M17976.1-2 | Slippers
About 1860, 19th century
6 x 8.5 x 27.5 cm
Gift of Miss Mabel Molson
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Slippers (14)
Keys to History
The most popular form of Victorian domestic embroidery was berlin work. Using a single stitch, and following a colourful paper pattern, women could quickly fill a canvas with woollen yarn. The ability to do fine embroidery was not a requirement. The limitless range of patterns and colourful yarns made berlin work wildly popular in Canada. Because berlin work was hard-wearing, it was used on chairs, footstools, sofas, valances and even men's suspenders and slippers. Suddenly there was a mass market for needlework. Women found they had a voice in commercial production and design. Manufacturers and technology had become part of a woman's world.
Berlin-work slippers were a popular gift for men. Wearing these slippers signified that a man was at home and that someone cared for his comfort.
These were made in Quebec. Similar patterns were available in ladies' journals that were sent to subscribers throughout Canada.
The bright colours were the result of the first aniline, or synthetic, dyes. Thus the slippers were made after 1856.
Regardless of the amount of work and time a woman spent on her fashionable domestic embroidery, it is very seldom signed.