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.