On Friday I had my second, and unfortunately last, lesson in Silesian whitework with Elisabeth Bräuer at ArtTextil, Dachau. As I had prepared all the surface stitching on my sampler, I could now fill the holes with needle lace using cotton crochet thread #80. I am used to work my needle lace quite dense. However, Hirschberg needle lace is worked very open. My first attempts were clearly too dense, then invitably some became too open until I finally arrived at something in the middle. As our stitching afternoon with Mrs Bräuer wasn't long enough to try out all the different types of needle lace, I struggled quite a bit with the drawings and discriptions she had given us (see previous post for a link to a PDF on Mrs. Bräuer's website). Some parts came out four times and even the fifth final version isn't quite right. So, I really hope Mrs. Bräuer will hold another course in the future!
This is what my finished sampler on Bielefelder Kettgarnleinen looks like:
Let's explore the history of the Hirschberg needle lace a bit. This particular type of needlelace started to emerge around 1856 in the Hirschberg valley. Due to the continental system under Napoleon (1805-1813), the linen weavers in this area prospered as the British competition fell away. However, when trade functioned normal again, British linen had become much cheaper due to the fact that the process had been mechanised as a result of the Industrial Revolution. To provide the linen weavers with a different source of income, lace schools were opened where girls would be taught Venetian needle lace.
One of these schools was established by Fürstin Daisy von Pleß. She was born in 1873 at Ruthin Castle in Wales. She married Fürst Hans Heinrich the 15th of Pleß, wealthiest heir in the German Empire, in 1891. Although at first she didn't really like the primitive life in Germany, she became very popular with the local people. She instigated many projects to help women, children and the disabled. She was at the center of high society before the Great War and her extravagant lifestyle and family scandals were all over the tabloids. She was well aquinted with Kaiser Wilhelm II, King Edward VII and the Queen of Rumania.
Sadly, it all didn't last. Due to the war, she had to leave her new home in Silesia. And although she was met with a lot of dispise due to the fact of her British nationality, she worked as a nurse and took care of wounded soldiers. After the war, she divorced her husband. As a result of chronic medical conditions and social isolation, she died lonely and poor in 1943 in Waldenburg (now Poland).
Jessica M. Grimm
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