How to Work a Schwalm Cap

To make a Schwalm cap one needs, beside much patience, skills and some materials: a template for a cap, some linen fabric or other strong fabric, and silk threads in the desired colours. Here a cap matching the green costume is shown.

To be able to show the progress of a faithful reproduction, a traditional cap was unstitched. Photos were taken while reworking; they are now shown in the reverse order.

As explained in the article Traditional Craftsmanship – The Colour Embroiderer, the template is secured with some stitches on the ground fabric layers and then embroidered with silk threads. The stitching is dense.

Small remaining parts between the template sections are filled with Satin stitches. Stain stitches in different lengths are also used to cover the edges to establish an even oval shape.

The ground fabric is trimmed closely to the edge stitches.

In many caps of the green costume, a green silk fabric or Damest is fitted between the template and the ground fabric – here a red-brown fabric is used as an interlayer.

The picture below shows a section of the embroidered cap bottom from the back side.

For securing the cap bottom edge, a folded strip of green Damest is fastened with Whip stitches.

The ends of the band are overlapped and sewn together.

The picture below shows the back of this step.

To neaten the inner edge, a coarse linen strip – made of four parts and in the width of the desired height of the cap – is fastened with Whip stitches to the back side of the cap bottom.

After it is attached, it is then flipped to form the cap sides.

The picture below shows the outside edge.

So that the cap wall gets the needed stiffness, more layers of coarse linen or other coarse fabric are cut to a matching size,

laid against the outer side of the sewn linen strip,

and pushed closely toward the green band.

The layers are sewn together with different rows of Running stitches.

To ease the fabric a little bit so that the cap wall gets its tapered shape, some rows of Running stitches are worked with thick thread at the bottom edge.

The open short sides

are pulled together

and closed using Whip stitches.

The different layers are held together at the bottom edge with Whip stitches.

The green band is pulled down,

closed at the sides, and secured to the cap wall with different rows of Running stitches.

The center of one long side at the bottom edge gets a small point. (The point indicates the front of the cap to the wearer.)

The outside of the cap wall is covered with black silk or – as seen here – with black satin.

The black cover is made with four parts cut somewhat smaller than the bottom. First they are secured with fine stitches at the edge of the cap bottom.

And then – always centered – they are sewn closed at the short

and the long sides.

The small point on the one side is made to be especially prominent.

The black fabric is folded inward and secured.

A typical Schwalm cap is finished.

With matching pinned bands, the Kappenschnüre, a decorative ensemble of the Schwalm costume accessories, is established.

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.

Schwalm Costume – The Little Caps

Schwalm women wore little caps to match their festive costume. The little caps were placed over the hair knots.

The little caps had different sizes depending on the wearer: child, adult, or woman with an especially magnificent head of hair.

The little caps were primarily flat and wide; later they became more and more tall with the sides tapered down to a smaller opening.

The little caps had walls and lids – the so-called cap bottoms. The walls were covered with silk or moiré. They were black. Only unmarried girls wore caps with red walls. (One source propounds that these red caps are the origin of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood)

The bottoms of the caps were elaborately and usually colourfully embroidered. The colours always matched the colour of the costume – red, green or blue (purple).

Many artistic designs came from the template maker. Perfectly crafted templates were primarily covered with colourful embroidery using fine woolen yarn; silk threads were used later.

Much later, gold and silver bullion and sequins were added.

The older, somewhat wider caps were usually additionally decorated at the edges with narrow single templates, which were also finely embroidered.

Drawing on these rich design arrangements as inspiration, I asked the designer Christa Waldmann to draw outlines for whitework. Look forward to seeing the beautiful results next week.

Each cap had matching (in colour) cap bands, the Kappenschnüre.

The ends of these cap bands were made very differently – this is a subject of a future article.

Schwalm Women’s Hairstyle – The “Schnatz”

Schwalm girls and women wore their hair long without a fringe (bangs). The hair was styled into a knot, which in the Schwalm is known as Schnatz. To create such a hairstyle, women needed certain accoutrements: a long, thin band or cord (like a shoestring), rubber bands, and some hairpins.

The hair was combed from all sides and pulled firmly upward to be bound on top of the head. This is easily achieved by quickly throwing the head downward.

The hair was divided into two plaits.

The band was worked into one of the plaits.

Both plaits were twirled up from the head as high as the finished knot should reach.

One of the plaits (the one with the band) was held up while the other was wrapped downwards around the twirled part and fastened at the head with hairpins.

Now the second plait – the one with the band – was wrapped around the established knot. Because the band is longer than the plait, it is wrapped around the bottom of the knot and fastened with hairpins.

With some practice a perfect and fancy hairdressing was achieved.

It was placed on top of the head, approximately in the middle between the ears.

The Schwalm women needed this somewhat curious hairstyle to be able to wear their special headdresses.

The little caps were placed over the knots.