Silk Embroidered Postcards

Silk embroidered postcards from the First World War

During the First World War, many Allied officers and soldiers based in France sent silk embroidered postcards to their loved ones back home, in particular to Britain and Canada. From 1917, when American soldiers had arrived in northern France, they also started to send these cards to their families and friends. Many of the cards were illustrated with patriotic symbols, flags, slogans, or sentimental texts.

The embroidery has often been said to be the work of Belgian and French refugee women, as a means to eke out a meagre existence. However, it is evident that the embroidery was carried out by commercial firms using hand embroidery machines. Such firms also produced embroidered cards for the German market, although with different symbols and texts!

For this online exhibition:

  • Author: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood
  • Web-design: Joost Koopman
  • Exhibition design: Willem Vogelsang
  • Publisher: TRC Leiden.
  • Year of publication: 2017.
  • Copyright: All illustrations of objects housed in the TRC collection can be used free of charge, but please add to the caption: "Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden" and the pertinent accession number of the object.

1. Introduction

Embroidered postcards were popular in Europe from the early 1900's until the 1950's. Many of these were made in France. The cards  were decorated with a wide variety of designs…

2. Embroidered reminders from the dreadful trenches

Embroidered silk postcards were especially favoured during and just after the First World War (1914-1918). The range of embroidered designs was varied and included obviously military subjects, such as the…

3. Who actually made them?

The designs and texts for the cards were worked in series with colourful, free style embroidery on silk gauze panels. The individual embroideries were cut out and stuck to a…

4. The hand embroidery machine

The postcards must have been embroidered by machine. But which machine can imitate the free-style embroidery that was used for these cards?  A machine that can do so was invented…

5. Making embroidered postcards with a machine

Based on surviving examples, it is clear that strips (in domestic machine production) or very broad sheets (in factory production), both of organza cloth, were being embroidered with series of…

6. Photographs of all objects

The collection of the Textile Research Centre includes a number of embroidered postcards and related objects, most of them being produced during or just after the First World War. The…

7. Further information

The TRC would like to thank Dr. Ian Collins for his help in collecting various postcards and his help in writing the text. For further information, see a TRC blog…