Thursday, February 8, 2018

Schwalm Whitework

Many of you might not know that my first love was whitework and that was how I got my start teaching.  I was in love with hardanger in the 1980s and won many youth talent competitions for my big all cutwork runners as a teenager (that made me unique enough to get into MIT!).  I started teaching it when I was 13.

So during my trips to Europe, I have always been looking for and digging up the special places to see it - Venice, UK, Norway and Germany to name a few.  Of course, if you know anything about whitework, you might know and love German Schwalm work.  Back in 2004, my husband and I were hanging out in Germany - he for work and me because I had a work injury of my hand and couldn't do any computer work for almost a year.  So I had the kid (4 yrs old) and the car during the daytime.  It made for a huge adventure - I could go anywhere to see any embroidery I wanted as long as I could keep the little one happy (which was quite the chore!).

One day I dropped my husband off at an airport for some meeting in London and I raced deep into central Germany to search out the home of Schwalm whitework.  Arriving off the autobahn (I taught the little one how to sing 'Born to be Wild' to keep him busy), we found the sweet little town of Schwlmstadt-Ziegenhain and its museum.  I was thrilled beyond, beyond to discover the exhibit of works by Luzine Happel and her books as well as tons of antiques on display.  Whitework heaven with instructions to buy!! What was icing on the cake was the display of military material and other crafts such as woven coverlets.  I felt like I had walked into an Early American decorative arts museum with so much material being so familiar to me - like being in Pennsylvania!  Well, the Hessians - mercenary German army men were from this region and so they brought all their traditional crafts to America as many of them stayed after the Revolutionary war.  Well wasn't that a delightful surprise for the day!!

So now I am returning to whitework to get ready for the course I am developing and of course I am rooting around in all my reference material - especially looking at how people have diagrammed things in the past to figure out how I will do it for certain techniques.  And I came upon Luzine Happel's wonderful books I had brought back that day and then I found her really great website, blog and how to buy her books (some download now on your computer).  So if you have ever been interested in Schwalm work - take a look!  If you have a cup of tea moment - it will be worth it!

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