Discover Victorian Berlin Work: A Reindeer Ornament to Stitch

The subtle shading of colors and delicate cross-stitch work on linen fabric in Irina Stepanova’s “A Berlin-Work Reindeer Ornament to Stitch,” from PieceWork’s September/October 2017 issue, captures the essence of nineteenth-century Berlin work. Victorian needleworkers delighted in interpreting the natural world with needle and thread. Irina shares the inspiration behind her charming ornament. ~Elizabeth

My inspiration for this holiday ornament came from a handpainted antique Berlin-work pattern from my collection. Published by Heinrich Kuehn in the 1880s, pattern #5949 has eight small animal-head designs. Although probably intended for a pair of men’s slippers, I thought that the reindeer looked quite perfect for a holiday ornament. [For more vintage holiday ornament inspiration, take a peek inside the eBook PieceWork Holiday Ornaments.]

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Irina Stepanova’s delightful reindeer will add a touch of Victorian whimsy to your holiday tree. Photo by George Boe.

While not much is known about Heinrich Kuehn’s printing house, it appears that his early patterns were produced at Scharrenstrasse 17, at the corner of the Petriplatz, in Berlin in the 1850s. Some patterns, like this one, have the address of Scharrenstrasse 19, printed on them, indicating that the company may have expanded or moved to the adjacent building. In 1883, the business was still located at the Petriplatz, but the Kuehn family had moved to Villa Kuehn in the Steglitz borough of Berlin.

By 1887, the company was operating as Heinrich Kuehn, Vereinigte Stick-uHäkelmuster-Verläge (United Embroidery and Crochet Publishing House), at Spittelmarkt 7 s. 9-5, Berlin. About 1901, Kuehn’s widow, Anna, and his son, Max, started managing the company at its new address: C. Kölln, Fischmarkt 4 in Berlin. In 1913, the company moved to Oranienstrasse, 81/82, and remained there until the 1940s. Between 1915 and 1921 they offered “arts and crafts workshops for modern handicrafts of all kinds.” From 1921 to 1943, Max Kuehn ran the company, mostly printing one- and two-color embroidery and crochet booklets. I could find no information about Heinrich Kuehn’s printing house after 1943.

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Detail of Irina’s ornament. Photo by George Boe.

Originally, Berlin-work patterns were stitched with wool, but I chose cotton floss to convey the subtle shading of the reindeer fur. The metallic trim and silk velvet background fabric I used for making the ornament were manufactured in the 1890s. The readily available materials listed below also will create an ornament with all of the hallmarks of a Victorian piece.

—Irina Stepanova

To learn more about Berlin work, read Irina Stepanova’s companion article, “Adorning Hearth and Home: Animals in Victorian Berlin Work,” in the September/October 2017 issue of PieceWork.

Irina Stepanova is a designer, a collector, and the owner of Mishutka Design Studio ( She writes about the Victorian Cottage lifestyle, and her projects and embroidery designs are a tribute to nineteenth-century women’s needlework.

Discover more about Berlin work in PieceWork!


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