Schwalm Traditional Craftmanship

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.

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?

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Luzine Happel
Am Schindeleich 43
37269 Eschwege
Deutschland
Telefon: 05651-32233
Website: www.luzine-happel.de
E-Mail: leuchtbergverlag@aol.com

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