Canton of Obwalden

The Canton of Obwalden is in central Switzerland adjoining the eastern side of the canton of Bern.


The making of knotted hats (Röhrlihüte or Spitzhüte) was established in this valley by the mid- 1800s, spreading throughout the area. The hats were made from oat or rye straw mainly by women, who were said to be able, with their supple fingers, to make up to two hats in one day. Unlike elsewhere the dealers played an important role in the making and sale of these hats. They decided the price, the conditions of the contract and checked the quality of the hats. Hats were made in Giswil, Kerns, Lungen, Melchtal and Sarnen. Most of the hats made were exported throughout Europe and to America. In 1924, this type of hat enjoyed a revival and for a short period, the area enjoyed success once again.


Thanks to the guarantee of free trade, in 1859 several factories were established in the area such as the Aargau firm of Georges Meyer and Co from Wohlen. In 1892, they began the production of machine-made synthetic braids and tapes. These were hand plaited into hats by women in the area.


- Abstract from the history of the straw industry in Switzerland

- A report by Marie Butcher – Ettlin, Kerns

Hubert Boschung, november 2000 (Source: Report from Bernadette Maria Koter)