A fine cotton organdie, tulle or muslin woven with small motifs or patterns on a bobinette machine

Although Switzerland does not grow cotton, the textile industry in Switzerland is its oldest and from its advent right up until today, the Swiss have concentrated on making high quality fabric for the fashion and furnishings market. One of the world’s best sewing machines is Swiss, and their voiles and muslins are still the finest.

Swiss cotton has been woven in Basle since 1380, and in Zurich from the 15thC. By the end of the 17thC, Geneva was firmly established as the major trading place for cotton, whether raw, spun or as finished fabrics from India and Persia; towards the end of the century, Switzerland’s first calico factory was established there.

A double bonus helped Switzerland further expand its cotton industry. Firstly, Louis XIV of France banned all printed cotton imports except those from the French East India Company–thereby creating a contraband market Geneva was happy to exploit; then, he revoked the Edict of Nantes, causing some 20,000 French Protestant refugees–the Huguenots, and skilled textile workers–to relocate to Geneva. By the end of the 18thC, almost a quarter of the population was involved in the textile industry, spreading out from the main centres of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Basle, Biel and Berne. By the 19thC, this golden era was over, destroyed by the imposition of high import duties from their neighbours. This new textile industry brought great wealth to Switzerland, which in pre-skiing and banking days held little wealth or natural resources.

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