‘Klokkestreng’ bell pull tradition in the Nordic countries

Originally, ‘klokkestreng’ (= bell pull) refers to a thick, decorative cord attached to a lever and a bell which you could ring by pulling the cord. It was used in manor houses, country houses and bourgeoise homes to call servants in England and in North America. The cord developed into a narrow, delicately decorated, hand made textile. Embroidery, cross-stitch and weaving were the techniques used. Simple bell pull consisted of a cord or a narrow tapestry and a lever and a bell right above. The problem was that in order to hear the bell, the servants had to be nearby. Later on complex mechanical systems were developed and the distance between cords and bells was several rooms and floors.

Later on the ‘bell pull’ lost its original function and became a decorative object. My special interest is how the English manor house bell pull tradition was adopted in Scandinavia as a rural imitation. Instead of expensive upper class materials like thin yarn and brass metalwork, the rural tradition is characterized by thick wool yarn and wrought iron metalwork.

Bell pull, ‘klokkestreng’ in Norwegian and ‘klokkestrenge’ in Danish, literally ‘bell string’, were hugely popular in the 1960’s and 70’s. Thick wool yarn was used and patterns were usually traditional ornaments or floral. Cross-stitching was women’s activity while the wrought iron hardware were either purchased or made by young men of the families as school projects. There were numerous variations of the basic metal work and many of them had a ringlike form to the bottom as a reminder of the original function. Wrought iron was the most common material, but other metals and combinations of wood and metal were also used. Decorations varied. Sometimes there were two identical hardware at both ends, sometimes different ones, sometimes there were wool yarn fringes in the other end.

Bell pull ornament patterns were published in crafting magazines and DIY sets with pattern, instructions and yarn were sold in craft shops. By the 1990’s the bell pull tradition withered and was considered old-fashioned and dull.

I find the bell pull tradition fascinating, but instead of copying the old cross-stitching patterns, my perspective is playful and whimsical. I want to combine new, modern materials and surprising solutions to the tradition of Scandinavian klokkestreng.

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You will find this modern klokkestreng wall decoration in my Etsy shop.

There is a doctoral dissertation describing the development of the mechanical servant bell systems. I am still looking for a complete study on the history of the bell pull as handicraft and textile industry product.

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One Response to ‘Klokkestreng’ bell pull tradition in the Nordic countries

  1. Pingback: Wrought iron embroidery hangers. A Scandinavian tradition. | soilevuo art&crafts

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