Madeira Hand Embroidery

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I hope this post inspires you and encourages you to seek out Madeira’s hand embroidery.

The Portuguese arrived in Madeira in the 15th century and brought in embroidery art. Six hundred years later, Madeira Embroidery is still handmade and part of the Island’s culture and history.

I invite you to immerse yourself in this art by watching our video, but first, let me give you a small presentation of what you will see.

What will you find in the video?


Statue in homage to embroiderers


The video starts with the statue in honour of the Embroiderers. It shows a mother teaching her daughter to embroider. Despite the courses and training on embroidering, we still transmit Madeira embroidery from generation to generation.


Madeira hand embroidery patterns


In Madeira, we embroider on fabrics, pavements, clay, glasses, bridges, walls, etc. – The imagination and the skilfulness of our people have no limits.

Besides, all over the Island and in Funchal, we see Madeira Embroidery patterns on the:

  • Decoration of churches and hotels;
  • Building façades;
  • House ceilings;
  • Pavement in a “black and white stone embroidery”.

The Madeiran pavement is a different art from the Portuguese pavement. We make pavements of rolled pebbles collected from the island’s beaches on the streets, squares, atriums, and accesses to churches and Quintas (small palaces).

Madeira Embroidery Process


Except for the embroidery itself, we carry out all the work in the few ‘embroidery factories’ left on the island.

I listed the steps of the embroidery until the finished piece below, also visible throughout the video.


In the factory

The stylists compose Madeira embroidery designs, either an original design or one based on a specific order or according to the article’s intended market.

Then they turn over the finished design onto heavy-duty tracing paper, and the length of the curved lines is measured using an instrument called a curvimeter or map measurer.

After recording the type and number of stitches, a “picador”, a machine that makes tiny holes along the traced lines, pierces the tracing paper.

(This is not a Madeira embroidery machine thread, but a 19th-century French machine that operates via a foot pedal.)

They then put the tracing paper on top of the cloth to be embroidered, and a Stamper wipes the surface of the paper with a cloth soaked in blue dye. This is how we transfer the design onto the material (cotton, linen, silk, organdie, etc.).

They choose Madeira thread colour using a Madeira embroidery thread colour chart.  Click here to open Madeira embroidery thread conversion chart pdf.

madeira thread. madeira threads. Madeira thread colors. Madeira Embroidery. madeira classic 40. madeira embroidery thread sets.

In the countryside

We send the cloth, and Madeira embroidery thread sets to be used to the embroiderers, who must respect the type and number of stitches proper to the fabric and determined by the factory.

It takes many hours, although they often work in the open air with their friends, talking, watching the world go by or listening to the radio.

Return to the factory

Once finished, the embroidery returns to the factory, where they cut out the openwork flowers and patterns.

Then they wash and iron it.

Control of quality

All Madeiran embroidery is handmade, and the IVBAM – Madeiran Institute of Wine, Embroidery and Handcrafts, controls its production, quality, and exportation.

It is all outstanding quality, and every piece carries a special seal that testifies it is genuine Madeiran hand embroidery.

There are beautiful pieces for every occasion and all pockets. For instance, €8 for a flake base and +€20.000 for a more elaborate table set.


Did you know?

We measure the Madeira Embroidery design with a small device called a curvimeter, also used to measure maps. In this case, its role is to count the number of stitches that decide the amount to pay to the embroiderer. The more stitches embroidered, the more expensive the item becomes.

Madeira Embroidery designs - curvimeter and embroidery backing paper. embroidery backing.

Madeira embroidery history on the video


The history of Madeira’s embroidery is rich and interesting, and it is worth going on a guided tour on this theme because we cannot explain it all here. You would have to come and see yourself!

In the video, we tried to show a bit of the history through some pieces exhibited at the IVBAM’s Madeira Embroidery Museum, such as a trendy lady dress from the 19th century, lingerie from a bygone era, with the highlight being a wonderful tablecloth.

“The inexhaustible hands of the embroiderers of Madeira made this tablecloth” – Oliveira Salazar – for the farewell reception of the official visit of Queen Elizabeth II of England and Philippe, Duke of Edinburgh, to Portugal in 1957.

Click here for the Documentary report of the visit of the English monarchs (minute 08:30 -10:00, in Portuguese).

The Madeirans also offered orchids for this occasion.

We end our video taking advantage of a theatrical performance held at the Madeira flower festival 2019:

Besides being exported in quantity for about 300 years (18th-century – 1964), the “bomboteiros” sold part of the island’s embroidery, onboard small rowing boats, the “bombotes” (from the English term bumboat or small boat to carry goods).

They sold embroidered towels, wicker crafts, wine, fruit and postcards to passengers and crews of the many cruise ships that passed through Madeira.


Madeira Embroidery Facts


  • The factories keep Queen Elizabeth II tablecloth pattern religiously and of other famous like Christian Dior, the House of Chanel, Maison Monaco, the British Royal family, the Vatican, to mention some of them.
  • Madeira embroidery supplies are imported:
    • Irish and Swiss linen
    • Madeira embroidery thread – Madeira threads:
      • Madeira cotton embroidery thread
      • Madeira silk embroidery thread
  • Madeira Hand Embroidery is a cottage industry with around 3000 women.
  • Today, we export most of our embroidery to the USA and Europe, with Italy now the most significant market.
  • The trousseau of the first daughter of the Dukes of York, Sarah, and André, was made in Madeira in 1988.
  • The House of Chanel held a fashion show in Paris with blouses with Madeira embroidered collars.
  • Madeira embroidery needles and scissors are special.
  • We are digitising around 60,000 designs.


Where and how is Madeira Hand Embroidery used?


  • Decoration – table centrepieces, curtains, bed linen, bathroom towels, church altar cloths
  • Fashion – haute couture, wedding dresses, christening gowns, children’s clothing, footwear, and accessories.
  • Occasions – special celebrations.
  • And much more…


Who sells Madeira embroidery? 


  • Bordal – Bordados da Madeira
  • Patrício & Gouveia (closed because of the pandemic)


Why not embroider clay?


Paula and Duarte Gomes produce tiles using the aresta technique and explore the richness of Madeira embroidery patterns, which our embroiderers have executed for centuries.

“Ceramics is the art of working clay, a formless material, which the imagination can transform. So, why not embroider clay? To make it real, it was necessary to give form to the shapeless material and embroider without threads, but by tracing lines of clay”. – Paula Gomes, owner of the “Azul Desejo” workshop, in Paul do Mar.

Photo courtesy of Bordal – Bordados da Madeira:

House of Chanel Collars

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about Madeira Traditional Hand Embroidery.

I also hope you’re able to visit us someday.

See you soon! *\(^o^✿)/*

The Adventures of Boo in Madeira