Give it up for lace!

Let’s start with a little puzzle: who or what is common to the following names: Bargello, Richelieu, Ajour and Ebenseer? Here’s a hint: have a quick look at the photo. Guessed it? What sound like four hitherto undiscovered Renaissance artists are, in reality, four different forms of a traditional technology: embroidery. What has that got to do with technical textiles? Not a little!

The Ancient Chinese, Indians and Egyptians all did it, the Greeks, Romans and Arabs even more so, followed by the countries on the European continent. They all have their clothes and soft furnishings decorated with embroidered artistic designs, to individualise them and to enhance them visually. Embroidery denotes the technique of embellishing a background material, such as fabric, with threads that are either sewn through or onto the material.

Embroidered lace pattern: manufacture of a full-surface embroidered lace fabric which is set to unleash great potential in the lingerie world (W. Reuter & Sohn, Spitzen und Stickereien GmbH)

Embroidered lace pattern: manufacture of a full-surface embroidered lace fabric which is set to unleash great potential in the lingerie world (W. Reuter & Sohn, Spitzen und Stickereien GmbH)

But embroidered lace is now, rather cleverly, increasingly making its way into industrial areas. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, thereis the transition from painstaking handwork, later also assisted by sewing machines, to modern production processes. The strength of embroidery lies in its high degree of suitability as a subject for automation and this enables it to fully exploit the potential for speed and efficiency in the production process. Secondly, embroidery is the only textile technique, which allows the thread to be moved in every conceivable direction during the manufacturing process, instead of the quasi-linear motion as in the case of weaving. That leads to an ideal optimisation of both material and surface.

There are few people who know the advantages of the technology better than the long-standing, traditional embroidery companies around Plauen (‘Plauen Lace’), Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig. A number of them are picking up on the industrial interest in ‘their’ technology and are currently working with textile research institutes and other partners as part of ‘highSTICK plus’ (an initiative aiming to exploit the growth potential in the field) to embroider applications for the markets of the future. “The aim of the initiative is to bring about a leap forward in technology in a specific segment, in this case, embroidery,” says Jens Mählmann, Head of Embroidery Development at the Textile Research Institute in the State of Saxony (Sächsisches Textilforschungsinstitut e. V. – STFI).

And it does appear to be amounting to a genuine ‘leap forward’. The diverse areas of embroidery technology under investigation range from plastic components for motor vehicle manufacture and underfloor heating to reinforcement for aircraft windows, embroidered lighting and systems of integrated sensors. And, already shining on the horizon, is the beacon of the ‘Teshion’ potential of embroidery. In future, alongside aesthetic embellishments, electronic components and functionality may well be embroidered directly onto clothing, using electrically conductive or metallic threads.

For those who want to find out more about the renaissance of embroidery (and what a resurgence that is!) or just want to ‘Give it up for lace’, without being looked at oddly, we thoroughly recommend a visit to the joint stand of the ‘highSTICK plus’ initiative.

Illustration above:

Yesterday a stream of hot air, today all beautifully waved and shaped: ‘traditional’ heating element from a hair-dryer in front of a virtual experimental pattern for an ’embroidered’ thermal element. (Source: STFI)

Ronny Eckert

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