Schwalm embroidery dates back,
according to Renate Fernau, about 300 years. It was born in "The Schwalm",
a small area in Hesse.
Interest in this embroidery began to surge after Lacis
Publications republished Fernau's book entitled simply Schwalm
Whitework. The German magazine Anna has
been publishing patterns and directions for at least two decades, as
has the italian magazine Rakam. But
it has only been recently that the work began to fascinate those in
Although it can be worked on even weave grounds of
16 threads/cm, (40-ct), the work begins to come to life at 50-ct and
Threads used for the work are "broder special"
- non-divisible threads of medium to find thickness. Currently
only available in Europe and a small number
of shops throughout the U.S., sizes used are 20, 25, 30, 35 and occasionally
Schwalm is identified by
several characteristics: The motifs are simple in structure, each
having meaning (bells, birds, tulips, hearts) and fanciful, symbolic
names were given to the stitches employed.
All outlining is accomplished first with
coral stitch. A fine chain stitch is then added within the motif to
further "fix" the ground threads to prevent raveling when
doing the centers. Satin stitch or fishbone is used on the small leaves,
buttonhole outlines are also used, as is feather stitch and herringbone.
French knots occasionally add adornment.
It is in the center of the motifs where
creativity reigns. Because close-woven fabric is the basis for
the work, openwork grids are created by snipping threads. Upon this
mesh, drawn fabric, needleweaving and lace stitches are employed to
create balance in the designs.
The embroidery example below is stitched
on 40-ct Ricamo linen.