The history of Wiehler Gobelin

Company history - the development of the Wiehler Gobelin company.

130 years ago, on April 1, 1893, Jacob Wiehler founded a company for embroidery in Berlin. His range of products included handicrafts, which he made available to his public in Germany, Austria, the Balkans and Southern Russia through advertisements in magazines. Among the first pictures were the "Delft Mill" or the "Ship". These were well received, since not only the pattern, but the entire material composition was offered at once. First advertisements and flyers followed and the shipping order business became more and more important.
In 1905 the first catalog with cushions, blankets, wall hangings and tapestry pictures was published with an edition of 2,000 pieces. These pictures were Delft patterns embroidered in cross stitch in one color. With the help of types, counting patterns were made, according to which Wiehler tapestry pictures are still embroidered today. The picture business gained priority at an early stage.
From 1907 onwards, the company developed so well and the catalog dispatch increased to such an extent that in 1913 a catalog with 72 printed pages was published. The print run was 25,000 copies. Jacob Wiehler was a pioneer of his time with the shipping order business. The company at Anhalter Strasse 14 in Berlin already had more than 20,000 customers with its shipping order business, mainly in Germany, Austria-Hungary and southern Russia.

In the course of the 1st World War 1914-1918 difficulties arose, which brought the shipping order business to a complete standstill at the end of the war. At first, woolen clothes for soldiers brought a semblance of prosperity, but then the consumption of the last raw materials for the war industry forced the use of the worst substitutes. The Russian clientele was cut off from the first day, the rest for the most part no longer interested in handicrafts.
The war left behind obsolete address material, devalued war bonds and empty stocks. But Jacob Wiehler did not give up and slowly the old clientele from new countries came back: from Yugoslavia, from Czechoslovakia, from Poland and Hungary. More and more goods went abroad again to Holland, Switzerland and America. But then all the earnings were lost again and the bank balance reduced to a few marks - the state had passed on the war debts to the citizens.

In 1928, Rudolf Wiehler joined his father's handicraft shipping-order business. Before that, he had graduated in business administration, earned a doctorate in political science, and pursued various activities in the gas industry.
It was not until after the inflationary period that the established form of the catalog offering could be resumed and expanded to include Kelim, Sudan and Smyrna works, so that a new catalog of 84 pages was presented in the fall of 1928. The Wiehler name was again taken out into the world, and the pictures were sold in 40 countries.
For the 40th anniversary of the business in 1933, "The last supper" after Leonardo da Vinci was added to the range as a special feature and has remained one of the most interesting pictures to this day. Shortly after this anniversary, on April 25 1933, Jacob Wiehler died at the age of 73. His son Rudolf took over the company. In 1937 he published a 68-page catalog "Für fleissige Hände".
The outbreak of the 2nd World War in 1939 again ended many business connections. Only the connection to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia was recognized as important for foreign exchange and ensured that fabrics and yarns continued to be allocated to the company until the end of the war. Rudolf Wiehler was exempted from military service until 1942 for the continuation of the business. From then on, he was able to run his business alongside his military service, but ends up in British captivity.
A bombing raid in the last days of the war in 1945 destroyed company headquarters in Berlin in Anhalter Strasse. The house burned down completely. It was a miracle that shortly before, the valuable documents for counting patterns and yarn sorting were walled up in the air-raid shelter in the owner's private house and thus escaped destruction.
After the war, it was possible to salvage these valuable items from Berlin and to start anew with them in Buxtehude. The resumption of the handicraft shipping order business was not successful at first. But word got around among the old customers that the Wiehler company could at least supply fabric and yarn again. It was these loyal customers who gave the company renewed courage and strength.
In 1950, Rudolf Wiehler wrote to his customers: "Wiehler handicrafts were a household name, quality and reliable service a principle of the company, which had existed since 1893. It was completely destroyed by the war, and it will take years to rebuild it. It is not foreseeable whether it will be possible to re-manufacture the patterns and procure the raw material. The reconstruction is planned. Some day - it may take years - I hope to again send the popular Wiehler catalog all over the world, to offer you proven German workmanship once more."
In 1953, due to the need for space, a new house was built in Buxtehude near Hamburg, at Stader Straße 37. When his daughter asked Rudolf Wiehler for fabric samples for school lessons, he had a brilliant idea: he set up a fabric and yarn distribution business for school supplies.
In painstaking work, Rudolf Wiehler succeeded in recovering and refurbishing lost counting patterns and bringing them together with the documents that had been rescued at the time. Only now could Wiehler's complete embroidery sets be brought back into the world and sold. Thus, at first, the Balkan business was revived with classic embroidery designs.

In 1970, the demand for Wiehler tapestry pictures was so extensive that the now 72-year-old owner Dr. Rudolf Wiehler sold his company for reasons of age. Since the sons went their own ways, a successor was sought and found in Hans Jürgen Beck, a textile merchant. He continued to run the company in Buxtehude, Stader Strasse 37. Hans Jürgen Beck saw his first task in bringing out a catalog again and printing the counting patterns, which had not been printed for years, in their old form as a reproduction. To improve them, he succeeded in working out a completely new process. More old counting patterns were collected in the former Yugoslavia. The old color assortment was also brought back to life by re-dyeing the yarns. Now it was possible to design new motifs and to continue and complete the old assortment.

After a 30-year break, the first catalog "Original Wiehler Gobelin Weltbekannt" was published in 1972. Customers, who already had a large number of embroidered pictures, also found new incentive for further embroidery. At the same time, the business grew through advertisements in Europe and overseas. The number of Wiehler tapestry embroidery enthusiasts increased, so it became necessary to move into new premises in order to create more space for the elaboration of the pictures.
Move to the newly built company building in Buxtehude in Stader Straße 32 in 1975. Especially in the former Yugoslavia, the numerous embroidery designs continued to find brisk sales via catalogs and novelty sheets, through agent visits or trade fairs. New pictures were also created again. In this golden period, the company had up to 60 employees and 400 m² of company and showroom space. It was the largest business in the village.

Since the beginning of the 80s, special emphasis was placed on increasingly fine work. The beginning of this was represented by two icons in petit point stitch. Other valuable icons followed and the customer was also given the opportunity to embroider tapestry pictures on a special fabric as a miniature. With 14 stitches on one centimeter, this embroidery represents a real work of art. 
Parallel to the expansion into fine embroidery, a completely new cross-stitch assortment was developed. This was illustrated in a separate cross stitch catalog in 1992. 
The war in Yugoslavia ended the heyday of the Wiehler company in the 1990s, although the high quality embroidery designs continued to be shipped worldwide. Things went downhill once again in the company's turbulent history.

The last catalog at present, the anniversary catalog on the occasion of "100 years of Wiehler Gobelin" was published in 1993. This is currently available in the web store at as a download and thus for browsing. Most of these high-quality articles can still be ordered. The catalog can also be seen as the culmination at the end of an era of broad craftsmanship.
For reasons of age, Hans Jürgen Beck announced the closure of the company in 2004. Since the turnover increased again and many feedbacks came to continue the traditional enterprise nevertheless, he decided however despite his high age to the continuation of the enterprise.

In February 2005, after the surprising death of Hans Jürgen Beck at the age of 80, his daughter Jutta Böttcher took over the business. She had been a junior in the family tapestry business since 1986 and had also organized tapestry exhibitions at Wiehler in recent years.
The company still had 10 employees when she took over. At that time, the industry was already in crisis, the market was shrinking, especially in Germany. Embroidery was no longer in vogue. "Modern women no longer have time for it. But embroidery is also meditation, it's a wonderful way to switch off," said Jutta Böttcher. At that time, embroidered icons and chakra pictures were in demand, but also traditional pictures like "The Shepherd Boy" or "The last supper". A new web store went online.

Instead of extensive catalogs, flyers and thin catalogs on Wiehler novelties appeared. As a three-woman business, up to 400 orders per year were still processed and sold as far away as New Zealand. But Mrs. Böttcher wanted to take on new challenges. The company was taken over by Heike Wichern in 2012 and relocated within Buxtehude. She continued the online shipping order business, set further digitization steps.
In 2019, the company closure was once again on the cards: "After 125 years of existence, we will give up our traditional company with the trade of embroidery motifs according to counting templates for age and health reasons on March 15, 2019. A successor has not yet been decided," Mrs. Wichern informed her customers. But the successor jumped off. The business continued until the end of December 2019.

In search of a Christmas gift, the motif "Bookworm" by Spitzweg, the current owner became aware of the company and the imminent closure. He wanted to prevent the loss of these traditional cultural assets and preserve this tradition.
In March 2020, the company was taken over by a new owner and gradually moved to Austria - made more difficult by COVID-19 travel restrictions. For this purpose, a total of 10 pallets of material with a total weight of about 2 tons were moved - finished embroidery designs, sample pieces, many unfolded counting patterns in paper form, foils, yarns and fabrics.

In May 2020, the relocated modernised webshop went online at the familiar address and already in the first night and without any advertising, the first order was received from a loyal customer. In the store are currently available about 335 motifs in gobelin and petit point stitch, and another about 220 motifs in cross stitch. The range extends from flowers and animals to landscapes and old masters and their works of art converted into embroidery.
In September 2020, a project was launched with the Vienna University of Technology, Institute for Pattern Recognition, to be able to translate poorly legible or faulty counting patterns back into optimum quality. With this custom software it is also possible to reconstruct missing symbols in counting patterns.
The project was successfully completed in Feb 2021. Since then, the technical reprocessing of the templates into crisp counting patterns has been carried out step by step as required.

With these and other measures, such as the transfer of articles into a database, the digitalisation of Wiehler Gobelin is now being driven forward and the company is being made fit for the 21st century. Wiehler Gobelin is now also represented on Facebook and Instagram.

At the end of 2020, there was the exhibition "One gobelin one story" in Pančevo, Serbia, with a focus on Wiehler.
From May to October 2022, a Wiehler exhibition was held at the Ethnographic museum in Belgrade. The temporary exhibition was concluded with a pixel art competition organised by the museum, which brought Wiehler Gobelins to life digitally.

In 2023, we will celebrate 130 years of Wiehler Gobelin. Quality for our customers continues to be a central factor. Orders are put together entirely by hand in Austria near Vienna. If customers continue to remain loyal to the company, new, modern counting patterns will hopefully also complement the range in the future.