I promised an embroidery tutorial after I completed that pillow, but I didn't pick up my hoop again until now. A few people even repeatedly asked me for a tutorial. I'm so sorry! Truthfully, I barely have a handle on embroidery, so I felt ill-equipped to provide any sort of tutelage. I intended to practice a bit first. For this second project, I decided to just chronicle it with a little series, charting the process and sharing what I know (and what I learn) as I progress. If I wait and practice a bit before blogging about it, we'll all be 100 before an embroidery tutorial materializes. Before I get into the nitty-gritty (designing/picking a pattern, transferring the design, choosing materials, "mastering" different stitches, and, hopefully, successfully completing another embroidery project), I wanted to share a bit about the history of Hungarian embroidery, because my first and current project are both modern adaptations.
The history of Hungarian embroidery - like that of many other countries - stretches back thousands of years. As early as the 11th century there were schools for weaving and embroidery in Hungary. Historically, weaving/embroidery was gendered: men dominated the profession, but women created impressive textiles for the home. Later, women created embroideries for sale to supplement the family's income. Today, although the practice of the art is declining, Hungarian embroideries, and the traditional motifs they showcase, remain an important expression of culture and you can find embroidered items in every tourist gift shop - and probably every home - in the country. Interestingly, Hungary boasts more than twenty different folkloric regions, each with their own motifs, which can vary widely. The picture below showcases some of the more well-known motifs:
After the introduction of color-fast embroidery thread (mid-19th century, I read), colourful embroidery gained popularity in the region. Certain colours were/are always used together, and many held meaning. As a woman aged, the colour palette of embroidery she donned became more subdued, with certain colours - like purple - representing mourning. The folk clothing was imbued with a great deal of meaning, this is just one example.
The motifs of the region, although varied, are recognizable once you start to compare different folk art within Hungary. In Kalocsa designs, you'll spot various flowers, berries, plus wheat sheaf and parika themes. These motifs have long been utilized: they decorate the well-known Kalocsa Porcelain, and long before wall stenciling was Pinterest-worthy, Hungarian women in Kalocsa painted intricate designs onto their walls (the photo below is from the 1930s; you can see more photos from the 1950s here):
|My Own Photo|
|This vest is for sale on Etsy, but I actually own the exact same one!|
I'm excited. But I have to admit that I approach my renewed interest in embroidery with a slightly heavy heart. I don't want to be too much of a Gloomy Gus, but my grandmother's cousin - the one who made us the beautiful white embroidery I showed above - passed away recently. I had the pleasure of visiting her each of the three times I traveled to Hungary. I think she was pleased to see me learning to embroider when I was in Hungary last, but I'm not sure because she was tough to read. After returning to Canada and completing my project I kept meaning to print some photos of the finished piece and mail them to her, but I never did. I have no excuse. She was very dear to my grandmother, and of course to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren! I feel for them, because she was a dynamic, strong, and thoughtful woman and I am certain that she is missed deeply. Even though I barely knew her, when I think about her passing, my chest tightens and I feel waves of guilt wash over me. My thoughts have turned to her many times, especially now. I'm thankful that I had the chance to tell her in person how much I treasured her gift, and how she inspired me. I'm grateful that I even had the chance to meet her! She was such an interesting woman, and so kind to me. I don't normally have regrets, but I regret not taking the two minutes to send her a little note and some photos.
Hungarian Folklore Museum - Hungarian Embroidery
Folk Costume and Embroidery
Kalocsa Official Website
Folk Art Hungary
Smithsonian Folk Life Festival