Textile Art in our Museum

Jauch, Kuni. "Textile Art in our Museum." Mitteilungsblatt, April 2008, 9.

Translation from the Original German-language text to American English provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Mrs. Kuni Jauch nee Hohloch (born in Teplitz in Bessarabia) has spent years managing the textile department in our Heimatmuseum. This department depicts the multiplicity and variety of life in Bessarabia. It includes underwear and outerwear for women and men, socks, bed and dish linen, wedding clothing, everyday clothing, heavy coats and caps, plachten, rugs, covers, entire dowries, and so on. Mrs. Jauch examines all textiles, registers them, has them photographed, packs them up and constantly rotates exhibit items in order that the entire inventory can eventually be admired by museum visitors. In this article she reports on a special part of the textiles, the story of pillow lace.

Visitors to our Heimatmuseum often admire the few hand-made crafts by our parents and grandparents that we are able to exhibit [in the limited exhibit space available to us]. It turns out that there are true pieces of art in our drawers and cupboards. These are what I would like to report on.

I begin with a lace head scarf. My grandmother called it a "Zackel." It must have been of very special significance to her, because she wanted to take it to her grave. – I must say that I am not a member of the generation which experienced so much in our history. Everything I can report on I have read or have been told about.

Young Women in Bessarabia Making Lace

The first thing I wished to find out was where our ancestors learned the art of making lace. From books I borrowed from the Württemberg State Library I found that lace making was practiced by the early 18th Century in the area of Reutlingen and Nürtingen [in Baden-Württemberg/Germany]. Friedrich August Köhler wrote in his travel report of 1790: "In Reutlingen, too, I saw a few women engaged in this work as, during good weather, they would sit in front of their homes next to the street and, while observing passers-by, they would work diligently and skillfully over a piece of cloth wrapped over a roll-like form as large as a human head, which rested on an flat surface. With their hands they would artistically mix together some small "bells" that looked like cone and had different threads wrapped around them, and in that way they completed what is called lacework." During a time of great need around 1818, Queen Katharina of Württemberg came up with the idea of forming a general welfare association. The intent of this association was to combat poverty among the people by promoting among them the greatest amount possible of  "work [crafts] of their own hands" in order to feed themselves. Schools of industry were established, and their purpose was to complement the basic agricultural production with home-based crafts production.

In 1817 there were eighty-eight such schools in Württemberg. It can certainly be assumed that the art of making lace was learned there. And it can be assumed that our ancestors would have taken along to Bessarabia this art and skill, along with the requisite equipment. My own ancestors emigrated from the area of Reutlingen in 1817 and, together with other emigrants, they founded the colony of Teplitz. 

Lace Scarf in the Heimatmuseum

In the [Bessarabian German] Heimatbuch of 1974 there is an article entitled "Das geklöppelte Spitzentuch [The Lace Head Scarf]," according to which this kind of scarf was available even commercially in Sarata during the 19th Century. Before World War One Odessa had been the distribution center for stores in Bessarabia, and afterwards [after the annexation of Bessarabia to Romania] that role shifted to Galatz. A Mrs. Winkler-Lütze quoted as follows a Theodor Keller, who between 1902 and 1912 was a leading buyer of consumer goods in the Sarata area and thus bought anything and everything available: "Under the trees of the Alexander Project site, the Moscovites had put up large umbrellas. Entire families, including children, sat around tables working away on their lace-making pillows. Here we buy Russian lace made of linen thread and also silk scarves. Here is where German people are buying, because these are quality products. In foreign stores one could also buy machine-made lace scarves. They were brought here by Jewish traders from top weaving mills in Lodz [Poland] and were pretty inexpensive."

Well, how did the Western art of lace making get to Russia?

From general history we know that the Russian Tsar Peter I (1682 – 1725), along with a sizeable entourage, was in Holland for several years. He himself studied shipbuilding, but the members of his entourage were ordered to look around the country in order to introduce cultural innovations of the Western world into their own country. It is probable that the art of lace making was brought from there to Russia.

But when and where did Bessarabian German women learn how to make lace?

Mennonites first moved from their Holland homeland to Gdansk and later to Russia. Between 1789 and 1816 they founded communities adjacent to the Dnieper River. In Teplitz and Hoffnungstal there were several women who had mastered the art of lace making. Both communities had contacts with Mennonite communities on the Dnieper. This, too, may be a link explaining how the art of lace making came to Bessarabia. In Bessarabia itself, lace head scarves were worn primarily for church events. In the Heimatmuseum we have a series of photos of this stemming from around 1940. In the literature we also find mention of silk lace cloths. However, my own analysis of the exhibit items in our museum tells me that they were made from linen fiber.

I would be pleased it I have heightened your awareness, dear reader, of the textile treasures in our museum. I invite your cordially to visit the Heimatmuseum at Florianstraße 17 in Stuttgart.

Kuni Jauch


Freihandspitzen von der Schwäbischen Alb [Hand-made Lace from the Swabian Alb], published by Deutscher Klöppelverband e.V.; "Das geklöppelete Spitzentuch [The Lace Head Scarf]" by Ella Winkler-Lütze, in Heimatkalender der Bessarabiendeutschen, 1974.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller