Some Great Hungarian Embroidery
Projects from a Vintage Yard Sale Find
(Complete Patterns Included - Download PDF)
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 finished piece.
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 Matyo. 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 tastes.
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 cloth.
Shown here are examples of the sophisticated Matyo 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 to duplicate.
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: 3/4 yard black felt 42 or 45 inch wide. For Linen Pillow: 1/2 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 inch 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 dressmaker's 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 inches, medium about 38 inches, large about 40 inches. Add a seam allowance of 1/2 inch 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 inch 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 1/2 inch seam allowances. Press seams open. Turn back lapels on line indicated; press. Turn under 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 1/2 inch 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 inches by 17 inch. Cut 2 pieces of black felt each 23 inch by 18 inch. 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 1/2 inch seams and allowing an opening for turning. Turn right side out. Insert stuffing. Slip-stitch opening closed.
LINEN PILLOW: Finished size, about 20 1/2 by 15 1/2 inches. Cut 2 pieces of beige linen each 21 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches. 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 1/2 by 36 inches; each napkin about 7 by 8 inches. For runner, cut a piece of white cotton fabric 17 1/2 by 36 inches. For each napkin cut a piece a piece 9 by 10 inches. Place runner design 5 inches 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 1/2 inches from one corner.
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 1/4 inch on all raw edges; press. Turn under 3/4 inch hems and press again. Tread machine with buttonhole twist. From right side, machine zig-zag a scant 3/4 inch 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