Bead for Bead - Swabian knitted beadwork 1810–1935

Author: Sabina B. Schürenberg

Swabian knitted beadwork – a long-forgotten, once flourishing branch of the textile industry. Production followed on a state measure in the early 19th Century to generate work for a poverty-stricken population in southern Germany. This cottage industry, with an ever-expanding range of products, reached its peak around 1925: its specialty luxury items. In the 19th century, the articles were delivered to the Netherlands and in the twentieth shipped overseas to the USA.

Fine beaded purses and bags, once the accessories of fashion-conscious ladies, are today highly prized collectors’ items. Part of the story lies in the rich, colourful posies that had so enchanted contemporaries; the other, in the very large number of motifs derived from graphic reproductions of the time, reminders of sites popular with tourists. The purses were intended as souvenir articles, images of cherished locations, now captured in shimmering motifs.

But where had the images come from? The story of the original patterns which became the basis for the knitted images has hardly ever been examined by scholars. Bead for Bead addresses this neglected aspect in depth. Often a rare special edition reflects the story of the beaded purse industry, its methods of production, and the range and variety offered by the manufacturers. In light of the present study collectors – for the first time – will be in a position to identify the source and date of the items in their collections.

Bead for Bead was written in association with Städtisches Museum Göppingen im Storchen. A comprehensive display of beaded purses and bags was beyond the resources of the museum. It is through the generosity of public and private collectors in the USA, Germany, and the Netherlands, that the picture could be properly enhanced.

A striking contribution was made by the members of the Antique Purse Collector’s Society (APCS) in the United States. Their collections reflect in full those features that so enticingly appealed to customers overseas and which continue to lure collectors world-wide: exquisite Swabian quality, elegance and exclusivity.

A book for collectors, museums, fashion designers and scholars of regional history.