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The Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, Inc. Collection Of Fine Sailors’ Woolworks, Spring 2015

Woolies: The Art of the British Sailor Paul Vandekar Sailors woolworks, commonly known as ‘woolies’, were produced from around 1840 until they fell out of fashion around World War I; many men passed the long hours on board, as well as kept their fingers nimble in the wind and cold, by sewing scenes of their ships and landscapes. As woolies are often unsigned, the names of the artists are largely unknown. On occasion, initials, pictures of the sailor, or the name of the maker are added. Primarily, woolies depict ships, but many contain other elements, such as patriotic symbols, flags, or landscapes. Woolies often are dated, with the ship’s name incorporated into the picture; this information, combined with the aforementioned other elements, occasionally makes identification possible. The naiveté is what makes woolies most charming; while some are so well-executed they are excellent foils to marine paintings, many are quite simple and straightforward. Both varieties offer personality and individuality of a degree that paintings simply cannot duplicate. Most often, they were portraits of the sailor’s vessel, made as a memoir of his voyage or as a gift to a loved one. While it is regarded as uncharacteristic for men to have had this particular pastime, it is actually not so strange; until the 1880’s, seamen had no standard uniform and had to provide their own. Another task they faced was repair of the sails- coupled with the need to mend their own clothing, sailors had to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of sewing. A great variety of stitches were used, such as the cross stitch, chain stitch, darning and the quilting technique called trapunto. The earliest existing examples of woolies date from the 1830s, and demonstrate the use of a chain stitch. An adaptation of this stitch is the long stitch, used in woolies after 1840; it is a long stitch that leaves little thread on the back, saves wool and makes for much faster sewing. Sailors mainly used wool thread; hence the name, but cotton and silk were used when available. Some sailors even added bits of bone, metal, wood, glass, or some other such embellishment to decorate their work. There are several details to which meticulous attention has been paid: rigging, number of guns, and signal flags. To create the rigging, they mainly used long stitches with fine cotton or linen threads. In some unusual woolies silk thread or thinly twisted gold threads were used. There have also been examples in which the threads have been laboriously braided.

Tel: 212-308-2022

Web: 2

A Large Wonderful Exceptional Early American Sailor's Woolwork Picture of Ships, Circa 1865.

The particularly large early American woolie is worked all-over in chain and knitted stitching depicting a starboard view of a large American warship arriving into port being greeted by three small British sail boats. To the right can be seen a lighthouse on the shore. The woolie is very distinctive in the creative and attractive use of bands of colour in the patterned sky- bands of red can be seen too probably depicting a sunset. Dimensions: 27 1/2 inches x 32 3/4 inches. (NY8095)

$25,000.00 3

A British Sailor's Woolwork Picture, Circa 1880.

This wool is of an unusual oval format bordered by braided red and white rope-work band and a muted red wool ground with a Royal Navy frigate sailing from right to left flying the White Ensign. The woolie is framed with a beautiful dark wood flower decorated wood frame. Dimensions: 24 inches x 20 inches. (NY5799)



An Unusual American Sailor's Woolwork of The Two Seas, Circa 1875.

This wool depicts an American Brigantine, The Two Seas. She flies the company flag- Two C's back to back on her fore mast and a series of flags on her Mizzen mast. Beautifully embellished with a butterfly and botanical motif. Dimensions: 16 1/10 inches x 20 1/4 inches. Provenance: Caressa Crouch and Carl Gonsalves Collection. (NY8115)

$4,800.00 5

A Large Sailor's Woolwork of The Hospital Ship, HMHS Plassy, Circa 1915.

A dramatic depiction of the Hospital Ship HMMS Plassy showing a port side view of the ship under steam with her Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ensign flying from the stern, her blue gray hull plowing through the green yellow sea. Interestingly, there is an early newsreel of King George V of Great Britain visiting the Royal Navy's Hospital ship, HMHS Plassy, at Scapa Flow, in the Orkneys, on June 23, 1917, during World War 1

Dimensions: 25 inches x 35 inches. (VM98195)



A Large Sailor's Woolwork of R M SS Westernland, Worked by A. Cooper, Dated 1894.

The woolie in an unusual upright format depicts the handsome Red Star liner with a port side view sailing towards the viewer a white fluffy wake depicted on the primary green and yellow sea. She is about to enter an American port as the American Jack on the format depicts. While she is under stem there are numerous sails in use too. A Belgium flag is flying from her stern and bow, company flags can be seen fluttering in the wind. The Red Star Line brought passengers from Antwerp to New York and Philadelphia. Dimensions: 31 1/2 inches x 25 inches. Reference: The Westernland was built in 1883 at Birkenhead by Laird Bros for American Line. She was a steel ship, 531ft x 59.2ft and 5,736 tons gross. Her maiden voyage was on November 3rd, 1883. She was Red Star's first steel -hulled ship, the line's first ship with two funnels and the first Red Star steamer with three classes of passenger accommodations. She was built in dry dock due to a shortage of building berths at Laird's, and was "launched" by being floated out of the dry dock in August 1883. She made her maiden voyage on 3 November of the same year, from Antwerp to Philadelphia. (http://




An English Sailor's Woolwork Picture of HMS Euphrates, Circa 1890.

The large wool in a maple frame depicts a starboard view of the HMS Euphrates sailing on a rough sea, the wool naively made with large looping waves, the crests of waves in white and the rough sea in yellow and green.

Dimensions: 37 1/4 inches x 29 inches wide. (VM98186)

$5,500.00 8

This woolie bears the initials of the maker: J.L.

An Unusual English Sailor's Woolwork of The Lissie, Signed JL (lower left) for Joseph Lewney, Circa 1875. This finely woven woolie is of a merchant screw schooner with three masts and two steam funnels and has the name Lissie on its bow. The ship sails on a choppy sea, which is depicted in an unusual green and brown colour. The details of the superstructure are highly detailed. Individual sailors are discernible on the deck. A red and white-striped lighthouse and another vessel sailing in the opposite direction decorate the background. Seagulls fly around the bow of each ship, laid against a light-blue sky with puffy clouds. The woolwork itself is of rectangular form with canted corners and is within a rectangular wood frame and shaped black slip with canted corners. Dimensions: 20 inches x 26 1/2 inches . (VM98187)

$6,000.00 9

A Charming English Sailor's Woolwork of a Royal Navy Ship, Circa 1865.

The woolie has a wonderful serenity to it as it depicts a Royal Navy ship, probably a square-rigged sloop. The ship is anchored close in to shore, a jack flag on her bow, a ladder into the water can be seen on her port side. Her rigging is extremely well done with cotton and silk thread and a White Ensign flies off her stern. On shore is a fort flying the Union Jack with a distinctive red bricked building at her entrance with a long path leading to the shore. Two small sailing vessels can be seen nearby. This design is often used for a Sailor's Return or Farewell but here there are no figures present. Dimensions: 17 1/4 inches x 24 1/2 inches wide. (VM98193)

$7,000.00 10

A Large English Sailor's Woolwork Picture of Ships, Circa 1870.

The large upright woolie depicts a portside view of a 1st Rate Royal Navy battleship coming into port, sailing on a dark blue sea, with a lighthouse and fort visible. The ship is surrounded by five small traditional Arab sailing vessels and a small British single-mast ship. This suggests that the image depicts a British outpost in the Persian Gulf. The ship flies a Red Ensign and solid red flag from the main mast. Streaks of blue can be seen in the ivory sky.

Dimensions: 28 inches x 28 inches. (VM98185)


Traditional Arab sailing vessel


An English Sailor's Woolwork of a Royal Navy Ship, Circa 1865.

The woolie with good strong colour depicts a starboard view of a three-masted Royal Navy ship which is probably a six rater with 26 gun ports. The ship is sailing under a well designed and colourful sky with various blues and cloud formations. A red banner flies from her mainmast and a Red Ensign from her mizzenmast. Dimensions: 25 3/4 inches x 20 1/4 inches. (VM98190)

$7,500.00 12

A Charming Small English Sailor's Woolwork of a Royal Navy Sloop, Circa 1870.

The sailor's wool in Berlin wool on linen depicts a starboard view of a Royal Navy brig sailing towards land. The two-masted ship sails high in the water with eight port holes visible. She flies a long red banner from her main mast and a red standard from her mizzenmast. As she approaches land, a light house can be seen on a green grass covered promontory. The sky is well depicted and well coloured, its original blues still strong with multiple streaks of colour with numerous shaped of blue and white. Dimensions: 20 inches x 17 1/2 inches. (NY8097)

$6,500.00 13

An English Sailor's Woolwork of a Royal Navy Frigate, Circa 1870.

The woolie depicts a portside view of a Royal Navy Frigate flying the White Ensign from the Mizzenmast. The ship is coming into port with the tide and a lighthouse and another circular building can be seen standing on a promontory on the upper left. A second small sailing vessel is shown also sailing into port. The ship is has an unusually coloured hull and the cannons are each depicted by a nail-head. The rigging is in silk and cotton. The ship sails on a rough blue gray sea. Dimensions: 21 inches x 26 1/2 inches. (VM98189)

$5,500.00 14

A Sailor's Woolwork of the Large Clipper Ship named The Elien with Two Smaller Vessels in the Foreground, Circa 1870.

The ship flying the Red Ensign sails from right to left. It is black hulled and has four fully rigged masts and has its name plate on the bow. The sea is a dark blue and very still with white clouds above. Two small sailing vessels ply the water in the foreground. Dimensions: 20 1/2 inches x 29 3/4 inches. (NY7291)

$4,000.00 15

An English Sailor's Woolie of the Dominion, Circa 1920.

The woolie depicts a ship coming into port on a choppy sea with seagulls trailing the ship's wake, a lighthouse can be seen in the background. Below the ship is a band with the name DOMINION in wool and two triangular pennants to either side, one with a Red Ensign and the other with the Company flag. Dimensions: 28 1/2 inches x 25 1/2 inches. (NY7179)

$6,500.00 16

A Fascinating Large Sailor's Woolwork of a Thames Barge with Banner Reading Harry & Nellie, Circa 1885-1900.

The woolie depicts the port side view with the ship towing a small boat off the stern. A large white banner flies from the ship with a white ground and Union Jack in the top corner and the name of the ship the "Harry & Nellie in black wool. Exceptionally creative rendering of the water and sky. As there was no ship registered under this name, it is likely a love token. The sails of these barges were usually red ochre as seen in this woolie. Dimensions: 25 inches x 35 1/2 inches. (NY7448)

$7,800.00 17

A Large Sailor's Woolwork Picture of The Lowestoft Lugger,

A Large Sailor's Woolwork of The Lowestoft Lugger,

Young James, Circa 1900.

John Frederick, Circa 1900.

The woolie depicts a fishing vessel know as a Lowestoft lugger. They were used in the vicinity of the fishing port of Lowestoft. As the ship is named and numbered, we have considerable information about this vessel upon request.

The woolie depicts the John Frederick, a sister fishing vessel to The Young James. They make a charming pair. As the ship is named and numbered, we have considerable information about this vessel upon request.

Dimensions: 23 1/2 inches x 30 3/4 inches.

Dimensions: 23 1/2 inches x 29 1/2 inches.


$5,000.00 (NY7578)



A Rare American Sailor's Woolwork of an American Ship, Circa 1865.

A rare American Woolie, with outlined sails moves through the water, waves breaking at the bow with the wake trailing behind. A second, smaller vessel is seen in the distance. Highly unusual subject in a pleasing composition.

Dimensions: 15 1/4 inches high x 21 1/4 inches wide. (NY7793)

$5,500.00 19

An Unusual American Tinsel-Backed Woolie of an American Ship, Circa 1880.

The multi-media woolie depicts an American brig at anchor in a cove just off the American coast. There are men visible on the ship as well as patrolling the lighthouse on shore. The ship, rigging and land are all very stylized, the effect heightened by the metallic backing of tinsel applied to the piece. Dimensions: 26 inches x 21 inches. (NY6041A)

$1,500.00 20

A Huge British Sailor's Woolie of a Five-masted Ironclad, Circa 1870.

The woolie depicts a five-masted ironclad one of the three vessels of the Minotaur class of battleship- HMS Minotaur, HMS Agincourt or HMS Northumberland . The wool depicts the port side of the ship under steam power with a three-masted first rate off to her starboard side. A double side mounted paddle wheel vessel can be seen departing from the battleships side possibly a paddle tug. Another small sailing vessel can bee seen to the bottom right. Beautiful attention to the sky and sea throughout. Highly artistic rendering of the sky and sea. Dimensions: 24 inches x 28 inches. (VM98073)

$11,500.00 21

A British Sailor's Woolie of H.M.S. Black Prince, Circa 1860-70.

Below the woolwork ship there is a silk band which reads H.M.S. Black Prince worked within a rope work band and below the Prince of Wales Feathers; below and to the left there reads 41 Guns and to the right Length 419 FT. 'Black Prince' and her sister ship H.M.S. Warrior were shiprigged ironclads and were the world's first ocean-going armoured ships. The woolie created using a close chain stitch depicts the ship with the unseen sun setting behind it, the suns rays reflecting off the water. Dimensions: 22 inches x 32 ½ inches. (NY7215)

$9,500.00 22

A British Sailor's Flag of Nations Woolie, Circa 1875.

The woolie with a central panel of an urn of flowers within a central panel surmounted by a crown with the White Rose of England below. To either side are flags including the United States, Naples, Turkey, France, the White Ensign and the Union Jack. Each flag is mounted on a pole with an embroidered tassel at the top. Dimensions: 24 1/2 x 20 1/2 inches. (NY6078)

$3,750.00 23

A Fine Large Flag and Ship Sailor's Woolwork, Circa 1875-85.

The wonderful large wool picture known as a woolie with a purple ground with a ship in the background and circular device in the center with the colours and design of the Union Jack to either side the Red, White and Blue Ensigns and the Blue Jack and the English White Rose and the Thistle below. Dimensions: 38 inches x 26 1/4 inches. (NY5121)

$7,500.00 24

A Large Sailor's Woolwork Picture of a Ship, Circa 1865.

An early woolie executed in a grain of rice stitch depicting a Royal Navy Red Fleet frigate sailing from right to left homeward bound with a large red banner flying from the main mast. The sky with patches of different coloured blue sky are peeking through white clouds.

Dimensions: 26 inches x 18 inches. (NY7176X)



An English Sailor's Woolwork of a Royal Navy Ship, Circa 1870.

A vibrant woolie depicting a starboard view of a Royal Navy ship which fills most of the sight. The three-masted ship flies the White ensign and a small Union Flag from the mainmast which denotes that the Admiral of the Fleet is aboard. Dimensions: 19 1/2 inches x 28 3/4 inches.


$7,500.00 26

An Early English Sailor's Woolwork Picture of the Royal Yacht, HMY Victoria and Albert II, Circa 1855-70. HMY Victoria and Albert, a 360 foot steamer launched 16 January 1855, was a Royal Yacht of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom until 1900, owned and operated by the Royal Navy. She displaced 2,470 tons, and could make 15 knots on her paddles. There were 240 crew. Victoria and Albert II was scrapped in about 1904. The El Horria was built to the same specifications for Isma'il Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt in 1865 and is the oldest steamship afloat. Dimensions: 27 inches x 20 inches. (NY5841)

$4,000.00 27

A Sailor's Embroidered Picture of A Battleship with Makers Label, Mid-20th Century.

This fascinating embroidered picture depicts the central destroyer steaming forward with smoke appearing from two funnels; it is joined in the seascape by two smaller vessels. Each vessel flies a flag of the British fleet. In each corner are pairs of flags. On the top left is the Red Ensign and Union Jack; at the top right the German and French flags; at the bottom right are the Russian (Cross of St. Andrew) and Japanese flags. At the bottom left are possible versions of the Dutch and Italian flag. On the reverse is a label which reads as follows: The work and property of Albert E Wikinson 35 Westoe Road South Shields Class 74 Ex Corporal 20063 ...Tih Batt BLI (NY5209B)



A Sailor's Embroidered Picture of HMS A1 and Two Other Submarines, Early 20th Century.

A rare square form needle worked twentieth century wool picture depicting a sea scape with three submarines, one almost submerged, one in the center named AI, and another in the background. Surrounded by a stitched rope and Union Jack motif. Quite colourful. Dimensions: 18 inches x 18 inches. (NY05209A)



The Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, Inc. Collection Of Fine Sailors’ Woolworks, Spring 2015  

A New Collection of Antique Sailors' Woolworks or Woolies.

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