St. Gallen's textile tradition has had a strong influence on the image of the city, the countryside and the people of Eastern Switzerland. Manufacturing, processing and sales expertise has been passed on for many generations. At the beginning of the 20th century, almost every household in the canton of St. Gallen had at least one person working in the embroidery industry, either from home or in factories. Today, Eastern Switzerland's nine embroidery companies use state-of-the-art machines to produce high-quality, innovative materials for the world's leading fashion designers. Only a few firms continue to embroider for these nine companies as sub-contractors. For cost reasons, most companies also outsource some of their production abroad.
The tradition of hand embroidery is now practised by only a few people. Embroiderers demonstrate hand embroidery to visitors in museums in St. Gallen, Balgach, Flawil and Stein in Appenzell Ausserrhoden.
Today's embroidery companies keep samples of their own products in their archives. They refer back to them for inspiration and to generate new ideas. The textile library constructed in 1886 holds some 35,000 items relating to the most important technical, cultural and historical developments in the textile industry, including over a thousand books featuring samples from embroiderers of the past.