Robert Burns (or ‘the Bard of Ayrshire’) was born in Ayrshire in 1759. Roll forward to the 1780s and the area had become the centre for the manufacture of muslin.
Using this fabric, the form of embroidery known as ‘Ayrshire whitework’ was developed and became popular in the early 19th century. Whitework involves the use of very fine thread and lace filling stitches to embroider on to fine muslin – resulting in something that looks like lace, but isn’t.


© Heriot Watt University Archive and Museums Service

Museum reference

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