Schwalm Traditional Craftmanship

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.

How to Work a Schwalm Apron Square?

The Schwalm apron squares are a very special accessory. They are not only splendid in their appearance but also very elaborate to work.

First a template is needed. It is made from paperboard.
Using fine sewing thread, the template is sewn on to a coloured fabric matching the Schwalm costume it will be worn with – here red.
Both layers are fastened on to a linen or cotton fabric.
With the prepared square stretched in a frame so that both hands can work – one from the front, the other from the back – the embroiderer stitches the fine silk threads precisely side by side upon the paperboard. Not all Schwalm women were able to do such fine embroidery. It was the work of those trained in this special traditional craft – the colour embroiderer.
From the front, the edges of the pattern sections are clear and close together; they are not so distinct on the back, and some of the linen fabric is seen between the sections.
Then sequins, bullion, and wire are added.
This created a confused mass of fine threads on the back.
The piece was trimmed and lined with a matching glossy paper to protect the apron fabric from abrasion.
The edges were covered with silk ribbons,
and the silk ribbons were additionally decorated with sequins and bullion. Often the initials of the owner were added.
It is amazing that such a beautiful apron square develops from the above template!

It is understandable that the Schwalm women wanted to protect these pretty and elaborate accessories when storing. (They only needed it for dancing, and this was usually only three times a year.) So, they often made custom storage bags to accommodate the apron squares. These were also made from glossy paper and had two separate compartments – one for each of the two apron squares – and were sewn closed with Running stitches.

Schwalm Costume – Apron Squares (2)

There are even more stunning apron squares from the late nineteenth century. During this time, the measurements of the squares grew (up to 19 cm X 19 cm) and the adornment became more and more splendid. They were made in red and green to match the Schwalm costumes.
The red apron squares had fine silk embroidery consisting mainly of red sections – but included some green areas, too. They were additionally adorned with gold – gold sequins and gold bullion.
In the beginning, the gold bullion was applied as lines outlining the edges of pattern sections. Later, gold bullion and gold wire were used to fill first small
and then larger
and larger pattern sections.
In addition, the edge decoration became more and more elaborate and magnificent.
Often the initials of the owner were added at the bottom edge.
In the end, apron squares were only recognized as red apron squares by the red edging.
Still visible are the Schwalm-typical motifs (star, tulip, and heart) and the important carnation motif.
The green apron squares were embellished with silver wire and silver bullion. Additional red embellishments can be found on the costumes for younger women.
And lilac embellishments are found on the costumes for older women.
The most stunning examples had both silver and gold with green at the edges and a little bit of red on the inside.
These apron squares are one more accessory that brings magnificence to the Schwalm costume.
They are really superb, aren’t they?

Schwalm Costume – Apron Squares (1)

Apron squares were originally apron pockets. However, because the fine fabric around the thick pocket area wore too quickly, the utilitarian pocket evolved into the colourful and finely embroidered squares found on Schwalm aprons. The squares, resembling pockets, were pinned onthe dark aprons near the side edges a little below the waistband. And because they were worn to dances, they became known as Tanzecken – dance squares.
Over time the apron squares got more and more beautiful. Here I show examples from about 1850.
They are significantly less adorned than the apron squares from about 1900. They were embroidered with different colours and in many different patterns. The Schwalm typical motifs (heart, tulip, and star) are found on these accessories. The apron square below measures 16 cm X 16 cm. In general, the early apron squares are smaller with sizes measuring between 11 cm and 14 cm square.
Also the carnation plays a role in the apron square designs.

Not all apron squares were true squares.
Over time, the colour often faded. One can get an idea of the original brilliant colours by viewing the light-protected back of the above apron square.
Around the edges silk ribbons were sewn and decorated with Herringbone stitches.
Most patterns were symmetric around the center.
But there are also examples symmetric along the axis.
Green and red were the most dominant colours, but blue or lilac is also found.

The backs of these older apron squares are unlined making it easy to examine the stitches.
Unfortunately, my collection is limited, and I can only show a few of these early apron squares. But these few give us a glimpse into the aesthetic sense and extreme creativity of our forebears when they created such wonderful patterns and designs.


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


To change the language on the donation page, click the word beside the flag or the flag at the bottom of the page.


Luzine Happel - Logo

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more Infos

Die Cookie-Einstellungen auf dieser Website sind auf "Cookies zulassen" eingestellt, um das beste Surferlebnis zu ermöglichen. Wenn du diese Website ohne Änderung der Cookie-Einstellungen verwendest oder auf "Akzeptieren" klickst, erklärst du sich damit einverstanden.