwork lace, which is very similar to broderie anglaise. It may thus also be classed as a form of embroidered lace. This type of work was developed by Bella Phelps, who introduced this form of embroidery to Britain from the 1840's.

By the late nineteenth century, there were some 70,000 embroiderers (bordadeiras) on the island, producing a product that was regarded as being of the highest quality. The embroidery was carried out on cloth, such as a fine linen or a cambric. This type of work, like broderie anglaise, is characterised by the use of eyelets in decorative patterns with embroidered details on the ground material. Madeira embroidery should not be confused with Madeira lace.

After an initial period of success of Madeira embroidery, the First Wold War and its aftermath led to a period of decline. In later years, however, new companies were established on Madeira, which are still active, such as Patrício & Gouveia (1925), Imperial de Bordados (1926), and J.A. Teixeira (1937). By the 1950's, Madeira embroidery was hugely popular in the USA, and some of the companies were American owned, such as Jabara, Imperial and Margab Linens. In the early 1970's decline set in with the introduction and mass export all over the world of much cheaper Chinese imitations.

Nowadays the production of Madeira embroidery is still carried out at home, both on the island of Madeira itself and that of neighbouring Porto Santo, while small factories provide the basic materials. The ground materials have a pre-printed pattern, which is embroidered at home, and then sent back to the factories for world-wide distribution.

See also: Madeira postage stamp and Madeira work trimmings.

In the USA, the term Madeira embroidery is used for broderie anglaise.


  • CAULFEILD, Sophia Frances Anne and Blanche C. Saward (1882), The Dictionary of Needlework, London: L. Upcott Gill, p. 339.
  • TORTORA, Phyllis G. and Ingrid JOHNSON (2014). The Fairchild Books: Dictionary of Textiles, 8th edition, London: Bloomsbury, pp. 641-642.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 22 February 2017).


Last modified on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 18:31