I have been asked … (1)

Embroiderers have asked me questions regarding the stitch used to stabilize the openwork grid.

They want to know why the stitch in Schwalm whitework is worked on the bias

and not on the straight of grain, as it is done in some other embroidery types. (For some embroiderers it would be much easier to work the stitch on the straight of grain; errors caused by trying to hold the correct diagonal line could be avoided.)

Working horizontal and vertical rows would establish the same effect – wrapping once around each pair of threads and creating a double half cross on top of the intersections of the pairs of threads.

So, why is it done on the bias in the Schwalm?

My response:

As Schwalm whitework became more and more important, professional embroiderers were always looking for faster and more economical ways of doing their work. Then, when theses embroiderers passed on their embroidery knowledge, it was natural for them to teach the streamlined techniques they had developed. Remember that this knowledge was only available by being passed down from teacher to student. And over the years, this way of working found its way into the doctrine of Schwalm whitework.

Back in Schwalm whitework’s heyday, it was common to work openwork filling patterns nearly exclusively. Time was precious, and openwork consists of mainly two different steps of working: stabilizing the grid with Cable stitches, and filling the grid with patterns using Rose stitches, Needle-Weaving stitches, or others. Working these two different steps is time consuming.

Working the stitches on the bias enables the embroiderer to create a couple of different patterns without working a complete openwork grid first. If the stitch is worked in diagonal rows, other stitches – also in diagonal rows – can be easily worked beside to create different patterns. Working this way saves time. Not all patterns can be worked this way, only those with diagonal strips. But the Schwalm embroiderer always added such diagonal striped patterns, as many examples show:
Traditional Schwalm Whitework
Traditional Schwalm Bodice (D) Embroidery
Traditional Schwalm Bodice (B) Embroidery
The Filling Patterns of theTraditional Schwalm Bodice A

The Cable stitches (Single Faggot stitches) can be combined with Rose stitches; Diagonal Cross stitches; Double Diagonal Cross stitches; Diagonal Cross Filling–French Variation; Diagonal Cross Filling–French Variation, wrong side up; Diagonal Cross Filling–French Variation, “half”; Diagonal Cross Filling–French Variation, “half with a gap”; Diagonal Cross Filling–French Variation, “vertical half.” (See all these stitches in Openwork Pattern Samplers.)

One can find more variations by changing the number of the worked rows each stitch.

Summer Work

Now and then my exhibits need to be laundered; they collect dust being displayed in the exhibition for so many months, and above all the summer sun caused them to yellow in some parts. I took advantage of the summer break to take them home for washing and ironing.

Viewing the various items waving in the wind on the clotheslines in my garden, I was once again awestruck by the trove of wonderful and diverse embroideries made over the years.

I enjoy my summer life – relaxing, embroidering, and gardening. But I am always thinking about how I might inspire Schwalm whitework enthusiasts. I look forward to sharing with you the next big project that is in the works. And I also look forward to welcoming interested visitors to my exhibition.

Filling Pattern – No. 546

category: Limet-Filling pattern
linen used: 13.5/cm thread count
threads used: coton à broder No. 20
stitches used: Easy Eyelet stitches and Rose stitches
longitudinal axis: withdrawn thread line
one pattern segment = 16 threads

First, establish a Limet grid with a withdrawn thread line as the longitudinal axis by cutting 1, leaving 3, vertically and horizontally.

Work one row of Easy Eyelet stitches along the longitudinal axis.

Work one vertical row of Rose stitches next to the Easy Eyelet row.

Always alternate working one row of Easy Eyelet stitches and Rose stitches until one half of the shape is filled.

Working from the already embroidered section, fill the remaining section.

Another pattern, suited also for smaller areas, is established.

Schwalm Whitsun Custom – “Pfingstmännchen” and “Pfingstbügel”

The Whitsun custom in the Schwalm is a custom of demand. The children of a village move in a parade from house to house demanding small donations.

The course varies from village to village a little bit, and over the decades small changes to the custom have come about. However, the essence of it remains the same.

On Whitsun Monday, the boys of a village go to the forest. There, one of them is bound with fresh green branches, grass, and moss to be transformed into the Pfingstmännchen (Whitsun manikin).

The whole body is wrapped with branches and greenery. Only small ports allow the boy to look out.

Movement with the thick and heavy framework was cumbersome, but all had fun in it.

It was a special privilege to be the Pfingstmännchen.

The girls of the village brought their most beautiful silk ribbons to a seamstress to decorate a fanciful Pfingstbügel (Whitsun frame). The Pfingstbügel is a half-circle shield that is perched on top of a center staff

or on two side staffs used for carrying. Often the bottom parts of the staffs were decorated with carved or coloured designs or wrapped with ribbons.

One side of the shield is decorated with red bands,

the other side with green bands.

Often a diagonal cross, made of two bands, is an additional decoration. A small flower bouquet is fastened on top.

Wearing their festive costumes and carrying small Schwalm baskets, the girls walk to the forest to fetch the boys.

The girl with the Pfingstbügel is the leader. It is a special privilege to hold the shield. Going out of the village, the red side of the shield is facing forward.

Together with the Pfingstmännchen, they go back to the village to start their parade. Coming back to the village, the green side of the shield is facing forward. It symbolizes the awakening and “greening” of nature.

Dr. Andreas Scheller took the photo below circa 1940.

Back in the village, the children, along with the Pfingstmännchen, go from house to house to collect small donations. Traditionally, donations are eggs, bacon, sweets, and coins. The children recite jingles or sing folk songs.

Following the procession, pancakes are made using the eggs, and all the children have a nice meal together.

A Visit from Hong Kong

Some time ago a lady from Hong Kong visited my exhibition and took a workshop with me. Mimi Chan is a perfect stitcher and interested in all kinds of embroidery. She graduated with distinction from the Royal School of Needlework in the United Kingdom with a diploma in technical hand embroidery. She attained the highest mark ever in the school!

She tours all over the world to learn different regional techniques. At home she teaches all she has learned during her travels in her TOUR Embroidery classes.
After learning about Schwalm whitework, she contacted me to arrange a visit. She had never before worked this technique, but she was familiar with most of the single stitches. So she quickly learned a lot.

She worked through a couple of my books, always showing in short practices that there would be no problem to finish the single subjects on her own.

In the Fall she will return to learn the remaining contents; I’m certain she will leave being a perfect Schwalm embroiderer.

She enjoyed viewing my exhibits, which show the many different possibilities Schwalm whitework provides. She took pictures and created a video, which she put on YouTube and Facebook.

And so, through Mimi, beautiful Schwalm whitework is introduced to another part of the world.


Luzine Happel
Am Schindeleich 43
37269 Eschwege
Telefon: 05651-32233


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