Saturday, June 29, 2013

Interlace Embroidery of Horoden'ka, Pokuttia, Ukraine

Hello all,
Horoden'ka is an extraordinary crossroads of embroidery styles, the influences of Podillia, Bukovyna and the Hutsul territories combine to form a rich local tapestry of embroidery styles. Today I will examine one local embroidery stitch which seems to be found nowhere else in Ukraine. Above you can see a photo of an ustawka, or shoulder inset embroidered in nyzynka, framed with herringbone stitch, attached at left to the body of the shirt with merezhyvo typical of Podillia, and then finished off on the bottom with a row of interlacing.
The local name for this design is 'merezhka khvostata'. Merezhka means net, and usually refers to hemstitching, although it can also refer to other types of hand work which resemble a net.
This type of interlacing embroidery is found nowhere else in Ukraine to my knowledge, but it IS found in Malta, Sind, and Armenia. The Armenians claim to have invented it, and there are historical data which show influences from Armenia to both Malta and Sind. It is well known that there were colonies of Armenians in Halychyna, to the point where they had their own Archbishop and Cathedral in L'viw. [The only city in the world ever to have had three concurrent Catholic Archbishops, Roman, that is to say Polish, Byzantine - Ukrainian, and Armenian]. So it seems clear that this technique was borrowed from the Armenians, although why here, and not elsewhere in Halychyna is not clear.
Armenians call this type of interlace embroidery Marash work, after its historical city of origin, or Heusvadz Gar.

In Horoden'ka, this type of embroidery is only used as an adjunct stitch on women's chemises, in a band just below the shoulder inset, taking the place of morshchynka in the second part of the sleeve design. Typically, there is no embroidery on the lower sleeve.The embroidery on the ustawka may be nyzynka, cross stitch, or in another  technique.

 In fact, only three designs are used, all of which are variants of a single motif. 'Cross', which may 'be seen in the second and third images above, 'tailed', which is the cross with one arm missing, which can be seen at the top of the article and just above, and 'slanted', in which two opposite arms of the cross are missing, and the motifs are stacked so as to give a diagonal design, as in the following two photographs. In all of these, each succeeding motif is executed in a different color.

Here are the three designs side by side.

This paucity of design is another indication that this is a borrowed technique. However, they undoubtedly enrich the chemises of Horoden'ka, and are used in a unique way.
For comparison, here is a piece of Armenian embroidery completely executed in Interlace stitch.

You can see that although the Ukrainians may have borrowed the technique, they reinterpreted and adapted it to their own tastes rather than just copying the Armenian embroidery.

This type of work is executed in two parts, first a lattice is laid down, and then the embroidery thread is twined around the lattice without ever piercing the ground fabric except at beginning and end. You can see the lattices laid out for the three motifs above. Here is a schematic of a completed cross.The cross is always executed in one color. Here the two parts have been colored differently so as to make it easier to understand the technique.

The Armenians and Maltese use the cross like this, in Horoden'ka, the cross is worked on the diagonal, as seen above. When  laying down the lattice, it is very important that the lattice threads cross above and below one another alternately. Here is a closeup of the lattice.

Here is a step by step diagram of how to embroider the cross. The Armenians mark the cross on the material first. Ukrainians do not do this, instead laying the lattice in a counted thread technique. I present the diagram on the diagonal, as done by Ukrainians.

This can be easily adapted to the other two designs.
It is this type of added detail which adds richness of texture to the traditional embroideries of Ukraine. Modern adaptations which turn everything into cross stitch loses a dimension, becoming flat.

I hope that you have found this interesting and inspiring. Obviously this technique can be used to decorate many things.
I will close with a couple more images of this embroidery.

I am indebted to Vasyl Jula for many of the large closeup images used in this article.

Many of the rest of the images are from the work of Iryna Svyontek, which I highly recommend.

Feel free to contact me with requests for research. I hope to eventually cover all of Europe and the Former Russian Empire/Soviet Union. I also gratefully accept tips on source materials which i may not have. I also accept commissions to research/design, sew, and/or embroider costumes or other items for groups or individuals. I also choreograph and teach folk dance.
Roman K.

Source material:
Iryna Svyontek, 'Pokuttia Embroideries of Precarpathian Region', L'viw, 2013
Alice Odian Kasparian, 'Armenian Needlelace and Embroidery',  McLean, VA, 1983
Mary Gostelow, 'The Complete International Book of Embroidery', New York, 1977

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Costume of Rømø, Denmark

Hello all,
Above is Queen  Margrethe II of Denmark wearing the Rømø costume which was gifted to her by the National Folk Dance Association of Denmark. This is not the most impressive or colorful costume of Denmark, but it is the one she requested. It is quite representative of the costumes of Sønderjylland, [South Jutland], the southern part of the Danish peninsula. Rømø is an island off the southwest coast of Denmark.

The foundation of the costume is a chemise and petticoat, which do not show when fully dressed. 

The blouse and apron are made of dark cotton print with a fine design. They may match, as in the photo above, or they may be made of different prints, as in this photo. If they are different, the blouse is usually calico, while the apron is striped or plaid.

There are many options for these two costume pieces. The blouse has two small silver buttons on the front, implying that it is double breasted.
The bodice and attached skirt, called Pi, are of red homespun wool called vadmal with dull green edging on the bodice. The bodice has a curved neckline, and many round silver buttons. The skirt is quite full. The apron is very full and long, being barely shorter than the skirt, and the back of the apron is closed with a silver buckle, which is typical for Jutland.

Some photos show the buttons on the left side. I do not know if there is any significance to this, or if indeed, some photos have simply been flipped. Publishers like to do that. Or perhaps whoever sewed this outfit thought that a woman's garment had to fold right over left.

There is a kerchief worn over the shoulders which is not tucked in in the usual way, but worn more wrapped around the neck. A cap is worn on the head over the hair and then another kerchief is tied over that, the cap itself not showing at all. 

The combination of quiet colors with red accents is typical for this costume.

Notice that in this example the cap has embroidery on the top, and so the crown is left uncovered. This type of embroidered cap is more typical of the East Danish Islands.

The formal Church-going costume covers the red Pi and blouse with a jacket and skirt sewn of fine material. A more formal bonnet with white lace edging is worn with this version. A silk kerchief and apron may be worn with the dress costume.

I wish I had more information about this costume, but this is what I have.
I hope that you have found this interesting and informative.
The Danish people have an emotional attachment to this costume. Just a few more images, ending with the Queen again.

Feel free to contact me with requests for research. I hope to eventually cover all of Europe and the Former Russian Empire/Soviet Union. I also gratefully accept tips on source materials which i may not have. I also accept commissions to research/design, sew, and/or embroider costumes or other items for groups or individuals. I also choreograph and teach folk dance.
Roman K.

Source material:
Charles Rasmussen, 'Danske Folkedragter', Copenhagen, 1942
Lilla Fox, 'Folk Costume of Western Europe', Great Britain, 1969
Esther Grølsted, 'Sy Folke-dragten Selv', Copenhagen, 1985
Ellen Andersen, 'Danish Folk Costumes', Copenhagen, 1948
F. C. Lund, 'Danske Nationaldragter', Copenhagen, 1864

Minna Kragelund, 'Folkedragter', Copenhagen, 1978