Embroidery origins date back to antiquity as result of the intrinsic human aesthetic need to adorn objects and spaces.
When Madeira was discovered, in the fifteenth century, the art of embroidery was widely dominated throughout the world, including Portugal, so it is presumable that it was brought to the island by the first settlers.
In those times, embroidering was one of the main hobbies of wealthier class ladies and nuns (the majority descendant of noble famillies), who did it for ornamental purposes of layette sets or garments.
Over time, women of all social status were empowered of the technique, certainly contributing to perfection and improve it with their know-how as well as to boost its start as a commercial activity, which was decisively consolidated from the second half of the nineteenth century.
The great impetus to change the condition of Embroidery as a craft activity of family consumption to an industrial and commercial level, was a Madeiran Industry exhibition, organized and held at the Palace of São Lourenço, in 1850.
In this exhibition, Embroidery was widely valued, having aroused huge interest by the British public, what motivated the invitation to participate in the Great Exhibition of London (1851).
This participation was a success and the pieces exhibited were widely praised, both for their “purity” and “artistic perfection”, what became an excellent contribution to the growth of Madeira Embroidery production and consequent commercial exportation, initially to the United Kingdom, and later (in the late 19th century), to Germany.
In the twentieth century, exportation achieves a world status. New markets such as Italy, the United States, South America and Australia stand out. Other impacting markets were France, Singapore, the Netherlands and Brazil.
Nowadays, the largest consumers of Madeira Embroidery are USA, Italy and England.
Madeira Embroidery, due to its delicacy, tradition and history, has always been a product highly framable of the luxury segment. Therefore, it would not be surprising, as it has not been before, finding Madeira Embroidery, used for utilitarian or decorative purposes, in Aristocratic homes.