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Origin of Schiffli Embroidery Machine

The early 1860's saw the development of the Schiffli embroidery machine, which produces the machine made equivalent of running stitch, satin stitch and zig-zag stitch. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it still remains one of the most significant forms of commercial embroidery machines.

The origins of this machine date to 1863, when Isaak Gröbli (1822-1917) from St. Gallen, Switzerland, developed what became known as the Schiffli machine. His machine was based on the principles introduced by the newly invented sewing machines, which used two sets of threads, one on the obverse and one on the reverse side of the cloth. Gröbli 's machine, however, used the combination of a continuously threaded needle on the obverse and, more significantly, a shuttle containing a bobbin of thread underneath. The shuttle itself looks like the hull of a sailboat, hence its nickname, Schiffli, meaning ‘little boat’ in Swiss German (the term is still in use at the beginning of the twenty-first century).

The advent of computer driven machines with design software, still using the Schiffli machine principles, has meant that just about any form of design, no matter how complex, can be created using a wide range of stitches.

The characteristic feature of Schiffli embroidery that differentiates it from other forms of machine embroidery is the ability to create diverse luxurious patterns with a three-dimensional effect.


There are many varieties that can be found in Schiffli embroidery, based on thread type, thread color, patterns, fabrics, and usage.

Click on the button below to find out more about specific Embroidery types and techniques.

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