While doing a little bit of research about Hungarian embroidery – particularly Kalocsa embroidery – I learned that not every woman who embroidered designed her own patterns. Some women were especially talented and would design patterns for other women. They would have sketchbooks filled with designs:
There is an art to designing patterns that are balanced and aesthetically pleasing, but also some technical concerns as well: the size of the motifs, the length of the corresponding stitches, etc., all need to be considered. In the 1930s,
when colourful folks costumes grew in popularity, more and more Hungarian women
started to learn the art of designing patterns. Exceptional pattern makers were
still sought after, though, and each had her own individual style. The demand for this skill has waned, but it still has relevance in Hungary. Interestingly, while doing my dissertation research I noticed patterns in the earlier issues of Nők Lapja. I photocopied a few because I am completely inexperienced at designing an embroidery pattern. The only other project I’ve done already had the design printed on it (purchased in Hungary):
For this new project I set about pinning motifs (I’ve started a board dedicated to embroidery). I was a little overwhelmed, though, and the pressure of designing something good enough to embroider really stalled my project. Then I stumbled across this image:
It is not a traditional Hungarian embroidery pattern, but it was designed by a Hungarian graphic designer, Lilly Baróthi Zathureczky. From the 1930s until the 1960s (when she passed away), she designed patterns for needlework and other artistic purposes. The pattern was shared by Needle ‘n Thread, in addition to a short blurb on Lilly’s life and work. This particular design was painted by Lilly in 1956 (you can see the coloured design here), but she left no notes regarding its intended application. Once I found it, I couldn’t envision using another pattern – this was the one!
The rectangular pattern happened to be almost the exact dimensions of the pillow cover I intend to make. I’m replacing the orange paisley cover with this project – if all goes according to plan.
Regarding the pattern, I had to enlarge the design and I’m worried that in doing so some of my stitches will be too long but I’m just going to roll with it and hope for the best! Before starting the embroidering, I printed out a few copies and grabbed my coloured pencils to roughly plan the colours. It took a few tries but I finally landed on something I liked. I ended up using fewer colours than I initially intended, but I stuck to the same palette of blues, greens and aqua. It sure was easier to embroider in only one colour!
There are many ways to transfer an embroidery design to fabric; this article and this article list most, if not all, of them. I chose to print my design on an overhead transparency and use an overhead projector, simply because I had these things on hand. Then I just taped the fabric (which is a creamy silk, and much prettier in real life) onto a wall and rooked my Mom into tracing the design. Szuka seemed really befuddled and wondered what the heck we were up to.
And I’m ready!
If it seems like this project is progressing slowly, that’s because it is. It takes me forever to actually start this type of long, involved project (especially embroidery, it seems), but then I pick up more steam. I’ve already begun embroidering (I have the hand cramp to prove it), and once I’ve completed a substantial section, which will take awhile, I’ll show you the basic stitch I’m using – it’s like colouring with thread!
Originally I had thought about adding some purple to the design, but I was on the fence about it. While I was pondering, Szuka grabbed the spool from my dresser (bad girl!) and started swallowing the thread like one long piece of spaghetti. I’m pretty sure I pulled half of it back out of her stomach and neither of us were impressed. On the bright side, it made the difficult decision to add purple moot. To be safe, I now store the spools I’ll be using in a mason jar. When I’m done, I tuck in my needle and a small pair of scissors and it makes a convenient kit. The day she learns to unscrew the lid on a mason jar, I’m hooped.
To see read about the progress of my first embroidery project, click here. If you’re curious about Hungarian embroidery, take a look at this post. If you got tips and insights or are a master embroiderer, lay your knowledge on me because I’m pretty much an embroidering newbie!