Monday, February 28, 2011

Hutsul Costume, part 1

Hello all. Today I will give an overview of Hutsul Costume. The Hutsuls are a Ukrainian tribe who live in the Carpathian mountains at the point where they bend from extending east to extending south.
The Hutsuls wear the third type of Ukrainian Costume, the double apron costume. This costume is amost as commonly depicted as the Poltava/Central Dnipro region costume in depictions of Ukrainians. In fact, the Hutsul region is rather small, but the Hutsuls occupy a huge place in Ukrainian culture, literature and song. In spite of that, the Hutsuls do not have a politically recognized district of their own. They live in the eastern end of the Transcarpathian oblast, around the town of Rakhiw, the southern end of Ivano-Frankiwsk oblast,
south of the town of Nadvirna, the western end of the Cherniwtsi oblast, west and south of the town of Vyzhnytsia, and a small adjoining area of Romania. Despite how this may sound, this is a compact area that forms only one region. This is not uncommon for mountain people, as flatlanders tend to draw the borders, and they seem to think that along a mountain ridge is a good place for a border. The three oblasts mentioned maintain the historic division of Ukrainian territory between Hungary, Poland, and Moldavia, respectively.

This is, very roughly, the Hutsul region. I have a much more detailed map, but i have not been able to figure out how to color it to make the different regions visible. I can email it if someone is interested.

Here are a couple of  historic photos of  Hutsuls. This is an old Postcard, pre 1910

And here are a couple of photographs taken by Oleksander Pezhanskyj.

The basic item of the woman's costume, is [of course] the chemise. In Ukrainian it is called the sorochka. The front and back of the chemise were made of separate pieces. There were shoulder insets, called ustawky, which were sewn to the sides of the chemise, rather than on top, as is more usual in Ukrainian costumes. The four pieces were gathered into the neckband. The Lower sleeve was sewn perpendicular to the body of the chemise and to the ustawka. Both the body and the sleeves were less full than in other parts of Ukraine, as well as being made of  heavier linen. Here is another photograph that shows the cut of the chemise.

As you can see, the shoulder piece is embroidered in a wide band along the lower edge, next to the seam.
The lower sleeve is often slightly gathered, with a unique technique that gives the gathering a specific texture.
The embroidery in most villages was of the technique known as nyzynka. This is basically a darning stitch, which is found from Norway to Southwest China. What is very unusual about the Hutsul version is that most people stop when the design is finished, like this. This could be the design on a woman's collar in Voss in Norway.

The Hutsuls are not content with this,
but continue by filling in the fields with various colors, like this.

Both of these examples were executed by the artist Evdokia Sorokhaniuk. This one is done in a warm color scheme, which is often considered typical for Hutsul costume, but they are also done in a cool color scheme like this example from my private collection.

You can see the seam where the ustawka, or inset was sewn to the body of the chemise, and in the center, you can see the seam where the lower sleeve was sewn to both. In this case, the lower border was embroidered on the sleeve. The seam itself is covered with a wide black line in the embroidery. The neckband and wristbands are also embroidered, the lower hem, unusually for Ukrainian costume is typically not embroidered. I will further explore Hutsul embroidery in future postings.
If you take a quick peek at the photos above, you can see how the embroidery falls on the arm.
You will also see the distinctive feature of the Hutsul woman's costume, the double apron. These are two separate rectangular pieces of cloth, woven with fine stripes and bordered in a wool braid, that are tied on by strings attached to the upper corners. The back one is put on first, and then the front one. Then a colorful woven sash is wrapped around the waist. Here is a closeup of the weave of one of these aprons. The braid that edges the piece is visible at the bottom. The color of the aprons varies from village to village, from dark like this example to golden yellow/orange in the town of Kosmach, as in the example shown below. One of my readers pointed out that there are no actual orange threads used, but rather a combination of red and yellow, along with other colors, but the overall effect is a golden/orangy color.
Here are a couple examples of Hutsul woven sashes, which are called kraika.
Here is a closeup of  footwear from a display in the Museum of The Folk Art of the Hutsul Region in the city of Kolomyja.

These footcloths are called kapchuri, they are cut and sewn from a very heavy and stiff woven wool cloth.
This same cloth is used for outerwear. Knitting is not a craft which forms part of Ukrainian tradition. Today you will find Hutsuls using knit socks, but this is a recent development. [As an aside, the famous artist Jan Brett illustrated a children's book depicting the Ukrainian Folk Tale 'The Mitten'. She made the mitten knitted, one of many inaccuracies in her drawings. I really wish she had done more research, Much of what she drew in that book is Scandinavian instead of Ukrainian. Just petting one of my peeves here.] There is a part sewn to fit the foot, and another piece sewn on to form the leg of the sock, the edge of which is embroidered. The top is wrapped around the lower leg, and held in place by straps attached to the footwear, a type of moccasin which are called Postoly. Here are some closeups of kapchuri and postoly.

I think i will need to stop this posting here. I will continue in the next posting talking about the outer wear,
Kyptar and Serdak, and headgear.
Here is a photo of the man's costume from the town of Kosmach. Embroidered shirt, worn outside the pants, sash or wide leather belt, called the cheres, linen or woolen, according to season, pants tucked into the kapchuri, the embroidery down the side of the pants is most unusual and one of the distinct characteristics of this town. Postoly on the feet. a heavily decorated round black felt hat on the head, walking stick in the shape of a little axe, called the topirets. Sheepskin vest, called the Kyptar or Keptar.

Again, thank you for reading my blog. 

I hope that i have impressed you with the beauty and creativity of ordinary people, and maybe inspired you to make something beautiful to use in your life.
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.
Roman K.

Source Material:
O. Nykorak, 'Hutsul'ska Vyshywka' [Hutsul Embroidery], published by Rodovid, 2010
O. Kratiuk et al, 'Kolomyjs'kyj Muzej Narodnoho Mystetstva Hutsulshchyny' [Kolomyja Museum of the Folk Art of the Hutsul Region] Kyjiw, [Kiev] 1991
Evdokia Sorokhaniuk, 'Nyzynka, Embroidery of the Hutsuls'. Pennsauken N.J. 2002
Oleksander Pezhanskyj, 'Nostalgia', Lviw, 1992
N. Kyjanytsia et al, 'The Ukr. SSR State Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art' Kyjiw [Kiev], 1983
P. Odarchenko et al, 'Ukrainian Folk Costume', Toronto, 1992
V. Bilozub et al. 'Ukrainian Folk Art - Weaving and Embroidery', Kiev 1960
V. Kubijocych, 'Encyclopedia of Ukraine', Toronto, 1988

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chuvash Groom's Kerchief, Sulak


Hello all, today i am going to talk about a ceremonial item from Chuvash culture, called Keru Tutri or Sulak. This is a rectangular piece of cloth, embroidered around the edges, with two or four square designs embroidered in the inner corners, and is worn by men on their wedding day folded across the shoulders, as we can see on the two men above, each of which is ready for his wedding.
As far as i can tell, these are always rectangular, but are folded along the diagonal before being worn, thus the two corners do not hang in the same place. Why this should be so, i do not know, and i suspect if i were to ask a Chuvash, i would get an answer something like 'because that's how it's done'. The fringe seems to be almost obligatory, but it is possible that the fringeless examples i have seen are simply old enough to have lost their fringe.
Here is a modern example embroidered by Evgenia Zhacheva.

 As is typical of the Volga region, the main color is red, embroidered within black outlines with hooks, and with small admixtures of blue, green, and yellow. Often red ribbon, preferably silk, is appliqued around the outer and/or inner edges. Slant stitch is not used on these items, only two sided stitches are used, as both sides are intended to be seen, in this example, Holbein stitch and two sided satin stitch. Other stitches are also used.

The design is often asymmetrical, as in this example.

If you look closely at the man on the right above, you will see that the two inner corners that can be seen each have a different design. This is another source of asymmetry. It is also common that two different designs are used to embroider the edges, as in this example.

You will notice the same color palette. This item was, of course, embroidered by the bride as part of her trousseau. In all traditional cultures in Europe and many elsewhere, a girl started her trousseau as soon as she could hold a needle. Men and women both worked very hard, but textile production was mostly the domain of women, who raised the flax, processed it, spun it into thread, wove it on the loom, sewed it into garments and house linens, dyed the thread and embroidered these articles. To show her competence at this very important part of the self sufficient rural life, she made her own clothes, embroidered sheets, pillow cases, towels, table linens, and often a special shirt for her groom. This is one extra example of an item that she made. The bride also had a veil that she holds over her head during the wedding, which is much larger. You can see a photo of one in my posting on Chuvash Costume.

I have included some more examples of the Sulak in the photos following. Some are old pieces in which the silk ribbon is very worn.


These two are folded to show the two sided designs.
The two following pieces are based on the tradition of the Sulak. The first is a table scarf, and the second is a memorial of a teacher prepared by students.

I hope that these inspire you to go and create something, perhaps a piece of beauty for your home or perhaps a new tradition for your life.

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.
Roman K.

Source Material:

Tatyana Razina et al, 'Folk Art in the Soviet Union', Leningrad, 1990
E. Medzhitova et al, 'Chavash Khalakh Iskusstvi, [Chuvash Folk Art]', Cheboksary, 1981
Evgenia Zhacheva, 'Chavash Terri, [Chuvash Embroidery]', Cheboksary, 2006
Vasilij Nikolaev, 'Chavash Tume Avallakhran Paianlakha, [The Chuvash Costume from Ancient to Modern Times]', Cheboksary, 2002

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Costume of the Anatri Chuvash

Hello all. Today we are going to cover the folk costume of the Anatri Chuvash. The Chuvash live in the mid-Volga region, like the various peoples we have been covering. They live in the Chuvash republic, which is indicated in dark blue on the map above, south of the Mari, shown in red, north of the Mordvin Republic, shown in brown, and west of Tatarstan, shown in bright green. In fact, they also live scattered over a wide area south and east of the Chuvash Republic as well, as shown by the following map.
In these other areas, they live in enclaves surrounded by Tatars, Bashkir, Moksha and Russians. The capitol of the Chuvash Republic is Cheboksary, and this is their flag.
The Chuvash, unlike the other Volga peoples we have so far addressed, are a Turkic People, but one that has been seperated from the other Turkic peoples for a very long time. Their language occupies a separate branch from all other extant Turkic languages, and their culture and folk art makes it clear that they have been in close contact with the Finnic Peoples of the Volga for a long time as well. The costume we will address today is that of the lowland, or Anatri Chuvash, who live in the southeastern part of the Chuvash Republic, as well as some of the scattered areas shown in the map. Here is the costume of a couple of young unmarried Anatri Chuvash.

As you can see, the girl's costume is based on the chemise, as we would expect, with the addition of an apron, ornaments hanging from the sash, neck and shoulder, and a helmet shaped headdress covered in beads and coins, which is called a tukhya, which sometimes has a point on top. This seems to be a very ancient Turkic custom, the headdress for girls in Turkmenistan is similar, and the Kazakh and Kirghiz equivalent seem to be derived from the same.This may be connected with the very old Turkic legend of the Princess Gulaim and her fourty maiden warriors, known as the Kirk Kiz. [Sounds like a Disney Movie waiting to be made.]
Here is another view of a tukhya, showing more closely the decorative coins and jewelry.
You will notice that the girl's chemise is ornamented with minimal embroidery, but has applique of red ribbon And if you look closely at this photo, you will notice that the design on the chest is asymmetrical, which is often the case for the Chuvash girl's costume, and very unusual elsewhere.  Here is an old photo of some Chuvash children in everyday clothes, notice the distinctly asymmetrical design on the chemise of the girl on the left.
And here is a modern example, this is the work of the well known embroiderer, Evgenia Zhacheva. This girl is holding some of the embroidery for which the Chuvash are famous.

In contrast, the woman's chemise is embroidered, as in this example drawn by Max Tilke from a museum specimen in Germany. You will notice the rosettes embroidered over the breasts, these are very typical, only found on the chemises of married women, and are known as keske.
As you can see, the tunic is of the typical cut of the region. The keske are very famous, and were often cut out of chemises and exhibited in Russian and other museums. Here i will pet one of my peeves, that the collectors would cut right next to the embroidery, so that the placement was lost, and the cloth ravels.
[unprintable expletive] Here is an example of such collected keske, of which the designs were many, as you can see.

Here is another example of the woman's chemise worn alone, the keske being very visible.
And here is an example of a woman in full dress, with apron and the headcloth known as the surpan wrapped around the head over an embroidered headpiece called the masmak. You will also notice that she is wearing footcloths and birchbark shoes over them. This was worn by those who could not afford boots.
Here is an example of an embroidered apron, although, as you can see from the above photos, sometimes the apron was made of cloth with woven designs.

Another type of woman's headress was more widespread and is known as the khushpu. This takes many shapes, and may look similar to the tukhya, but is always open on top, and has a long piece which hangs down the back. It is worn over the surpan, which is wrapped around the head, with both ends hanging in back. Here are front and back views of a full woman's costume.

You will also notice the beaded, embroidered and coin covered ornaments hanging from the neck and the sash, as is so typical  of this region.
The Mens costume,  as for the other peoples in the mid Volga region, consists of a shirt, linen or woolen pants, a woven sash, and footwear, as shown in the photos above and here
You will notice that the shirt opens on the right side, opposite that of the Russians, and the same as the old Persian shirts, although shirts that open in the center are also known. Here is a schematic drawn by Max Tilke of a shirt, closeup view of the embroidery, as well as part of a keske. This was also drawn from a museum specimen in Germany.
On special or ceremonial occasions, men would wear a caftan over the shirt, which was highly embroidered, and had designs made by applique of red ribbon, as in the following example. He is a accompanied by a girl in full costume holding a bridal veil over her head.

Thank you once more for visiting my blog, this will conclude the series on the Volga peoples. The Tatars and Bashkir also live in this area, but their costumes are derived from central Asia, as they arrived in the region much later, although they undoubtedly mixed with the indigenous people who lived there previously.

I am always open to suggestions as far as subjects to research, or commissions to make or embroider folk costume pieces or other items.
Take these traditions and create from them, do not let them be forgotten.

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.
Roman K.

Source Material:
V. Nikolaev et al 'Chuvash Tume Avallakhran Payanlakha' [The Chuvash Costume from Ancient to Modern Times] Cheboksary, 2002
Evgenia Zhacheva, 'Chuvash Terri' [Chuvash Embroidery], Cheboksary, 2006
E. Medzhitova et al. 'Chuvash Khalakh Iskusstva' [Chuvash Folk Art], Cheboksary, 1981
Max Tilke, 'East European Costumes' London, 1926
N. Kalashnikova et al,  'National Costumes of the Soviet Peoples' Moscow, 1990
T. Razina et al, 'Folk Art in the Soviet Union',  Leningrad, 1990
L. Molotova et al, 'Folk Art of the Russian Federation', Leningrad, 1981

Sunday, February 6, 2011

South Khanty Embroidery, Art of an extinct people

Hello All, I would like to talk today about a type of costume that has disappeared. Of course, most of what we call folk costumes are no longer in daily use, but are still brought out for special occasions, or to go to church, or for weddings. And many are preserved by societies created for the task. Today I will be speaking of the embroidery and costume tradition of the southern Khanty. On the map, the Khanty are represented by the brownish hatching on the right side, east of the Urals, which officially puts them in Asia. You will notice a dotted area on the map that sort of approximates the territory of this people together with the Mansi, who are shown in light green. This area is known as the Khanty-Mansisk National District, and this is their flag. In old documents the Khanty were known as the Ostyak and the Mansi were known as the Vogul.

These two nations form the Ugric Branch of the Uralic Languages, together with Hungarian. They split off from the rest quite a long time ago, and then at some later time, the Magyar, or Hungarian people traveled to Europe. The Hungarians have a legend of following a mystic white stag to their current homeland.

Here is one example of the embroidery tradition I will be talking about today. The Khanty, like many tribal peoples, are made up of various separate groups with widely divergent dialects and customs. Often outsiders who study them find it obvious that they form a collective whole, but the people themselves often identify only with th eir own tribal group. This is a woman's chemise of the Southern Khanty. This is a group which has today become completely assimilated by Russian settlers. Luckily, there were several people from Finland, Hungary, Germany and other places who traveled to this and other  regions in the 19th century and collected many examples of the local artwork. So we have a record of the artistry of this people.
The northern branches of the Khanty still exist, and do wonderful handwork, but theirs is of a different kind.
I will deal with that in a future posting. Here are a couple more examples of chemises that were collected and are now found in museum collections in the west.

This one is exhibited in the State Museum of Ethnography in St. Petersburg, and gives some idea of how they were worn, with a kerchief on the head, and a beaded decoration around the neck. Notes that we have from the people who collected these items say that these people embroidered many things that they used; mens shirts and pants, kerchiefs, and other items. Here is a kerchief that was collected.

As well as a closeup of one of the beaded necklaces that were worn. These beaded necklaces are still made an worn by the northern Khanty as well. In fact, beadwork is very widespread throughout this entire region.
Here is a picture of some beaded moccasins and patterned knitted socks also from this area.

If we take a close look at the embroidery, we see three main techniques. The first is the one we have already encountered with the Volga peoples. Outline stitch used to define design areas and introduce hooks, which is then filled in with red and blue stitching. In this case, not slant stitch, but one-sided satin stitch, as can be seen in this closeup of one of the hems of the chemises shown above.
The back of the stitching is clearly visible. Here is a closeup of another piece of embroidery. You will notice that the predominant motif is pairs of birds facing each other. Oddly enough, this is still one of the most common motifs in Hungarian embroidery, even though they do not use this technique.

 The other two techniques used were outline stitch used by itself, mostly in red and blue. and counted satin stitch, sometimes called brick stitch. The Hungarians, feeling a kinship with the other Ugric peoples have taken an interest also in their fork culture and i have found some of these designs charted in Hungarian books.
Here are some of the designs which i have taken from Hungarian sources. You will notice the use of the swastika, which is a very ancient symbol, used all over the world. I personally think we need to redeem this motif, and not let the actions of one recent group of people condemn a very ancient and beautiful symbol.

As you can see above, the most impressive chemises, which were woven from nettlecloth, were decorated around the front opening, down the sleeves, around the hem, and all the way down the front. Not all embroiderers were so ambitious, as you can see by this old photo.
I would like very much to find out what the mens shirts looked like and how they were embroidered, because i would like to make one for myself.
In fact I encourage all of you to take these designs and use them, make table scarves or runners, keep these beautiful designs alive.
Just before i was posting this blog, i found an entry online that shows some of these embroideries being made at a handicraft center in Khanty-Mansisk City. Here are a couple of photographs from that website. It is gratifying to see this work being done.

In this photograph you can see some chemises of the type we were discussing, along with a mens shirt cut in the Russian style but embroidered in the Khanty style. the chemise in the middle with the shoulder embroidery is completely Russian in style.
You can see these photos, as well as examples of North Khanty work, and other handwork which is pure Russian in style at this website.

There are also two other websites run by Uralic groups that give more information and closeups of these people and this type of embroidery:

Thank you for reading, as always, and i hope this posting inspires you to go out and make something beautiful.
I would be glad to provide more charted designs upon request. 

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.
Roman K.

Source Material:
Natalia Kalashnikova 'National Costumes of the Soviet Peoples', Moscow, 1990
Mary Gostelow, 'The Complete International Book of Embroidery', New York, 1977
Ildiko Lehtinen, 'The Finno-Ugric Collections at the National Museum of Finland', no year
Zsigmund Batky, 'Osztyak Himzesek' [Ostyak Folk Embroidery], Budapest, 1921
Tatyana Razina, 'Folk Art in the Soviet Union', Leningrad, 1990
L. Molotova et al, 'Folk Art in the Russian Federation', Leningrad, 1981
Gyorgyi Lengyel, 'Keresztszemes Kezimunkak', Budapest, 1981
Gyorgyi Lengyel, 'Nagyaink Oroksege' Budapest, 1986