Some Great Hungarian Embroidery
Projects from a Vintage Yard Sale Find
(Complete Patterns Included -
Reprinted with permission from Hearst Magazine,
WD Reader Services, Woman's Day Knit & Stitch, Number 8, 1972.
Hungarian treasures are everywhere! I found this
gem - a vintage Woman's Day Knit & Stitch magazine at a local yard sale.
The instructions are easy to follow and the designs are very authentic -
and it's all in English!
There are as many types of embroidery in the
world today as there are cuisines. Each region has its own specialities
that are easily recognized and that have their own unique personality.
Among the most vibrant, vital and colourful are those from Middle
Europe. Because they are so exciting and, at the same time, the least
accessible to Americans, we are pleased to present this collection of
table linens, pillow covers and vest. While they are elaborately worked,
most of them can be copied by any needlewomen with a degree of skill in
crewel embroidery, But before you start, learn a bit about the
background of the fascinating folk art.
Never timid, the designs are crowded, one motif
spilling over the next. The peasant took great delight in working with
reds, oranges, purples, blues, greens and blacks. Because of the poverty
of her life, a well-decorated surface was her only expression of wealth.
The more elaborate her needlework, the greater the prestige of the
Embroideries were, therefore, extremely valuable and were always made to
be used. A bride’s dowery consisted of her linens and wearing apparel.
She would have many dresses, as they were to last her indefinitely.
Unusual customs sprang up. For example, the mother made her daughter’s
bridal cap, which was put away after the wedding. When the daughter was
buried, it was placed upon her head so that her mother would recognize
her in the hereafter.
Before widespread use of machine-made cloth, the
peasants made everything from materials closest to home. They wove their
fabrics from flax or wool. The herdsmen’s families wore rough clothing
of sheep, cow or even pig skins. They were extremely industrious,
planting, weaving, sewing and finally decorating their apparel and
household necessities. When factory-produced fabrics became available
and inexpensive, they quickly gained acceptance. Their variety gave
women much more to work with. Now she could make colourful clothing
quickly and easily. Consequently she had the time to develop her design
and embroidery skills.
Household embroideries, such as bed curtains, pillow
covers, window or shutter covers, bassinet sheets and tablecloths, were
made of linen or cotton so that they could be laundered. Clothing was
made of cotton, silk, velvet, or often leather, all heavily embroidered.
Less expensive fabrics were used underneath, since only the top layer
had to be elegant. Because Hungarian peasants admired plump women, they
wore layer after layer of petticoats, starting with ones of homespun.
They topped it all off with a brilliantly colourful apron. Coifs, vests,
blouses, skirts, even men’s leather and felt surcoats, were all covered
with busily contrasting designs and hues.
Our lace runner is an adaptation of a pattern
frequently used in blouses in the Great Plains area. In this region, the
men wore very simple clothing, mostly of animal skins. But the women
were fashionable and preferred festive and frilly costumes. The
open-work scarf is typical of their bodices.
The most elaborate of all peasant costumes were those
of the Hungarian Uplands, in an area called Matyó. The people here were extremely poor and had
a difficult time wresting a living from the meagre soil. To supplement
their incomes, they travelled as seasonal labourers to distant areas of
the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a result, their embroideries became more
sophisticated as they were exposed to more of the world. Wealthier
peasants, who did not need to travel, were more conservative in their
Until late in the 1920s, black was considered a very
festive colour and was even the choice of brides. About that time, it
became a symbol of morning and now brides wear white. However, black is
still very popular because it is such an effective background for the
array of colours in the embroidery.
Although peasant costumes are becoming less and less
elaborate today, vestiges of it remain, especially in the coifs and
aprons worn by county women. However, the art of embroidery is still
vital and exciting, and is being interpreted in new, contemporary ways.
This work, produced largely by women in their homes, is sold everywhere
in Hungary. The traveller sees it in every restaurant and hotel dining
room where every table is decorated with an embroidered runner over white
Shown here are examples of the
sophisticated Matyó style. Notice how artfully contrasting hues are
juxtaposed, imitating nature’s colour scheme in a happily overcrowded
garden. They are typical Hungarian designs, intertwining the favourite
flower motifs of carnations, roses and tulips. Typical, also, is the use
of only a few simple stitches, which makes this embroidery easy for you
Materials: For All Items: Embroidery floss or pearl cotton in
colours as listed for each design. Artist’s stretcher strips (available
in art supply stores) or embroidery hoop. Embroidery needle. Tracking
paper. Dressmaker’s carbon. Sewing tread to match fabrics. Pillow foam
or stuffing for pillow. For Vest or Black Pillow: ¾ yard black
felt 42” or 45” wide. For Linen Pillow: ½ yard beige linen. For runner and 4 napkins:
1 yard white cotton, red buttonhole twist.
GENERAL DIRECTIONS: Patterns are given either actual-size or on a
1” grid, enlarge according to general directions (see PDF). Print out
actual size patterns. Position design elements on right side
of fabrics as shown in photographs: insert dressmakers’ carbon face down
in between. Transfer pattern to fabric. For placement of embroidery
colours, refer to photographs. Work flowers and leaves in satin stitch,
stems in outline stitch, and veins of leaves and blossoms in straight
stitch. Steam-press embroidery over several terry towels to block.
VEST: Enlarge pattern pieces, selecting side seam lines in
desired size. Small size bust measurement is about 36”, medium about
38”, large about 40”. Add a seam allowance of ½” around all outer edges
of vest pattern pieces. Cut out vest pattern, include seam allowances.
Fold felt in half lengthwise, right sides together. Place back pattern
piece on fold; pin in place. Pin front pattern piece to felt next to
back. Cut out back of vest. Do not cut out vest front. Trace
around outline of vest front. Mark position of lapel with tailor tacks.
Unpin pattern, open out folded fabric. Flip over vest front pattern (to
form right and left fronts) and pin wrong side of remainder of felt;
repeat tracing. Trim long “ends” of front pieces so that you have two
rectangular shapes on which to work the embroidery. Transfer pattern of
embroidery design to right side of vest fronts, placing designs about 1
½” from cut edges.
Attach vest front to stretcher strips, taking care to keep tacks or
staples outside seam line of the finished garment. Work embroidery in
pearl cotton in the following colours: maroon, red, hot pink, fuchsia,
orange, gold, dark green, medium green, royal blue.
Cut out vest fronts. Right sides together, sew back to front at shoulder
and side seams, taking ½” seam allowances. Press seams open. Turn back
lapels on line indicated; press. Turn under ½” on all raw edges,
clipping into seam allowance at end of lapel so hem can be turned to
wrong side. Topstitch hems in place. With red, work herringbone stitch
¼” from lower, front, lapel, neckline, and armhole edge. Couch
herringbone stitch with yellow at one edge and green at the other,
taking small stitches where herringbone stitched cross.
BLACK PILLOW: Finished size, about 22” by 17 ½”. Cut 2 pieces of
black felt each 23” by 18 ½”. Thread-mark vertical centre of pillow
front. Place slash line of half pattern along centre line of pillow
front, centering design. Transfer design to fabric. Flip design over,
place on other side of pillow front, aligning centres, and repeat,
completing design. Tack pillow front to stretcher strips. Work
embroidery in pearl cotton in the following colours: maroon, red, hot
pink, fuchsia, orange, gold, dark green, medium green, royal blue,
white. Right sides together, stitch pillow front to pillow back around
three sides and part of the fourth, taking ½” seams and allowing an
opening for turning. Turn right side out. Insert stuffing. Slip-stitch
LINEN PILLOW: Finished size, about 20 ½” by 15 ½”. Cut 2 pieces
of beige linen each 21 ½” by 16 ½”. Place enlarged design over pillow
front, centering it. Transfer design to fabric. Tack pillow front to
stretcher strips. Work embroidery in pearl cotton in the following
colours: light green, dark green, light pink, hot pink, 2 shades of
dusty pink, 2 shades if soft pink, red, maroon, 2 shades of violet, 2
shades of golden yellow, 2 shades of blue, 2 shades of turquoise, and
white. Finish as for Black Pillow.
TABLE RUNNER AND NAPKINS:
Finished size of runner, about 15 ½” by 34”; each napkin about 7” by 8”.
For runner, cut a piece of white cotton fabric 17 ½” by 36”. For each
napkin cut a piece a piece 9” by 10”. Place runner design 5” in from
narrow edge of fabric. Transfer design to fabric. Turn design upside
down and repeat at other end. For napkin, place design about 3 ½” from
Embroider, using embroidery hoop or stretcher strips, with pearl cotton
in the following colours; light green, dark green, hot pink, lilac,
gold, orange, royal blue, red, maroon.
Turn under ¼” on all raw edges; press. Turn under ¾” hems and press
again. Tread machine with buttonhole twist. From right side, machine
zig-zag a scant ¾” from edge, catching hems.
SEE PDF FOR PATTERNS:
ACTUAL-SIZE PATTERN FOR HUNGARIAN VEST EMBROIDERY page 1
TABLE RUNNER AND NAPKINS page 2
HUNGARIAN VEST PATTERN page 2
HUNGARIAN BLACK PILLOW pages 3 and 4
HUNGARIAN LINEN PILLOW page 5