Madeira Island – Day 3 – Exploring Funchal – Part 2

The Embroidery Museum – Bordados da Madeira

A completed design on paperI had been handed a tasteful leaflet at the airport headed “Bordal – Madeira hand Embroidery” with a voucher for a free historical tour of the factory. Embroidery has been an important craft on the island since it was first settled. I enjoyed “sewing” at school and was keen to visit, so it was a treat to be taken there as Marta’s guest. I was introduced to the charming Susana Vacas and her team who took me through every stage of the production of Madeira’s famous hand embroidery.


The complicated design is drawn onto paper. A stitch counting machine, or curvimeter, (which resembles an old-fashioned tyre pressure gauge) is rolled around the design to help calculate the number and nature of stitches that will be needed and inform the amount that will be paid to the embroiderer.


The perforating machine

The perforating machine punches holes in the paper following the lines of the pattern. This is a delicate job requiring years of practice and a very steady hand.


The paper, now perforated with the design to be embroidered, is placed over the material and weighed down. Blue dye is rubbed over the surface transferring the pattern to the fabric.


The material is taken away to be hand embroidered by the team of experienced workers. 

Washing and ironing

Stamping the dye

On return to the factory, each item is quality checked before being washed by hand and brought into the ironing section whilst still damp. This can involve up to 8 women at a time holding and stretching a large, complicated linen tablecloth. A perforator and tiny scissors are used to cut out the holes within the design. 

The factory houses exhibits from the Island’s embroidering past, including design books, orders from Royalty, flat irons. There are also items for sale including christening gowns and shoes, first communion dresses, shirts and table linen. 

Lady Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York’s, order in the 1980sSeeking a small momento from my visit, in addition to the photos I had taken, I selected a hand embroidered lavender bag for 10 euros. This was immediately encased within a smart cardboard envelope and presented to me with their compliments, together with a delightful, full-colour, hard-backed book “Madeira Embroidery” by Alberto Vieira. I felt very honoured. I strongly recommend this delightful and informative tour – look out for the leaflets when you land at the airport. The tours are free but, unless you are a guest of the Madeira Promotion Bureau, you will have to pay for any items you wish to take away. The building is easy to find if you know what you are looking for: Rua Dr Fernao de Ornelas 77, Funchal

Leaving the genteel atmosphere of the Embroidery factory, we walked down through the Old Town (Zona Velha) to the seafront where we were to catch the cable car up to Monte, tour the tropical gardens, and sledge back down again. In case you are wondering, there is no snow in Monte. Sledging takes place down very steep roads – all will be revealed!

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