Traditional, hand-knitted “Perlbeutel” or “beaded bags” are a near-forgotten traditional costume accessory. Claudia Flügel-Eber has brought historical art back to life, including in the form of stylish mobile phone cases
Beaded bag knitter – Claudia Flügel-Eber
Bavaria’s antique markets are treasure troves of decorative and curious items, truly handmade and valuable. Sometimes, they even lend a new turn to a professional life: “About ten years ago, I discovered a fragment of a historical beaded bag at a flea market,” Claudia Flügel-Eber recounts.
The curiosity of this young woman from Schwetzendorf near Regensburg was piqued: “The seller said that these were beads knitted with yarn. I thought he was pulling my leg at first. I’d been making things with glass beads since I was a child. Back then, I often invested my pocket money in beads – they feel nice and become warm with the touch of your hand.”
Claudia breathes new life into the forgotten craft
New life for old crafts
The qualified hotel manageress began to research deeper: “There was almost nothing in German about this craft. The bottom line is that I taught myself to knit beaded bags,” she says. Today, she is probably the last beaded bag knitter in Bavaria. Or should we say rather “the first”? Ultimately, she has breathed life back into the almost forgotten craft.
In the middle of the 19th century, many women and children in Schwäbisch Gmünd made beaded bags at home and sold them to traders. But then the beaded loom gradually pushed the hand-knitted bag out of the market, Claudia explains to visitors to her shop opposite the Roman cultural monument of “Porta Praetoria” in Regensburg.
Ivory knitting needles
The cosy shop with a small café and antique shop is called “Carakess”. “It’s a fantasy name,” Claudia says. “I always say ‘cara’ like love and ‘kess’ like ‘saucy’ – perhaps a bit cheeky. That describes me quite well, too.” Visitors can not only look over the artist’s shoulder as she knits beads, but also attend a workshop.
In the adjacent museum, Claudia displays exhibits that she has collected over the past ten years: woven, knitted, crocheted and tambour-embroidered beaded bags, ivory knitting needles and accessories with beads. Actually, she should store the treasures in a protected and dark place. “But I prefer to enjoy their sight every day and that’s why the bead bags hang nicely together on the wall.”
Meditation for the impatient
However, the new bead bags are also valuable one-offs, Claudia explains: “I’ll knit for about 70 hours on a small bead bag, and 140 on a normal-sized one. On average, 30,000 beads are entangled in just one bag. And I manage to knit three bags a year.” For her customers, this sounds like a tedious test of patience, but Claudia sees it differently: “Actually, I’m an insanely impatient person.”
She prefers to look at needlework as a form of meditation: “When I’m knitting beaded bags, I’m forced to sit down and stay with it. The hands are in motion and I can organise my thoughts,” she says. “And when, after 140 hours of work, I hold in my hand a complete work of art made up of many small pearls, it makes me happy.”
Roses on the mobile phone bag
The production process always follows the same procedure: “I need a pattern or an idea. Then I determine the size and choose the matching beads. I think about the colours beforehand. Then I thread the beads according to the pattern and then it’s a case of getting knitting. Later, she lines the inside of the bag with leather or cotton fabric.
She often makes beaded bags to customer specifications, ranging from traditional motifs from the 19th century to modern ones, for example, for a mobile phone pouch. “There are lots of flower motifs, my customers especially love roses and forget-me-nots,” says the knitting professional. In addition, there are art nouveau patterns, dogs, swans and butterflies or romantic scenes to choose from.
Templates from nature
Claudia never runs out of ideas. She draws inspiration from historical beaded bags and postcards, for example, or even jumper patterns. “Nature is an important source of colour for me,” she says. “If you look closely at how many colours a pansy has, for example. There’s a lot to discover and work with.” In the meantime, she now owns more than 300 original patterns.
Through word of mouth and media reports, Claudia is now so well known that she gets beaded bags sent to her from time to time: “I always say: Please don’t throw them away, even if they are broken. Then I can still use the glass beads, because I need supplies for repairs.” But Claudia’s most important source remains the flea markets – after all, that’s where she found her calling!
More about Claudia’s work, the “Carakess” and the online shop at carakess.de
... from Claudia
I really like flea markets. I especially love the Regensburg antique market, where you can discover very old and curious things. And, of course, the three-day flea market at Dultplatz, which is also fantastic!
Shopping in Regensburg
Regensburg’s old town with its alleys is definitely a highlight! Fortunately, there are still many owner-operated shops and lovingly decorated artisan emporiums. They should be preserved at all costs. That’s why I recommend buying regionally, and thus supporting our small businesses! I also recommend having a cappuccino in the bistro “Orphee”, which is beautifully decorated in the style of the late 19th century.
faszination-altstadt.de (only in German)
Schwetzendorf & beyond
On my doorstep, the Schwetzendorf quarry pond is one of my favourite places, as are Riedenburg and Berching with its beautiful town wall. Kallmünz is also stunningly picturesque. And let’s not forget the Waldnaab valley – this is where I originally come from.
riedenburg.de (only in German), berching.de, oberpfaelzerwald.de