A few years ago, I became fascinated by the sheet metal monograms for whitework embroidery. At needlework events I bought my first ones featuring my own monogram. That's how I came across the brand name Johann Merkenthaler. From 1870, Johann had a small stencil business in Nürnberg. He wasn't very happy with the quality of the stencils that were already on the market. Later, Fritz Merkenthaler inherits the company and, after many failures, he becomes the first one to produce the metal sheet stencils mechanically. His son Karl Merkenthaler enters the family business and it really prospers. Until 1961, the Merkenthaler Schablonenfabrik was situated on the Albrecht Dürer Platz 11 in Nürnberg. Today, there's still a Johann Merkenthaler near Nürnberg selling stencils for painting and signing documents.
My internet research led me to a catalogue published after 1911* by Johann Merkenthaler stencils (click on the icon above to download a PDF version). It is a lovely little gem! Not only does it feature all the different monogram stencils available from Merkenthaler, it gives valuable pieces of advice to the embroideress. She should only buy the best materials available on the market or else her embroidery will look shoddy. Now that's a sound piece of advice still holding up today.
On one of the last pages, a picture of how the stencils were offered to the costumers can be found. The most common little box called 'Jugend' (youth or is it short for Jugendstil?) contained one alphabet sheet, one sheet of numbers, a brush, one sheet with Languette (to produce sculptured edges) and one small cup of stencil paint. The later was available in three colours: blue, white or red. From the paint remains on the stencils I have, I've got the impression that blue was used the most. It does contrast nicely with the white linens to be monogrammed.
Larger, more elaborate or entwined monograms were sold as single sheets. They came in these beautiful wooden boxes stored alphabetically in special envelopes. The costumer could pick the monogram needed. How I would love to be able to afford one of these!
In a future blog post you will be able to read all about my experiments involving these charming stencils.
* Thanks to Florian Hardwig for dating the typeface on the cover of the catalogue!
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