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Feather Quill Embroidery Frankhauser - Thiersee

Embroidered and Sewn - Decoration with Tradition

Those who see the mountains and live in them: This is how Christian Fankhauser’s customers can be simply described. Only men from the mountain region need a Ranzen to adorn themselves on festive days. It’s a good thing that the trained Thiersee cook turned to the traditional craft of feather quill embroidery.

For Christian Fankhauser, home means a structured environment, order, and clarity. This is exactly what helps him in his work as a feather quill embroiderer. Looking out of the window of his workshop, it’s easy to understand why his customers are happy to combine ordering their Ranzen with a short vacation in the Thiersee Valley.

The Ranzen as a Business Card
Ordering a Ranzen follows a specific ritual. First, it’s about the shape of the Ranzen. Christian Fankhauser mainly makes "Blattranzen." For this, a shield is loosely placed on the actual Ranzen. This gives the wearer comfort and identity: traditionally, Blattranzen are only worn in Tyrol and neighboring Bavaria. South Tyroleans prefer the strap form without a shield. The shape alone gives a hint about the wearer. But it’s the embroidery that turns each Ranzen into a business card. This takes time. "You can't place an order for a Ranzen in less than an hour," explains Christian Fankhauser. "I need to get a feel for the wearer’s taste before I start on their Ranzen."

Personality Stitched into Leather
He incorporates his knowledge of the customer's regional traditional costumes into each Ranzen. He pays attention to typical colors and techniques. For the decoration design, he draws inspiration from the ornate embroideries of the late Biedermeier period but creates an individual motif for each Ranzen. "None of my Ranzen should look like another," is his ambitious goal. He often stitches family crests, local crests, or initials into the Ranzen. However, if a customer wants the Habsburg eagle or the Wittelsbach coat of arms, they must provide written permission from the respective family. Christian Fankhauser is very strict about this, except for Thiersee locals, for whom he has permission to embroider the crest without asking. After this process is completed, he dedicates 80 to 200 hours to sewing and embroidering. Only then can the wearer use it.

Knowledge as the Key to Tradition
In addition to Ranzen, Christian Fankhauser also decorates belts, handbags, wallets, and suspenders with his feather quill embroidery. The name of this traditional craft comes from the threads used: feather quills are threads cut from peacock feathers. "Only after many hours of embroidery, when my master thought I was ready, did he reveal the technique of cutting the quills to me," the Thierseer recounts. It was a special moment, akin to a master craftsman certificate. Originally trained as a cook, he wanted to order a Ranzen for his wedding, and the Ranzen embroiderer took him under his wing. Today, Christian Fankhauser guards the knowledge of feather quill cutting as a well-kept professional secret, as it determines the quality of the Ranzen. If it’s not cut precisely according to the traditional sequence, the quill breaks during stitching or, worse, when worn. This knowledge was passed on to Christian Fankhauser orally, and he has never written it down. "Of course, you could also use polyester threads, but that has nothing to do with tradition, and the quality suffers," explains the feather quill embroiderer.

Collaboration of Traditional Crafts
Whenever possible, Christian Fankhauser buys his peacock feathers from a farmer in Chiemgau. "But because peacocks scream so much before mating, hardly anyone keeps them around here," he chuckles, "out of love for the neighbors." He buys his leather mainly from a tanner in Pill near Schwaz. Only fine leather is scarce in the area and is usually sold as lambskin. He has the fasteners made in Aschau by a small traditional craft business similar to his own. The Thierseer places great value on networking with traditional craftsmen in the region.

Anyone who wants to adorn themselves with borrowed plumes should make an appointment to visit Christian Fankhauser’s workshop.

Opening hours: by telephone appointment.

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