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The Kempf Family, the “Kanapee” Shawl, and Bibliography

Family histories:
Kempf, Norman R. The Kempf Family History: Johann Georg and Gottliebina Kempf. np, np, 1989.

Mitchell, Johanna. The Stolz Family History, 1850-1974, np, np, 1974.

Swiontek, Loretta Gebhardt. The Kempf Family History, np, np, 1994.


Gottliebina Stolz Kämpf preserved a family legacy in textile design, which has survived through four generations of her female descendants. Gottlieba is recognized for folk-art genius in designing and creating her textile treasures of “Paradies-Decken,” commonly known as “Bunte Plachte” shawls.

Gottlieba was trained in textile artisan techniques during her youth in her native village of Alt-Elft (officially Fere Champenoise Mare), also a Lutheran bishop’s seat, founded on the west bank of the Kogelnik River in 1816 on the Budshak Steppe of Bessarabia.

In 1883, when preparing her “mitsift”/bridal dowry of domestic household textiles for her arranged marriage into the Kämpf (Kempf) family of Beresina village, nineteen-year-old Gottlieba Stolz insisted for no outside help – only herself independently completing all textile procedures: to show merit and worthiness that she was a bride adept as a future family provider in a domestic household.

This outstanding talent was symbolized in creating her most-prized “Paradies-Decken”/“Blachte (plachte) Schal”, usually described as “bunte gestrifte woll-blachte” in Swabian dialect. Her choice of intensely bright aniline chemical dyes, recently available since circa 1853 by German textile chemists, was obvious over choosing traditionally muted-hues from natural dyestuffs as dried insects and dried plants with urea mordants, which were gathered from concentrated urine of boys or young stallions.

Gottlieba insisted that she process all eighteen artisan-skill phases from shearing wool fleece off of a squirming sheep, warping the loom, weaving the weft into a tapestry weave, to fullering and blocking the final textile.

Gottlieba’s “bunte”/vivid-hues, “gestriffe”/vertical-striped “blachte” (plachte) shawl, for her wedding of 1884, remained unembellished without lace fringe, according to traditional ways, until she was an “empty-nester” circa 45 to 50 years of age. Circa 1914, after her two older daughters Marie and Ottilia were married, Gottlieba carded and spun her wool yarn to create a bottom-fringe border with fillet-crochet of “lozenge”/diamond motif, also a folk design common on decorative picket fence panels of Alt-Elft village. The variable color “torque” on her scalloped edge also echoes a distinctive folk-memory, (also repeated in Caroline Schlabz’s lace “color-torque” on her plachte of Beresina and Wittenburg villages). As some Bessarabian plachtes display cross-stitch/ needle-point patterns, superimposed on crochet pattern-lace for further dramatic effect. Gottlieba did not embellish her fillet-crochet lace with embroidery techniques.

Information for the Kempf and Stolz families was excerpted from three family histories, plus private oral interviews by Jay Gage in 1963-1966.

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