Second Sunrise Archive: Swedish Stjimpa

Vintage leather apron, "Stjimpa".

Maker - ?
Era - Late 19th century to early 20th century
Material - Leather and brass buckle
Acquired - 2016 by Second Sunrise

Today leather aprons may be associated with olden day blacksmiths or modern chefs making their living in the lifestyle industry where looks matter more than hygiene, but this kind of apron was commonly worn as an everyday garment in pre-industrial rural Sweden. From the end of the 1700's to the end of the 1800's, aprons that covered the chest were worn by men of the working class both for the workdays and for feastdays. It is said that it was an essential piece of an outfit, and that without it one was'nt fully dressed! This is of course not true for all people living in Sweden during the 19'th century, but in some places it was certainly important not to leave the house without one. One of the dialectal used for these aprons is "Stjimpa", probably referring to them being made of leather which is called "skinn" in Swedish.

In some regions the stjimpa was an outer garment, meaning that it was worn over the vest (but under the jacket, if you wore one) and in other places it would have been worn underneath a vest, with its lower part sticking out. 
Where men have worn these kind of aprons, women have generally worn leather aprons too but their varieties did usually not cover the chest. 

This specific stjimpa looks a lot like the aprons from Dalarna, a region in Sweden that has a high density of clothing traditions. The man who gave it to us said that it had belonged to a master Brewer at the brewery in Grängesberg, which seems fitting as it is a sturdy and practical garment. 

Swedish leather apron

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The garment is essentially made from one hide and is cut to make the most of the natural shape of the material. We guess that is has never been dyed, but that time and usage has built up the color and patina. Lately the stjimpa has been kept folded, which has left a long folding mark along its front. 

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Swedish leather apron

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Strips of leather has been added to the edges of the hide to create a belt used to keep the apron in place. 

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Swedish leather apron

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The neck opening is reinforced with another piece of leather that has been stitched on using a sowing machine. Apart from the seam that runs along the edge of the reinforcement an additional seam has been added for decorational purposes only. The style of the decoration is typical for the second half ot the 1800's when the sowing machines entered the workshops of Dalarna, which started off a whole new genre of embroidery.
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Swedish leather apron

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The buckle is made of brass, which has also been used to reinforce the eyelets as well. Unfortunately, some of the eyelets have been lost but a few are still there. The decoration on the buckle seems to be rather common on this type of metalwork, and the circular pattern can be traced back to the iron age where it can be seen on combs made out of bone.
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Swedish leather apron

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In one place an additional piece has been added and the join is also sewn using a sewing machine. The addition has been made to fill in a gap where the leather was too thin, or maybe there was no material there at all, but for the sake of the usefulness of the garment a piece was needed. If it had not been added the garment would have had a weak spot right there.

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Swedish leather apron

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The seams where the belt straps are attached to the apron also have decorative stitches. Although the zig-zag stitches also have a reinforcing effect, it is obvious that the maker also had a feeling for the aesthetic.

The stjimpa/apron is now a part of our archive and we keep it as an inspirational piece. 
Do you know anything about it that you want to tell us? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to read about more vintage? See last week's post Here!


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