The finest embroidered linens: the legendary "Marghab"!!

by Posted On


  When I was growing up;  my mother loved beautiful linens.  Embroidery was her favorite thing.

Her favorite maker was a Portugese company called “Marghab” from the island of Madeira.  They had “separate boutiques” in the top department stores in the United States.

In fact;  they were the very first company of any kind to have their products showcased in that way.

The company produced linens from 1932 until 1978.

Emile Marghab and his wife, Vera Way  Marghab founded the company.  The  beautiful designs and attention to meticulous detail came from his

American wife, Vera.  She grew up in South Dakota.

There is a wonderful book, “Perfection Never Less” written about her;  and there is a rotating museum  exhibition and more information at the University of South Dakota.

Hers is a fascinating story!

Here is a quotation from “Cynthia’s Linen Room” on line.

“Marghab is considered to be some of the finest hand embroidery in the world. The company was founded on the Island of Madeira, Portugal, in 1933, by the husband and wife team of Emile and Vera Way Marghab. Only the finest linen from Ireland and Switzerland were used. Working with Swiss weavers, the Marghabs created a special material that Vera described as “clear, crisp, true and easy to launder”. This fabric was woven exclusively for the Marghabs. They called it Margandie and it gave them a distinctiveness that was associated only with Marghab linens. The embroidery threads were from France and many of the colors used were exclusively produced for a particular design. When the linens were ready for embroidery, they were brought from the factory to the countryside homes of skilled embroideresses who were paid by the stitch! Some pieces could contain as many as eighty-five thousand stitches and could take embroideresses months to complete. It was said that more than eighty percent of the female population on the island was employed in embroidery and girls learned the art from their mothers at a very early age. There were close to three hundred pattern designs and each of them was named. The linens were sold only in Madeira or to exclusive salons selected by the Marghabs for their reputation for excellence and quality. Among these were George Jensen
, in New York, Constance Leiter in Kansas City and David Jones, Ltd. in Australia. After Emile’s death in 1947, Vera Way Marghab continued with the business until 1980 and demanded nothing but “perfection” from the factory work, the embroideresses and the salons they were sold in. She died in 1995 at the age of ninety-five.”
Imagine being paid “by the stitch” and the amount of time it took to embroider one cocktail napkin!!  Not to mention a tablecloth and napkins!

The quality of the linens was unmatched.  Linens especially made in Ireland  were used, threads from France and England,

and the Swiss produced the exquisite almost sheer “Margandie” which was exclusive to the company.

The island of Madeira was the source of the best embroidery in the world.

And Marghab was the best of the best.

They made tablecloths, placemats, guest towels, in beautiful and imaginative patterns.

I started collecting “cocktail” napkins when I received 4 for a wedding present!

Thanks to ebay, I now have over a hundred!  Most of them came in the original boxes,unused!!

People were “saving them”  Oh Dear!!

So they showed up in their estate sales!

Don’t save things!!!

photo 1-1

 

This design on “Margandie” the pattern is “Varishka”

 

photo 2

photo 1

This delightful bird cage design is a guest towel.
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This shows the tiny stitches used.  Women would teach their daughters at an early age.

 photo 3

Here is a guest towel.  HINT!!!  If people won’t use your guest towels;  just crinkle one!  And then they will!!!

photo 4

 

These hand towels also show the fine stitches.

Varishka in another color

 tropical fish cocktail napkin.

  This sailboat is a favorite!

My “knight in shining armor”! 

 This grape motif is on “Margandie”

This shows the difference between the Swiss “Margandie” and the Irish linen.

This was one of the four I received for a wedding present in 1969!

If carefully hand washed, and pressed upside-down on a terrycloth towel;  these linens can last a lifetime!

“under the sea”

This is how the ladies of the island would carry their flowers!

This mallard is the kind of duck we have in our pond!

I love this weather vane!

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Which do you think is the front?  The top or the bottom of this napkin?

I think this really illustrates the incredible fineness of the stitching!

photo 2-1

I use these every time we entertain!  And my family and caterers all know  to check the wastebaskets!

People throw the guest towels in the wastebaskets, the cocktail napkins, too!

And at least a dozen times, I have received one back in the mail because  a husband has put it in his pocket!

I can’t tell you the pleasure I get from using these lovely creations, so beautifully made by hand!

There are so many of the small luxuries lost to “convenience”!

28 thoughts on “The finest embroidered linens: the legendary "Marghab"!!

  1. Josh Urso Design
    Reply

    What an interesting collection! We love to hear about craftsmanship (craftsWOmanship) from bygone eras. Trades that employed huge parts of the population are almost completely extinct in our modern world. Collectors like you keep their stories alive. Thank you!

    1. Penelope Bianchi
      Reply

      Isn’t that the truth! Thank you!

      I just found a beautiful set of napkins, placemats and a runner at an antique show; I am giving to my daughter for Christmas! lucky she doesn’t read this blog!!

  2. Josh Urso Design
    Reply

    What an interesting collection! We love to hear about craftsmanship (craftsWOmanship) from bygone eras. Trades that employed huge parts of the population are almost completely extinct in our modern world. Collectors like you keep their stories alive. Thank you!

    1. Penelope Bianchi
      Reply

      Isn’t that the truth! Thank you!

      I just found a beautiful set of napkins, placemats and a runner at an antique show; I am giving to my daughter for Christmas! lucky she doesn’t read this blog!!

  3. Pamela
    Reply

    You know, I’ve been itching to learn to do this sort of embroidery. This lovely post is just the nudge I need! Beautiful!!
    xo,
    p

  4. Pamela
    Reply

    You know, I’ve been itching to learn to do this sort of embroidery. This lovely post is just the nudge I need! Beautiful!!
    xo,
    p

  5. Penelope Bianchi
    Reply

    via email!

    Dear Penny,
    Loved reading about tre Margab linens. I have a dozen handtowels from my mother, some Margab and some with the beautiful handsewn
    monogram. They are indeed special and from an era which is fast disappearing. Glad you are educating people through your blog!
    Hugs, Robin

  6. Penelope Bianchi
    Reply

    via email!

    Dear Penny,
    Loved reading about tre Margab linens. I have a dozen handtowels from my mother, some Margab and some with the beautiful handsewn
    monogram. They are indeed special and from an era which is fast disappearing. Glad you are educating people through your blog!
    Hugs, Robin

  7. LA CONTESSA
    Reply

    Well, thanks for the lesson!I have a few of these that were my mother’s!I CANNOT BELIEVE(yes, I can ) that people toss in the waste paper basket!WHAT IS WRONG WITH TODAY’s PEOPLE!I think I have some rooster cocktail napkins at the shop……..I will look today to see if they are of this breed!Shall I text YOU if so and send a photo!
    HAPPY JUNE FIRST!

  8. LA CONTESSA
    Reply

    Well, thanks for the lesson!I have a few of these that were my mother’s!I CANNOT BELIEVE(yes, I can ) that people toss in the waste paper basket!WHAT IS WRONG WITH TODAY’s PEOPLE!I think I have some rooster cocktail napkins at the shop……..I will look today to see if they are of this breed!Shall I text YOU if so and send a photo!
    HAPPY JUNE FIRST!

  9. Design Chic
    Reply

    One of my favorite things is antique linens from my grandmother with their exquisite hand embroidery. Love learning the history of this company and their lovely work.

  10. Design Chic
    Reply

    One of my favorite things is antique linens from my grandmother with their exquisite hand embroidery. Love learning the history of this company and their lovely work.

  11. Bianca Simon
    Reply

    The tropical fish cocktail napkin style and design is my favorite! This inspire me to do embroidery craft.

  12. Bianca Simon
    Reply

    The tropical fish cocktail napkin style and design is my favorite! This inspire me to do embroidery craft.

  13. Cathy
    Reply

    LOVE! LOVE!LOVE the Chinoserie!!!

    Such happiness they bring…incredible artist!
    What a discovery & share!

  14. Cathy
    Reply

    LOVE! LOVE!LOVE the Chinoserie!!!

    Such happiness they bring…incredible artist!
    What a discovery & share!

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