Recently, thanks to reader Mike up in Canada, I’ve had the opportunity to look into Hungarian embroidery. I love regional embroidery techniques, especially the types that reflect the social heritage of a nation. I don’t know a lot about Hungarian embroidery – I’m just beginning to learn a little bit about it. Before my interest in it was recently awakened, what I knew about traditional embroidery from Hungary was pretty vague: that it is colorful, that it sometimes involves cross stitch and sometimes involves cutwork or lace, and that it is often employed (quite exuberantly!) in the national costumes of Hungary.
Any time I begin a new journey into learning about a type of needlework, I start with searching online for resources and searching for books. One of the most helpful websites I came across in my preliminary search into Hungarian folk art and Hungarian embroidery was Folkology. It was here that I found titles of various books in Hungarian on Hungarian embroidery, with brief reviews of the books’ contents. Though the books are no longer available on Folkology, I was able to do some searching and land a few through used books sources. The first one that arrived is called Nagyanyáink öröksege, or “Legacy of our Grandmothers.”
The cover of the book says a lot the type of needlework within – that it is colorful, indeed. It also has a bit of a rustic flavor to it, as does most folk embroidery.
I was happy to know that I was right about cross stitch. The book begins with cross stitch – showing the worked piece, lined up next to a clear chart for reproducing the design. Although there is one section of colored plates in the book, the majority of photos are black and white, but they are clear, and although the text of the book is in Hungarian (as it should be!) the pictures say a lot! The book was printed in 1986.
Aha – something begins to unfold: Hungarian embroidery is diverse in technique! Whitework, with filet netting, is featured in the book. And it is delicate and beautiful.
Ooooh. For color! But still, you can imagine the bold colors in the embroidered piece featured here. Along with the photos of embroidered works, almost every page or so presents patterns of one kind or another. The patterns for the surface work are bold, folk-like designs, with lots and lots of flowers.
Some kind of whitework is pretty much always found in regional embroidery styles from the European continent, and Hungary is no exception. There are several pieces of whitework displayed throughout the book. This particular design, with its tulips and hearts and flowers, reminds me very much of Schwalm embroidery from Germany, though it is a little more crowded!
You can see the rustic designs here, featuring very stylized birds. Not all the designs in the book indicate what types of stitches would be used, but this spread of motifs suggests various fillings.
Many of the pieces displayed in the book are thick with embroidery. The use of buttonhole stitch seems to be favored in this piece – along with some satin stitched alternating blocks in the wavy lines.
Throughout the book, various cross stitch designs are included, with photos of their use on what looks to be clothing or parts of clothing. On this page, the worked piece in the top right corner looks to be a sleeve. Very beautiful! I would guess – but I could be Really Wrong, and I’m certainly up for correction! – that red would be a dominant color in these motifs.
The color plates show off the bright colors of the embroidery, which is even more enhanced when worked on dark backgrounds.
This piece is stunning. The embroidery is lush. The color combination is beautiful. And the lower stripes of criss-crossed satin stitches (the diamond pattern in gold) is so beautiful!
Here you see some colored patterns for embroidery. These patterns clearly indicate stitches and stitch direction.
A vibrant red-on-white band, with a touch of black is featured on one page, along with a pattern for the same. Striking, isn’t it?
Returning to the notion of whitework, there are some beautiful examples of whitework touched with red, with intricate eyelets and pretty scalloped edges.
The book has clear diagrams for the stitches commonly used. It is easy to interpret the stitches, even without a translation.
No doubt about it – I am going to enjoy looking into Hungarian embroidery a little more deeply. In the meantime, I’ve learned that there are two distinct styles of Hungarian embroidery that are well known – Kalocsa, which features flowers and eyelet work, and Matyó, which is what I would call thick, lush embroidery – packed with color and flowers, especially roses. One book I’m especially interested in finding is titled The Matyó Roses, but I’ve not had any luck tracking it down. It looks like an interesting book on the culture of the region, with good information about the embroidery of the area, too.
If you know of any good books or resources on the subject of Hungarian embroidery, please leave a comment below and share what you know! If you’re interested, I’ll keep you abreast of what I find out, too.
Hope you enjoy your Monday!