Schwalm Costume – The Waistcoat

The Schwalm women´s festive costume waistcoat – also, because of its many buttons (Knöpfe), called “Knöppding” or “Kneppding” (thing to button up) – was worn over the bodice.
The back of the waistcoat was unadorned.
The waistcoat was usually made of black velvet, but black woolen cloth was also used. The lining was made from fine white linen.
From the collarbone to the waist, the waistcoat was close fitting.
From the hem to the waist, some cuts were made. The sections below the waist were worn under the skirts. The cuts enable the waistcoat to lie over the bolster of the harness.
Some waistcoats had bags attached to the sections below the waist. These bags could be filled to simulate a bolster and thus eliminate the need to wear a harness.
The upper sections of both front pieces were cut with large curves. One was worn on top of the other.
The armscyes and the front necklines were edged with black patterned velvet bands about 5.5 cm wide. The bands needed to be eased (with tiny pleats) around the curves.
The same velvet edging is found on both front pieces of the waistcoat. However, on the left side the edging was also applied at the neckline and the front edge.
In this way a heart was formed. This heart has at the outside edges a piping in the colour of the costume – red, green, blue or black.
Often the inside edges of the heart were embroidered using silk threads in the colours of the costume. So the significance of the heart form is further established.
On the curved velvet band of the right front, buttons were sewn 3 cm apart. This was done symmetrically on the left front. On the outside band of the left front, buttonholes were worked.
When the waistcoat was buttoned, the arrangement of the buttons formed another heart.

A woman’s waistcoat usually had nineteen buttons. Not all buttons were usually buttoned up; often three or four buttons remained unbuttoned.
Waistcoats in the other colours also looked precious. The waistcoat below was part of a girl’s red costume. Unfortunately, this waistcoat is missing some buttons.
The fancy handmade buttons in the special arrangement gave the waistcoat the splendor,
and the number of buttons gave the waistcoat its name – Knöppding.

Small Buttons

Buttons are not only functional but also decorative. In fact, often they are used as decoration only.
At my grandchildren´s house, I saw a kit for making fabric buttons, and I experienced the simplicity of making them.
So I got the idea to work buttons with small elements of whitework. White and natural linen was embroidered with tendrils, small leaves, Blanket stitch eyelets, and small hearts. The pieces were cut, washed, starched, and ironed.
With the tools included in the kit, I tried to cover the button.
The linen was laid upside down over the button-making “bowl” and, using the top piece of the button form, pressed into the bowl.
Remaining fabric was folded inwards.
The back of the button form was positioned
and, with the appropriate tool, pressed into the bowl.
The result was sobering. One edge of the button was dented.
The back of the button form was not totally locked into place. The linen was thicker than the original fabric of the kit, so it did not work.
What to do now with all my embroidered linen pieces? I obtained high quality button blanks. They are available in different sizes.
The packages of the smaller button blanks include the tools. Also these button blanks have the advantage that the finished buttons can be secured either by sewing or pinning with small safety pins. In addition, a stencil is included for cutting the fabric to the necessary size.
The button-making “bowl” is transparent; this helps in positioning the embroidery.
With the included pressing tool the back of the button form was easily.
The first button was finished – evenly and smoothly covered.
Now many embroidered buttons wait for their use on waistcoats, bags, sweaters, and . . . the possibilities are endless. Fitted with small safety pins, they are easily moved from one garment to another and removed before laundering.

Blanket Stitch Eyelets – Practice Exercises

The simple Blanket stitch eyelet is a very important element of Schwalm whitework. As shown in the Blanket Stitch Eyelets article, it can be used in many creative ways. Here I present two more designs for the band with circle designs. Both are suitable for practicing blanket stitch eyelets in two different sizes. It is best to start with the larger eyelets.
The designs are transferred to the linen by ironing using a DEKA pencil.
First, the preparatory work is done per the explanations in the leaves practicing article.
Using coton à broder No. 20, the Blanket stitch eyelets are begun by bringing the needle up directly on the outline,
and then always starting from the center, stitches are placed close together one after another.
When the circle is filled, the round is closed by inserting the needle directly under the first loop and sliding the thread to the back.
In this way you get a wonderful round Blanket stitch eyelet.
Both designs look pretty washed, starched, and ironed.

How to Work a Blanket Stitch Eyelet

A Blanket stitch eyelet is a small circle covered with closely worked Blanket stitches. All stitches start from the center and are worked counterclockwise. The loops create the outside edge.
1_21-2017It is difficult to get a true circle when drawing by hand. But only with a perfect circle can one achieve the best results when embroidering. So it is appropriate to use a tool for drawing circles.
2_21-2017After transferring the design to the linen, the piece is stretched in a hoop. Bring needle up directly on the outline,
3_21-2017pull the thread through and lay a loop to the left and downward. Insert the needle into the center, and bring it up again on the outline, a small distance from where the thread first emerged.
4_21-2017The thread should be situated beneath the needle.
5_21-2017Pull the thread through, and tighten it in the direction of the stitch so that a small hole is established in the center (but do not distort the weave of the fabric).
6_21-2017While holding the thread in this direction, insert the needle in the center again, and bring it up on the outline next to the previous stitch.
7_21-2017Again situate the thread beneath the needle,
8_21-2017and work a Blanket stitch as described before.
9_21-2017Always starting from the center, Blanket stitches are densely worked one after another. Always rotate the piece so that the needle can prick from right to left. The stitches should be evenly distributed, and they should have an orderly appearance at the center. If necessary, widen the center hole a little bit using the needle.
10_21-2017When the circle is filled, close the round by inserting the needle directly under the first loop and slide the thread to the back.
11_21-2017In this way you get a wonderful round Blanket stitch eyelet.
12_21-2017Of course, after boiling, starching, and ironing the blue outline disappears, and the Blanket stitch eyelet looks excellent (please keep in mind, that the image shows a strong magnification).
13_21-2017I found the stitch clearly drawn in a Danish booklet from Esther Fangel.

Haandarbejdets Fremmes Haandbøger
Esther Fangel
Gammel Dansk
14_21-2017Esther Fangel: Gammel Dansk Hvidsøm

This booklet focuses on traditional Danish whitework, which is in parts similar to Schwalm whitework.

Blanket Stitch Eyelets

Blanket stitch eyelets are small elements commonly used to fill the areas between the larger shapes in Schwalm whitework,

A Blanket stitch eyelet is a small circle covered with closely worked Blanket stitches. All stitches start from the center and are worked counterclockwise. The loops create the outside edge.
1_20-2017They are often embroidered singly as centers of small flowers or for other purposes, but they are also found in groups of three or more and in groups of differing sizes. The following pictures show the different arrangements of Blanket stitch eyelets on traditional and contemporary whitework.
2_20-2017A single Blanket stitch eyelet is used as small accent flower to a larger circle motif.
3_20-2017Single Blanket stitch eyelets, connected with Coral Knot lines, adorn the center of a design.
4_20-2017A single Blanket stitch eyelet is embroidered as an eye of a traditional bird motif.
5_20-2017A grouping of three – close together –
6_20-2017or with a small distance between is often worked.
7_20-2017Five Blanket stitch eyelets are connected with a star stitch to create a small flower.
8_20-2017Six Blanket stitch eyelets are worked closely together establishing a small flower.
9_20-2017Six Blanket stitch eyelets are arranged like a bunch of grapes.
10_20-2017One Blanket stitch eyelet encircled with four half-eyelet scallops is found in the dense embroidery of a parade cushion border from 1826.
11_20-2017A similarly formed small flower is used in a small border.
12_20-2017One Blanket stitch eyelet encircled with five half-eyelet scallops is found in the dense embroidery between large shapes on a parade cushion border from 1826.
13_20-2017One Blanket stitch eyelet encircled with six Blanket stitch scallops is the center of a small flower. In addition, there are many Blanket stitch leaves.
14_20-2017It is common to find single Blanket stitch eyelets surrounded by circles worked in Satin stitches; some of these circles can be smaller
15_20-2017or approximately the same size as the Blanket stitch eyelet.
16_20-2017A Blanket stitch eyelet can be also be surrounded by Bullion Knots,
17_20-2017small undivided or
18_20-2017divided Satin stitch leaves.
19_20-2017A single Blanket stitch eyelet can also be used as the center of individually designed flowers, as seen here in an embroidery by Thekla Gombert.
20_20-2017A Blanket stitch eyelet small flower, Blanket stitch leaves, and Blanket stitch half-eyelet scallops decorate the areas between large shapes.
21_20-2017Blanket stitch eyelets of differing sizes can be arranged in the manner of a tendril.
22_20-2017The simple Blanket stitch eyelet is a very important element of Schwalm whitework. I hope this article shows that this simple element is readily used, and used in many creative ways.


Luzine Happel
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37269 Eschwege
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