The Global Schwalm Sampler

21st May 2021

It is unlikely we are ever going to run out of inspiring stories that have arisen from the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the tragedy, disruption and change that the events have wrought, there have been some wonderful tales of people who have come together to overcome difficulties, share a sense of solidarity and community and continued to do what they love despite the challenges they faced.

Luzine Happel’s Website (Source)

Luzine Happel’s name is one you will probably have heard before. She is a world class embroiderer and designer of whitework embroidery, in particular, the technique of Schwalm embroidery from Germany.

Luzine has published various books and maintains an incredibly active website that offers a wealth of resources, tips, designs and ideas for anyone practicing this technique.

Luzine is also a superlative whitework designer, and her work has featured in a number of our publications.

Sense of Place by Luzine Happel from Inspirations issue #69

Early in the crisis last year, Luzine was looking for a way to bring her international community of followers together, and she came up with the idea of a global sampler. She put a call out, asking embroiderers from all over the world to contribute a small piece of Schwalm embroidery. She planned to put them together in a sampler, representing the connection between embroiderers from all over the world. By the 23rd April 2020, the first contributions started coming in, and they just kept coming.

Contributions first arrived from Luzine’s home country of Germany and from France. With the inevitable shipping issues from other parts of the world as the year went on, Luzine needed to assure her contributors that as long as she knew they were stitching for the project, then she was happy to wait so that everyone could see their work included in the finished piece. Fortunately, the difficulties and delays didn’t deter her community, and more pieces came in from as far afield as Australia, the USA, and Japan.

Design by Fumie Suzuki in Japan

Like many of Luzine’s other contributors, Fumie Suzuki from Japan designed her own piece. Normally, Fumie did not use heart motifs in her Schwalm work, despite the heart being a ubiquitous and very traditional shape. However, she wanted to somehow represent the:

‘gathering of hearts from many countries and the gathering of love from many countries’…

…so, she created a stunning heart bouquet filled with gorgeously intricate Schwalm stitches. When Fumie sent her piece to Luzine in July last year, she included a comment which likely summed up the thoughts of everyone involved.; ‘I sincerely hope that the world will be full of love and return to calm.’ 

Sampler Construction

Once the contributions arrived, Luzine was faced with the challenge of putting them all together. Each piece was worked on linens of different counts and weaves and each piece was a different size. In order to overcome these difficulties, Luzine asked her community for advice. She was offered all kinds of useful suggestions, but the one she finally settled on was to include a consistent strip of border fabric around each piece that would bring the whole project together harmoniously and ensure that the joining stitches weren’t visible in the completed sampler.

In the end, Luzine received 92 pieces from all over the world. With the addition of the border, it was a matter of fitting them all together like a giant jigsaw puzzle, ensuring that the completed sampler was regular in shape and the contributions all sat together neatly.

Bear in mind, Luzine was working with a jigsaw puzzle that was over 3m (10ft) in width and 2m (6½ft) in height!

It was a mammoth effort to ensure the pieces fitted, looked perfect and each individual contribution was displayed in its best light. Luzine also added an outer border that acknowledged the purpose of the sampler and all the people who were involved.

If you weren’t already amazed by the photographs of this incredible project, it is also worth remembering that as well as coordinating and completing the sampler, Luzine has also produced a book documenting the entire journey. The book is complete with close up pictures of each and every contribution and was planned as an accompaniment to the sampler itself.

Design by Marlies Martin in Germany

You can also see the process of the sampler’s creation from its inception to completion on Luzine’s website HERE where she’s carefully photographed the fine detail visible in all of the pieces she received. And this is all thanks to 74 committed embroiderers from 14 countries around the world who came together to show their love and community in such difficult times.

It is hoped that the final sampler will at some point tour the world, so the work of all these diligent and talented embroiderers can be admired.

The finished piece is a testament to what people can do when working together in harmony on a common cause, and what great things can come out of an idea and a passion, such as this one that Luzine birthed at the start of a difficult year.

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