Schwalm Costume

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.

Traditional Schwalm Bodice (D) Embroidery

The embroidery of the dyed-to-blue Schwalm bodice (D) is extravagant. The picture shows the entire border in a photomontage.
1_16-2017The linen used has a 23/cm thread count, thus it is very fine. The border design is 18 cm wide, making it especially large for a bodice embroidery.
2_16-2017Initials and small ornaments were worked both at the bottom and at the top of the border. Only openwork filling patterns were worked in the motifs.
3_16-2017One can note that Coral Knot stitches were used but only rarely. Only tendrils and some stems were worked with Coral Knot stitches. And only three shapes at the top middle have Coral Knot outlines; the center shape was outlined with two rows of Coral Knot stitches. The Chain stitch outline is missing in this motif. Stems worked with Chain stitches are clearly visible. The rounded leaves are worked with Blanket stitches.

Looking closer to the design, it looks a little bit awkward and heavy.
4_16-2017The shape in the top middle was filled with an openwork pattern without a Cable stitch grid being worked first. A zigzag Rose stitch pattern was worked, but the pattern was not centered in the motif.
5_16-2017The circle motifs to the left and right of the top center shape are not true circles. It is remarkable that the thick stem is outlined with two Coral Knot lines and that these lines merge into the outline of the shape. Usually motifs are outlined separately, and the stems are attached. An additional row of Chain stitches inward of the Coral Knot stitches is missing.
The circle motif was outlined with Blanket stitch knife points. The shape was filled with a Rose stitch openwork filling pattern without a Cable stitch grid.
6_16-2017There is an odd shape at the top right and top left of the design; I suspect these should be tulip motifs. These are naive representations. The shape is outlined with one row of Chain stitches and Blanket stitch knife points or Blanket stitch scallops. The motif is filled with an openwork pattern. It is remarkable that parts of a Cable stitch grid alternate with sections of Rose stitches that were worked without a Cable stitch grid. The zigzag line of Rose stitches was worked on the Cable stitch grid – all other Rose stitches were worked without a Cable stitch grid.
7_16-2017At the side of the middle section of the border, there is a motif combination that looks like it was meant to be a cloverleaf. The center circle connects four similar shapes. The center circle is outlined with one row of Chain stitches and Blanket stitch scallops. It is filled with a Rose stitch openwork pattern without a Cable stitch grid. Three of the surrounding “leaves” are outlined with one row of Chain stitches and Blanket stitch half-eyelet scallops, whereas the fourth “leaf” is outlined with two rows of Chain stitches. Opposite shapes are filled the same – the openwork pattern showing the squares is a Rose stitch pattern embroidered on a Cable stitch grid. Whereas the openwork pattern showing the rhombi is a Rose stitch pattern without a Cable stitch grid.

Conspicuous is the arrangement of the tendrils; here they have been haphazardly placed. The tendrils on the same arrangement on the opposite side of the border have been placed with more intention and care.
8_16-2017Between the two “cloverleaves” there is an arrangement of four circles with a small tulip between.
9_16-2017The circles are outlined with one row of Chain stitches and Blanket stitch half-eyelet scallops. The tulip is outlined with two rows of Chain stitches. The bottom circles are embroidered with a Rose stitch openwork pattern without a Cable stitch grid, whereas the two upper circles are worked with Rose stitch openwork patterns with a Cable stitch grid. Although the tulip in the center is very small, it is embroidered with alternating rows of Cable stitches and Rose stitches.
10_16-2017There is a heart motif in the center of the bottom section of the border design; it is flanked by big leaves. Hearts – turned upside down – are situated above each of the leaves. All hearts are outlined with one row of Chain stitches and Blanket stitch half-eyelet scallops, whereas the leaves are outlined with two rows of Chain stitches. The filling patterns in the upside down hearts have been worked without a Cable stitch grid. The center heart shows a combination of rows of Rose stitches and rows of Cable stitches. The smaller hearts were embroidered with Rose stitches only. The openwork pattern in the leaves is made with a Cable stitch grid filled with a Rose stitch pattern. Distinctive tendrils are worked in the remaining areas between the motifs.
11_16_2017The last motifs at the bottom sides of the border design are tulip shapes – outlined with one row of Chain stitches and, where the room was wide enough, Blanket stitch half-eyelet scallops. The shapes were filled with an openwork Rose stitch pattern with a Cable stitch grid.
Looking again at the photomontage, it is striking how inconsistently the border was embroidered. In some areas the left side looks more orderly and balanced, in other areas the embroidery is more consistent on the right side. Unfortunately I did not find a year, but I think it was made about 1850.
Embroidered on such a fine linen fabric (23/cm thread count!) without the possibility of electric lighting, eyeglasses, or magnifier, it is a work of art that radiates the charm of traditional hand embroidery.

Carefully studying the details, we can learn a lot.

Schwalm Bodices (3)

Not only were white Schwalm bodices components of the festive Schwalm costume but also blue bodices were sometimes worn over unadorned white bodices for especially festive occasions. For example brides and bridesmaids wore these additional bodices.

The bodices were very finely embroidered in white and then dyed to blue.
1_SM_3_blauThe pattern was similar to the pattern for the white bodice. The sleeves of the blue bodices were slightly shorter
2_SM_3_blauand the mid-arm section was somewhat wider than that of the white bodices.
3_SM_3_blauBecause of the somewhat wider cut in the mid-arm section, the folded sleeve cuff stuck out away from the arm
4_SM_3_blauand enabled a glimpse at the white bodice worn underneath.
5_SM_3_blauA painting by Emil Beithan shows the festive costume of a Schwalm bride. We can see the bride wearing both a white and a blue bodice as part of her intricate costume.
6_SM_3_blauTo reduce the bulk of the two bodices and thus making it more comfortable wear, sometimes a white strip was added to the blue bodice inside the fold. This makes the wearing of a full white bodice unnecessary.
7_SM_3_blauIn contrast to the white bodices, the embroidery of the blue bodices was not lined, as seen in the image below of a very old blue bodice sleeve cuff that has been turned inside out.
8_SM_3_blauThe bottom edge of the sleeve got a small hem and was additionally decorated with bobbin lace. In contrast to the white bodices, no needlelace was worked, but rather fine bobbin lace was used as decoration. (In this article I am showing a couple of different blue bodices. On one blue bodice the bobbin lace is missing. We can only see the remnants of some small stitches at the edge indicating that there was a lace edging. In the pictures here it is not noticeable.)
9_SM_3_blauWhereas the white bodices had needle-weaving bands at the top edges of the cuff, the embroidery of the blue bodices was bordered with initials and small ornaments in black Cross stitch embroidery.
Embroidered on this example are the initials A N G R D I (Annegret/Anna Margarethe …). Often these initials were used two times, both at the bottom and at the top of the whitework border. In especially wide Schwalm whitework borders, the bottom initials were covered by the fold.
10_SM_3_blauAfter completion the bodices were dyed to blue. Before Indanthren (colour fast stain from Indigo and Anthrazen) came onto the market, Indigo was used. I will write more about this special process in a future article.
The colour was not very solid; it dissolved as soon as it came into contact with water. To protect the bodices from abrasion and general wear and tear, they were heavily starched.

Traditional Schwalm Bodice (C) Embroidery

The traditional embroidery of the Schwalm bodice (C) is not as elabotae as the borders of the Schwalm bodice (A) and the Schwalm bodice (B). The linen used has a 21–24/cm thread count. The picture shows the entire border in a photomontage.
mieder_c_1The space between needlelace and needle-weaving band has a width of about 7 cm. The space is not entirely filled with a design border.
mieder_c_2A seven-unit A-pattern was worked as a needle-weaving band. For more information about needleweaving bands – the different kinds and the different ways of working – please look to my book Fancy Hems.
mieder_c_3The bottom edge of the sleeve cuff has a needlelace edging of three rows of pyramids inside single scallops with connected picots outlining the needlelace border.
Between the needle-weaving band and the needlelace, a strip of linen remains unembroidered, and a band was embroidered with Schwalm whitework. If you look closely, you will see you many tendrils between the motifs.
mieder_c_4The tulip was outlined with 2 short-2 long embellishment. The shape was filled with an openwork pattern (cut 2, leave 2) with a Cable stitch grid. Into the grid a needle weaving pattern was worked.
mieder_c_5The circle was outlined with knife points with Blanket stitches. The shape was filled with an openwork pattern (cut 2, leave 2) with a Cable stitch grid. Into the grid a needle weaving star pattern was worked. It is notable, that thick thread was used for the needle weaving and that the squares of the grid were not filled very well.

The star pattern is also suitable to work an other ornament for trimming the tree.
mieder_c_6The heart was outlined with Blanket stitch half-eyelet scallops.
The shape was filled with a Limet filling pattern with Satin stitch bars worked in a stair-step manner. It is noticable, that the center of all patterns is not worked mirrored. Whereas the both small leaves on bottom of the heart are worked mirrored. They are filled with an openwork pattern without a Cable stitch grid. Rose stitches were worked into the shapes. The spaces between the motifs were densely filled.

Traditional Schwalm Bodice (B) Embroidery

The embroidery of the Schwalm bodice (B) has many variants. The linen used has a 21–24/cm thread count. The picture shows the entire border in a photomontage.
MiW2_1The border design has a width (from needlelace to needle-weaving band) of about 9.5 cm. The following pictures show the embroidery enlarged; the embroidery is actually very fine.
MiW2_2A seven-unit mirrored pattern was worked as a needle-weaving band. For more information about needle-weaving bands – the different kinds and the different ways of working – please look to my book Fancy Hems.
MiW2_3The bottom edge of the sleeve cuff has an elaborate needlelace edging.

Between the needle-weaving band and the needlelace, a band was embroidered with Schwalm whitework. Please notice that there is nearly no unembroidered fabric between the motifs. And please compare the Chain stitches of this bodice with the Chain stitches of the Schwalm bodice A.

And now the pictures shall speak for themselves. Enjoy a close and careful look.
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