Updated November 30, 2021.
Berlin work is best known in the form of kits from Elizabeth Bradley. Many pre-worked needlepoint designs, especially florals, hearken back to Berlin Work. In fact, the only needlepoint my grandmother attempted was a floral done in this style.
Characterized by isolated motifs on single color backgrounds, it is generally done in Tent Stitch or Cross Stitch over a single intersection from a charted pattern.
It was a huge fad in the 1830’s and 1840’s and was made possible by the invention of synthetic dyes in the 1830’s. These dyes allowed a whole range of new colors to come into being and the Victorians embraced this new, bright world with a vengeance, adding color and ornament into every aspect of their lives. It continued to be popular throughout the mid-19th century.
Pelin Tezer has an enormous collection of recharted Berlinwork for sale as well as many pieces of original work (such as the spot sampler and bird above) from their own collections (their site is no longer active in November 2013).
Berlin Work is a charted form of needlepoint. It was originally developed in Germany and most patterns available were made in that country or in Austria, although there isn’t much in the designs to make them look “German.” Other countries had companies who made and sold the charts, including some such as Sanjou, the Antique Pattern Library, and DMC who are familiar today. The designs were usually kitted with wool thread made specifically for this purpose. Susan Johnson’s books reproduce many charts from this period, but not as full-color charts.
The early designs were printed in black and white and hand-colored. The stitcher drew the outline onto canvas and then filled it in from the picture. Soon, the designs were printed in color on grids, making the entire printing process MUCH easier. These are the charts you’ll often see reproduced today.
Bruce Linstedt also has reproductions of these patterns for sale (one of his charts is pictured above).
There are also several books on the subject, many with reproductions of original charts. Raffaella Serena has the best. Her first book, Berlin Work, is out of print, but still available are her collections from a Viennese pattern book, and a collection of animal designs Needlepoint News (an older needlepoint magazine) often reprinted Victorian charts and many of these issues are available on Amazon (search for Victorian needlepoint).