Schwalm Embroidery

Example of Schwalm embroidery. Example of Schwalm embroidery.

Schwalm embroidery (Schwälmer Weißstickerei) is a form of whitework embroidery that originated in Germany. In particular it is said to have come from the Schwalm region of Hesse Province, in West Central Germany (hence its alternative name: Hessenstickerei or ‘Hessen embroidery’).

Schwalm embroidery is traditionally worked on an even weave, white linen ground with white linen thread, although sometimes a coloured linen thread can be found. This type of embroidery includes drawn thread workembroidered lace, pulled thread work and a variety of stitches used for free style embroidery.

The motifs associated with Schwalm embroidery are normally fairly large and include birds, baskets of flowers, individual flowers, hearts and tulips. These motifs are generally outlined with chain stitch or coral stitch. Sometimes small leaves and flowers are worked in blanket stitch or satin stitch. The edges of the cloth are normally finished using a four-sided stitch or some form of needle weaving. Embroidered lace is often used to fill in circles within the designs.

Schwalm embroidery was used to decorate garments (especially women’s bodices, men’s shirts and christening robes) and household linens such as bed covers, cushions, table cloths, towels, etc. Schwalm whitework has been made since at least the mid-eighteenth century and it may have developed in imitation of Dresden whitework, which was then very expensive. Some German writers have described Schwalm embroidery as a rural version of the Dresden form.

Schwalm embroidery was especially popular in Germany in the nineteenth century, but started to lose its attraction in the early twentieth. This was partially the result of urbanisation and a decline in wearing regional costumes, but mainly due to the impoverishing effects of the First World War (1914-1918). A revival of Schwalm embroidery took place in the latter half of the twentieth century and two women are particularly associated with this movement, namely Thekla Gombert (1899-1981) and Alexandra Thielmann (1881-1966).

Museums with Schwalm embroidery:

  • Museum of the Schwalm, 34613 Schwalmstadt Ziegenhain, Germany.
  • Schwälmer Dorfmuseum Holzburg, 34637 Schrecksbach-Holzburg, Germany.


Digital source of illustration (retrieved 6th July 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 07 May 2017 12:10