New Thumbnail Images: Overview of Filling Patterns

A distinguishing feature of Schwalm whitework is the enormous variety of different filling patterns. Many of them are already published in my books, but there are many more beautiful patterns for filling areas of any size and shape. Periodically I present filling patterns on my blog – many have been presented in the past and more will be featured in the future.

In 2015 my webmaster installed a blog archive with a thumbnail overview that delighted my readers. The filling patterns are also pictured there, but one has to cull them from all the other subjects.

To improve this situation, I got the idea to install an additional overview that features only filling patterns. My webmaster accomplished the technical requirements and has stocked the new archive with the already published images. Perhaps you have already noticed this archive – it has been up and running for the past few weeks.

But the thumbnail overview should develop in a way so that one can get a direct comparison of the effect of different patterns at first glance. Therefore all patterns should have approximately the same size, and they should be photographed from the same angle.

To accomplish this I embroidered many hours these past weeks. Four big samplers are already in the works, and a fifth will follow. When all samplers are finished, I will be able to present about 210 patterns that have not been shown so far – neither in my books nor on my blog. Some of them are completely new!

For the samplers I chose Weddigen linen with a 13.5/cm thread count (article 160) cut to 50 cm X 185 cm. In the end I will use them as drapes. Weighted at the bottom, they will hang plain, and the patterns will be especially effective illuminated from behind.

The pattern areas measure approximately 7.5 cm X 7.5 cm. So that all squares of one sampler get the exact same size, I divided the patterns into groups. (Valuable tips for the division and the arrangement of pattern samplers are found in my book Samplers).

So here is one sampler with only Limet patterns with a square in the center,

and another with only Limet patterns with an intersection of withdrawn-thread lines in the center.

One sampler shows only openwork patterns with an intersection of pairs of threads in the center, and one with only openwork patterns with a square in the center will follow.

I intend to fill the fifth sampler with patterns needing special thread withdrawing.

In the overview, only the pictures of the figural patterns should remain as they are.

With this prep work I am getting much closer to my goal of presenting my new thumbnail overview in the most effective and attractive way. Having first established a perfect format, I will be able to manage this special overview well, and we all can watch it grow and grow. The many beautiful patterns that have been published in my books will not be presented, because I do not want to put my paying customers at a disadvantage.

The new thumbnail overview of the pattern archive can be a very valuable tool when looking for a pattern to match a special shape. So I hope you will find it useful and visit often.

To find the new scrolling overview, please click to the blog via the link in the header of my website. You will find three scrolling overviews (blog posts, free designs, and filling patterns) in the right-hand margin. By clicking anywhere on the scrolling images, an overview page will open.

Schwalm Cap Templates and their different Decorations (2)

In part 1 a wide range of different patterns has already been shown. The second part provides patterns that focus on stars and birds.

Many nice templates present a star in the centers.

Center star with petals

embroidered with wool in green with purple,

and in green with red.

Star with a cross in the center surrounded by tulips and petals without edge

and with an edge border

embroidered with wool and silk in green with purple,

and again embroidered with wool and silk in two greens with purple,

in green with red,

in black with purple,

in black with red.
I also have some templates without matching caps:

Star with tulips, hearts, and pinks,

in two similar versions

and star with tulips and pinks,

and tow others without stars.

I also have some caps without matching templates:

One attractive design exists only as drawing.

For me, the few patterns that include birds are especially interesting. The template maker Johannes Knapp (born 1868) from Loshausen created them.

I could show another twenty-three designs – as templates or embroidered. However, in the museums of Schwalmstadt-Ziegenhain and Schrecksbach-Holzburg one can certainly find even more examples of pretty traditional Schwalm caps and their templates.
Incidentally, Jessica Grimm visited the museum recently. She posted a nice and worthwhile article on her blog.

Schwalm Cap Templates and their different Decorations (1)

Schwalm embroidery uses a finite number of motifs. Always changing combinations (motifs and colours) and arrangements decorate – in a surprisingly large number of attractive patterns – the relatively small areas of the cap bottoms. Here I will give a small insight into them.

Not all of the templates I have on hand are crafted with precision, and the caps – due to their age – are sometimes a little bit worn, but the opulence of these small traditional accessories are clearly visible.

As far as possible, I will first show the underlying template and then different embroidered examples.

One heart with four tulips and three rosettes

in green with red,

and in black with green.

One heart with four tulips and three starflowers

in green with red and pink,

and similar examples in red with green and gold,

in black with green,

and in black with green and purple.

One heart with four tulips and three pinks,

and another version of the same design

embroidered with wool in green and red,

in green with purple,

and again in green with purple,

in black with green and purple,

in black with purple,

in black with white,

and again in black with white. The black-and-white examples show very clearly that different emphases can be established with different colour placements.

One heart with eleven tulips

slightly modified in green with purple.

Four hearts and tulips

slightly modified in green with purple.

Five hearts, two tulips, and two pinks

in green with purple,

green with red,

again green with red,

green with black,

black with purple/pink and green

red with green,

red with green and gold,

red with green,

black with purple,

again black with purple,

black with purple/pink and green,

and black with white.

Vessel with one tulip, four hearts, and two pinks

in green (much faded) with purple,

again in green with purple,

in two different greens with purple,

and again in green with purple,

in green with red,

in green with red, purple, and yellow,

in green with red and purple,

in green with black,

in red with green and gold,

in red with green,

in red with green and silver,

and in purple/pink with black.

Vessel with one tulip and six hearts

in green with purple, partially embroidered with wool,

in green with purple,

in black with green.

The last two examples clearly show that individual interpretation can vary significantly in spite of using the same templates.

Although the Schwalm costume is associated with Little Red Riding Hood, this overview shows that red caps did not predominate. I realize that this overview is based on my collection, however I think it is a true representation because red caps were only worn up to the marriage; all other colour combinations were worn from the marriage to the end of life – a much longer period of time.

This first part has shown a wide range of different patterns; a second part will follow showing even more patterns.

The Symbolism of the Motifs Found in Schwalm Embroidery

The Schwalm region, from which traditional Schwalm embroidery came, was rural and Protestant. This history influenced the symbolism of the motifs used in the region’s famous embroidery. Although the motifs symbolized certain values, the symbolism was incidental. Motifs were and are today mainly chosen for aesthetic and design reasons.

The main motif in Schwalm embroidery is the heart – the domicile of life and the symbol of love. Assumedly, it was originally embroidered as a vessel, from which the Tree of Life grew after being supplied with life-giving water. (The triple shoot stood for the Trinity, and the Tree of Life stood for a long life and eternity.)

Sometimes the heart, often used as a base for the triple shoot, was replaced with a basket

or a flowerpot.

The heart is closely followed by the tulip motif – the symbol of affluence. The tulip was also seen as a modified Tree of Life and, because of its three points, a symbol of the Trinity.

Other important motifs were circles. Having neither a beginning nor end, they were symbols of perfection and eternity. Suns represent the source of life-giving light and also Jesus Christ.

And the sunflower symbolizes long life.

It is said that the bird motifs represent sparrows symbolizing fertility.

Tendrils symbolically represent life cycles and stand for changes and transitions.

Leaves show growth and life.

The pomegranate – symbol of fertility, strength, and God´s blessing – was popular in early Schwalm whitework. Later simpler motifs were used to be able to integrate the now modern filling patterns. In this example, the filling pattern does not suit the pomegranate. In later Schwalm whitework, pomegranate motifs are more sporadic.

The star – symbol of God´s messenger – also has a shape that is not suitable for filling patterns. It was common to embroider stars as figural filling patterns.

Similarly, the pink – reference to Jesus Christ – was well liked in early Schwalm whitework. However, because of the difficulty to fill small detailed areas, it was eventually only used as a figural filling pattern.

The crown, a symbol for sovereignty, was forbidden to be used in private embroidery. But the Schwalm women created their own crowns. With a strong sense of aesthetics and extraordinary creativity, the Schwalm women created an impressive variety crowns. They regarded their Crowns as family emblems.

Easter Egg 2019

Some time ago I had the opportunity to purchase many old traditional templates from the last Schwalm template maker, Ludwig Schmerer. Among these templates were some for the bottoms of the caps.

I enthusiastically looked for a contemporary use for the patterns. The oval shape of the cap bottom templates brought forth the idea to create Easter eggs. My graphic designer transferred the oval to an egg shape and created ten richly diverse drawings. I present the first of these this year.

Unfortunately, I do not have in my collection an original cap with this exact pattern, but I do have a couple of caps with parts of the same design.

They are embroidered with silk threads in different colours

and sometimes also include gold and silver bullion.

In the past, to achieve a precise rendering of the single pattern segments, a special paperboard was inserted.

Unfortunately, I had neither a matching template nor the tools to make such a template. So I looked for alternatives.

A template made from a sheet of craft foam is easy to make and comfortable to work with,

but, unfortunately, it is unsuitable because the thread gets lost in the soft material, and the edges end up looking jagged.

For my second attempt, I made a template using a craft knife and thick paper (image below: back side).

After cutting out the template, I basted it to the fabric.

Afterwards, all single sections that I wanted to embroider were fastened to the ground fabric and then covered with densely placed stitches.

I used green linen fabric and – due to the lack of silk threads –

stranded cotton (Anchor 875, 876, 1022, 1023, and 1024).

Using 2 strands of the 6-ply stranded cotton, the sections of the templates were embroidered along the cut lines in two steps – using a stabbing motion instead of a scooping motion. I thought this tedious.

Through my experimenting, I figured out that it is much easier to first withdraw the paper sections that will not be embroidered. In that way, it is much easier to embroider the remaining sections.

In the end, I was passably satisfied.

The single design sections are clearly distinct, but some of the stitches should have been worked more densely.

I liked the cut out egg decorated on a light ground more.

And so a second attempt was begun. The design was transferred to natural linen using an iron transfer method. It was embroidered in the style of the Schwalm crowns with the same colours as the first egg but in a different layout.

On the fine densely woven linen, the stitches could be placed closely and exactly together.

Embroidering this way was less tedious and much faster. But in comparing the two examples, the one stitched upon the template is more dimensional and is much more distinct.

So, at the next opportunity, I will begin a third attempt making a paperboard template in the way Schwalm people used for colour embroidery. And I will use silk threads.

I find the siena colours from the Werkstatt für historische Stickmuster fairly good.

With other colour combinations, one can achieve – as the following drawings show – totally different effects.

Please give it a try using your own favorite colours; I look forward to seeing your results.

Happy Easter!


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


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