top of page

Valance with Children Bead and Petitpoint Embroidery English c 1860


Millions of unknown woman artists had no choice but to learn from other women


Fiber arts, including beadwork, have evolved for centuries primarily driven by women. These women learned from other women – grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and each other. When tribes or cultures mixed, women were quick to exchange ideas and techniques.


When publishing took off around 1830, women could learn from ladies’ magazines like “Godey’s Lady’s Magazine”, “Peterson’s Magazine”, “English Women’s Domestic Magazine”, and many more. These were published monthly and at the end of the year sent back to be bound into a book. Magazines were published in many languages.

There were books such as the “Almacen De Las Senoritas”, “Hand-Book of Needlework”, “Beautiful Homes”, “Ladies’ Fancy Work”, and “DMC Library Encyclopedia of Needlework”.

Many of these publications contained patterns and instructions for making fiber arts. There were many beautiful patterns that were produced mainly in Berlin – thus called Berlinwork. They were printed in black ink and then hand colored. The antique patterns are very collectable. These would be used for needlepoint, cross stitch, and embroidery using threads of wool, silk, cotton and gold and silver metal. In addition, they were used to create beadwork.

Today, learning frequently still starts at home with young girls taught by their mothers or grandmother. But it also involves attending classes, attending conferences, seeing examples, talking to artists or collectors, reading about fiber art in magazines, books, and content on the internet.


For collecting, you need a perspective of what has been done over the centuries. If you want to learn about the history of fiber arts, particularly beadwork, visit museums, take classes, read books, search online, and visit quilt shows, yarn and bead conventions.


The historic perspective has helped me to understand what motivated women to create art - particularly their quilts, knitting, and beadwork. It has highlighted what trends affected beadwork, what supplies and techniques were used, and how culture and society affected women’s art.


God's Garden Book  Bead Embroidery 1869


Beadwork Humidor c. 1860

A gift for the husband


Sampler/Picture Gazebo Bead Embroidery c1840 likely Engllish

bottom of page