Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Schwalm Whitework Embroidery – with a Twist!


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It’s midweek – a perfect time for a little burst of inspiration for you!

Over on the Needle ‘n Thread Community on Facebook, members are treated to incredible amounts of inspirational embroidery each week.

For the past couple weeks, one member – Cathinka Hoff Strønstad, from Norway – has been sharing her exploration of Schwalm whitework embroidery, which she is learning thanks to the excellent tutelage of Luzine Happel, in Germany. If you’re not familiar with Luzine’s beautiful Schwalm embroidery books, you should take a look at them!

As Cathinka worked her way through one of the projects designed by Luzine, she shared her progress. And then she showed us what happens when you become familiar and confident with a technique, and your mind starts playing with possibilities.

Schwalm Whitework stitched by Cathinka Hoff Strønstad

Luzine’s Schwalm embroidery designs are ideal for learning this form of whitework, which incorporates surface embroidery stitches and multiple types of fillings – patterned, drawn thread, and pulled thread.

Schwalm Whitework stitched by Cathinka Hoff Strønstad

Cathinka shared with us her excellent progress on Luzine’s Schwalm Tulip wreath, where she was able to practice a nice variety of the filling patterns that are such a lovely part of Schwalm work.

Schwalm Whitework stitched by Cathinka Hoff Strønstad

The tulip wreath is a perfect learning sampler, and Cathinka’s stitching is superb!

Then, when branching out on her own little Schwalm design, Cathinka had an idea. Why not incorporate a little color into the Schwalm work – not as part of the Schwalm embroidery, but rather, as an ornamental addition?

Schwalm Whitework stitched by Cathinka Hoff Strønstad

Using cross stitch, she worked some lovely roses on the inside edge of her Schwalm heart, allowing a little tendril to escape over the buttonhole scallops and continue down the design.

The effect is really lovely!

And what I especially love about it is that she keeps the integrity of the Schwalm embroidery, using the color and cross stitch as a decorative – and still somewhat separate – addition to the technique. The integrity of the Schwalm foundation is not marred.

Unlike taking a whitework technique – for example, Mountmellick embroidery – and working the whole design in color, and then calling it “Mountmellick whitework in color” (at which point, it is no longer Mountmellick embroidery, but simply surface embroidery!), the whitework in this piece is still whitework and still recognizably Schwalm whitework.

Schwalm Whitework stitched by Cathinka Hoff Strønstad

Here’s an example of Cathinka’s second go at the design, with all but the small heart at the top completed.

I think this is a beautiful twist on Schwalm embroidery, very pretty and delicately done, don’t you?

I hope it inspires you to be bold and experiment with your embroidery. You never know what pleasing results lie just around the creative bend!

Looking for More on Schwalm?

I’ve reviewed several of Luzine’s books on Schwalm whitework here on Needle ‘n Thread. Here are a few favorites linked to the reviews, if you’d like to check them out:

Basic Principles of Schwalm Whitework

Early Schwalm Whitework

Fancy Hems

And for the fun of it, here’s my Schalmish Christmas Chicken, on paper!

Another beautiful example of Schwalm whitework by a Needle ‘n Thread reader – it’s a gorgeous tablecloth!


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(11) Comments

  1. Thank you Mary, Cathinka, and Luzine, too! I had never heard of Schwalm until your first reference of it years ago. It is my favorite kind of whitework that I have seen, and I sincerely do hope to play with it at some point. Meanwhile, this kind of mixing is right up my alley and very inspiring…and being reminded of your little chicken, Mary, pokes me to remember not everything needs to be a big project with a definite end in order to have some fun! I love your coined term “Schwalmish” as “…ish” is so often my m.o.! I think one of Luzine’s books will be in my next order.

  2. Dear Mary,
    Thank you for the great review about Cathinka´s work along my descriptions. And thank you for mentioning me in such a positive way.
    Your article, just posted, brought me a wave of emails. Most of the ladies are interested in my Basic book, not knowing, that Cathinka learned along my lesson booklets. These booklets are not yet included in my shop. Just I postet an article regarding these booklets to give an overview. Here is the link to this post https://www.luzine-happel.de/?p=12363&lang=en
    May be, it is interesting for your readers.
    Thanks again

  3. Dear Mary

    This is a very beautiful piece of Schwalm embroidery by Cathinka and I love the different tulip designs and the added cross stitch colour of the roses it’s beautiful. I have been practicising cutwork for the first time and I am finding it challenging to say the least hopefully I can get to this stage after some practice, so I will look up all the links on Schwalm embroidery that you have added. Well done Cathinka your work is an inspiration. Thank you Mary for sharing Cathinka’s Schwalm work with us and for the links on the subject.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. Beautiful. I have Luzine’s book on my sewing table with the fabric and thread all ready to go. I just have to get started. This article and the pictures inspire me.


  5. Congratulations, Cathinka! You see, I told you: Don’t force your mind to leave the playground? ;D You know how much I adore your pieces – and your “uncommon” notions. Besides, it’s not true at all that your mind is never on business. Suffices to have a look at all your marvellous Schwalm work. But this one is exceptional!

    Angela (Nowicki) from the Ore Mountains

  6. Cathinka…this is absolutely lovely! You have done a wonderful job of taking your wonderful stitching to the “next level” of possibilities.

    Mary…Thank you for sharing this with us all!

  7. Thank you for sharing this with those of us non-FB people.

    I like that Cathinka combined different types of needlework, yet kept each true to its techniques and materials. Gorgeous results! I’ve seen Hardanger combined with cross stitch, now I wonder what, no – make that how, other combinations can be done separately together.

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