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Mallorcan embroidery has unique characteristics that make it different from other styles. Its rich colours and design indicate that it might be influenced by the embroidery that was made in ancient Crete or in the distant countries of Persia and India.
It is an exquisite art that has passed down faithfully from generation to generation of Mallorcan embroiderers, thus managing to keep alive a tradition that was very popular in the past.
In the Middle Ages, embroidery was the main activity of women in Mallorcan convents and homes. There were a number of embroidery masters, but their numbers were not enough to form a guild and so they had to join the painters guild. In this period, the adornments were predominantly religious. They were stitched on silk fabrics using silk threads of different colours interwoven with gold and silver threads. Embroidery became more popular in the 19th century, when religious orders were established in many towns of Mallorca. They taught girls and young people to read, write, sew and embroider. In fact, the Catalan expression “anar a costura” (go to sewing lessons) is a colloquial expression for going to school. The Real Colegio de la Pureza (royal school of purity), a title awarded by King Fernando VII in 1829, had great importance in this context. The school was created 10 years before in Palma de Mallorca. Noble families entrusted their daughters’ education to the school. The young embroiderers made such outstanding articles that their fame spread beyond the island. They worked for the court of Queen Isabel II.
The typical embroidery techniques in Mallorca are Mallorcan point, connected stitch and cross stitch. Mallorcan point is a free embroidery applied directly on the fabric. It consists of a crochet chain stitch that is worked from the outside in. In addition, the connected stitch is complemented by openwork, the interior parts of the design. Advanced skills are needed because you must delicately pull out several threads to make the warp and weft achieving a geometric pattern. They were used to decorate home fabrics and clothes, especially the head-dress that women used to cover themselves. Nowadays these rich traditional clothes can be seen in the folk festivals that take place all over the island.
Until the last century worsted and flax (in white, blue, red and green combined in different tonalities) were the main materials. Nowadays the range of colours is greater and flax is normally replaced by mouline cotton.
Another characteristic of Mallorcan embroidery is its bright and colourful design with flower motifs. They include “reguinyols” and “garses”, which give shape and volume to the drawings with their wave pattern. This handicraft tradition, which was practically limited for years to the family circle, has been recovered in the last decades and nowadays its exquisite articles, which are renowned throughout the world, are embroidered by hand in several workshops of Mallorca. Their products range from table linen and sheets to towels, all kinds of decorative table cloths and other decorative elements.
The towns with the longest standing tradition in embroidery are Manacor, Campos, Pollença, Sencelles, Santa Margalida, Artà, Felanitx and Santa Maria del Camí. In these towns you will find shops and workshops where you will able to see the embroiderers work skillfully at their frames. Palma de Mallorca also has historic establishments specializing in embroidery.
The Llucmajor fair offers an excellent opportunity to take a look at this exquisite handicraft. It takes place on the second Sunday of October. Many embroiderers exhibit with great dedication their handmade articles in a fair that gathers thousands of people each year. Nowadays, Mallorcan embroidery is also present in the fairs that take place in the towns of Mallorca throughout the year. This proves that the recovery of this highly valued handicraft has become a reality.
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