St. Gallen, a city located in northeastern Switzerland, has a long history of textile production and is known for its high-quality textiles. St. Gallen, along with Appenzell and Thurgau, relied heavily on the textile industry during the Middle Ages.
During the 19th century, St. Gallen became a major center for embroidery production, with many skilled artisans producing intricate and detailed designs. Nowadays, this city with 75,000 residents is home to an interesting textile museum – Textilmuseum St. Gallen. From historical embroidery and lace to fabric samples, costumes, and fashion photographs, the Textilmuseum St. Gallen houses thousands of pieces.
Overview: History of Textile Production in St. Gallen
From the middle ages until the 18th century, linen was the main source of textile production in St. Gallen. The linen fabric was eventually replaced by cotton fabrics. Embroidery replaced cotton in the 19th century, particularly after the invention of the embroidery machine. Textile from St. Gallen has always been regarded as a high-quality fabric throughout Europe. A skilled workforce was available in the city; textiles were exported to other important cities in the continent1.
The Swiss used to export embroidery before they exported watches and pharmaceuticals. In fact, St. Gallen embroidery exported over 50 percent of the world’s production of embroidered products. As many as 18,000 machines operated from home by wage embroiderers were operating in Eastern Switzerland during the boom times around 18902.
Today, St. Gallen is still known for its textiles, with many textile manufacturers and designers based in the city. St. Gallen lace is also still a popular material for exclusive creations. Furthermore, St. Gallen is home to the brand Akris, a fashion house that specializes in luxury goods.
Textilmuseum St. Gallen: What to Expect
The Textile Museum in St. Gallen (Textilmuseum St. Gallen in German) is a popular destination for those interested in learning about the history and art of textiles. It is particularly valuable for understanding the context of St. Gallen’s textile industry.
By visiting it, you will also get to appreciate the skill and creativity involved in the production of textiles, as well as how it is later transformed into the clothes we wear.
The exhibits inside Textilmuseum vary depending on the temporary exhibits that they present. They displayed various clothes that powerful women have worn during my visit (Robes Politiques – Frauen Macht Mode). At the moment, they have quilts and white textiles on display.
In Textilmuseum St. Gallen, you can expect to see or do the following:
- Historic textiles – Textilmuseum St. Gallen presents historic textiles including clothing, decorative textiles, tapestries, and embroidery. They also have non-European textiles and costumes.
- Contemporary textiles – Textilmuseum St. Gallen also presents contemporary textiles, showcasing the work of modern textile artists and designers. In particular, it tends to present the fashion label Akris. This allows them to give an insight into the close cooperation of the fashion label Akris as well as the St. Gallen textile industry. Various fashion samples are purchased regularly for the regional textile industry to use as templates and inspiration.
- Textile-related artifacts: Textilmuseum St. Gallen also presents collections of artifacts related to textiles. Examples of this include samples of different fibers and fabrics, tools used by textile workers, and documents related to the history of textile production.
- Textile production equipment: Textilmuseum St. Gallen also displays equipment used in the production of textiles. In particular, the functional hand embroidery machine from 1890 is used every Thursday and Friday afternoon and one Saturday per month.
- Guided tours – Guided tours are offered by Textilmuseum St. Gallen on specific dates. Tours may be about the temporary exhibits or their library. Please check their website for more information.
- Clothing Swaps – Another interesting thing about Textilmuseum St. Gallen is that they organize clothing swaps. This allows you to bring in your old clothes and swap them for clothes that other visitors have brought in.
- Workshops – Workshops are also available on specific dates. Please check their website for more information.
In some cases, visitors are allowed to engage with and touch the textiles. By doing this, you can appreciate the beauty of different types of masterpieces in the field of lace and embroidery even more. However, this isn’t always the case. Clothes and textiles that are housed in glass cases cannot be accessed.
How to Get to Textilmuseum St. Gallen
9000 St. Gallen
|Bus||St. Gallen, Bahnhof (5 minutes)|
St. Gallen, Poststrasse (3 minutes)
St. Gallen, Bleicheli (3 minutes)
Final Thoughts: Textilmuseum St. Gallen
Swiss textiles have been known for their precision, attention to detail, and use of high-quality materials. And the best Swiss textiles have been produced in St. Gallen. As such, learning about Swiss textiles can be done by visiting the textile museum there – Textilmuseum St. Gallen.
For those who appreciate fashion and textiles, I highly recommend visiting Textilmuseum St. Gallen. You can see some of the most beautiful creations produced in St. Gallen, intricate embroidery, and historical artifacts pertaining to textiles.
- 1 Textilindustrie in der Ostschweiz. Wikipedia. Accessed on 30 March 2023. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textilindustrie_in_der_Ostschweiz.
- 2 Frau Weber stickt. Textilmuseum St. Gallen. Accessed on 30 March 2023. https://www.textilmuseum.ch/events/frau-weber-stickt-37/.
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.