My mom and I just returned from a trip of a lifetime. We spent two weeks in Austria visiting cousins that we haven't seen in a long time. The last time I visited this small corner of the world was 1997. My mom has been there more recently; but we think her last trip was in 2004. We've been planning this trip for 2 or 3 years and this year the time was finally right.
Over the next few days I will be posting pictures and stories from our trip; very little will be related to needlework. Since most of my followers are needlework enthusiasts though, I thought I would start with a needlework post!
My mother's father and mother immigrated to the USA in 1904 and 1906 respectively. Both came from tiny villages which today are located in the province of Burgenland in Austria. At the time they immigrated to the United States, both of these villages were in Hungary and this area was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. My grandfather was born and lived in Wallern, but his father and an uncle originally lived in a tiny Hungarian village called Hövej (located near Kapuvar). The two brothers relocated to Wallern in about 1878.
I have always wanted to visit Hövej; my mother had the opportunity to visit it on two previous trips. Knowing that it was important to me, my cousin took us there our second day in Austria. Here I am clutching the sign as we entered the village!
Here's a snapshot of the main road that runs through Hövej; you can see that it is a tiny little village! Not much more than a few houses and a church! According to a Hungarian website, only about 330 people live in this village.
We wanted to visit the "embroidery ladies" of Hövej. Twice before when my mother visited our cousins, they brought her to Hövej to buy embroidered doilies and tablecloths. This embroidery is not typical of other Hungarian embroidery. Hungarian embroidery is normally very colorful, whereas the Hövej embroidery is white on white.
More information on this embroidery can be found here. Here is an excerpt from this website: "The name of the village became world-famous by the embroidery of Hövej. In 1962, on the Expo of Brussels, the lace was awarded with a golden medal. This type of embroidery became well known in the 19th century, at around 1860. The embroidery that is full of holes is made on flimsy material, such as batiste or chiffon. The holes on the embroidery of Hövej are filled up with different patterned knitting. This is called spider-stitch. Among the needle works there were shirts, aprons, handkerchiefs, kerchiefs, bed-covers, blouses, collars, tablecloths, wardrobe-linings, cushions, priestly garbs, surplices, altar-clothes. We can find different kinds of tablecloths: small, big, table runner, oval and round linings."
I don't know how you would find these ladies without a connection of some sort. One of my mother's cousins used to purchase this embroidery for the church in Tadten (altar cloths, etc.) She knows where two of the ladies live in Hövej. The challenge though -- the ladies only speak Hungarian, we only speak German and English! We tried to find a woman that in earlier years had helped with translating (we later found out that she had recently died.) One of the Hungarian ladies made a phone call and soon thereafter a lovely 14 year old girl appeared. She was on vacation visiting her grandmother and she was able to speak Hungarian, German, and English!
Before bringing out their wares, one of the ladies showed me a calendar that had been created for 2011 with pictures of the embroidery. Believe me, if I could have gotten my hands on one of these calendars, I would have (we tried!) I took a picture of the cover of the calendar.
Then the two ladies started showing us what they had available for purchase:
"I've got my money ready, now how many of these can I afford to buy?"
We decided what we were going to purchase and exchanged money. I wish I could have brought it all home with me! The doilies were fairly expensive; the US dollar is not very strong against the Euro right now. Cost didn't matter though; these were truly unique pieces of art!
Here is one of the ladies displaying a piece of her art:
Both ladies displaying their art:
This piece was framed:
Finally, one of the ladies showed me one of her WIPs (work in progress) (I wish I had taken a better photo!):
If I could learn Hungarian, I think these ladies would be willing to teach me how to do this! (Everyone laughed at that - the Hungarian language is one of the most difficult languages to learn!)
I know this has been a long post, but hey it's my blog and this is fascinating stuff! Here are my purchases along with some closeups for you to see the various medallions that are somehow inserted in the holes.
This final doily was actually a gift from Anna (one of our cousins) and not a purchase. I also received a tablecloth from her and I will try to photograph it for a future post.
After visiting with the embroidery ladies we visited the cemetary in Hövej and then headed back to Austria. What a fabulous afternoon we had!