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Distinctive Shawls as a Kalideoscope of Colors


The vivid hue-splendor of Bessarabien-Deutschen “Kanapee”/“Blachte” shawls is a distinctive ethnic textile treasure.

These lace-embellished, hand-woven heirloom shawls are identified as Blachte/“plachte” in Swabian dialect. This folk heritage of “Paradies-Decken” is festively worn and displayed during church worship, elegant family home celebrations, and major festival events. These cherished textiles were inherited among female descendants as a personal “memory diary” of their “distaff” ancestors.

Although differing from the smaller “kindplacht”, used as an infant envelope wrap/shoulder sling for the working mother: common plachte size was 44 to 48 inches wide (including 5 inch height of bottom-edge lace fringe) by 74 to 77 inches in length. Repeated vertical lines of white dashes or “ruanna-weave” zipper-teeth pattern was more commonly decorated the vertical stripes of the “kindplacht.”

To intensify “color-bounce” with the vivid red hues of weft-faced yarns, which covered warp yarns of tapestry weaves: a triad color-hue of usually lavender-slate blue or aqua-turquoise green was selected when weaving a vertical-striped/“bunte gestrifte” plachte.

In differing weave construction, especially when twill-weave is used for “karierte”/checkered plaid plachte: both warp and weft yarns were equally woven for defined color impact. A pastel color effect produced from intense hues of yarns for visual blend (color-bending) were especially intriguing in these textiles.

The “Tschetschka” Kopftuch as Fashion Accent.

To further impact the visual beauty of “kanapee”/blachte shawls as a powerful fashion ensemble, were the dramatic floral/paisley bordered “tschetschka’ (chetsh-gah) head-scarves. Usually 39x39 inches in size, these visually-dazzling head-scarves cascaded over the women’s hair “pugs” with serigraphed aniline dyes: with brilliant hues for winter (with grounds of maroon, rust-brown, cream-white, or blue) or subtle pastel hues for summer (with ground of white). Whenever undecorated without cabbage rose/floral patterns or embroidery stitched floral arabesques, these head-coverings were called “kopf-tuch”/duechle/“tuechle.”

Commentary by Jay Gage, Curator of Exhibits and Textiles, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo.

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