Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Embroidery of Hövej

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!

21 comments:

Lee said...

Stunning work!

The Inspired Stitcher said...

Oh this is just wonderful! I can't wait to hear more about your trip. Oh to have been a mouse in your pocket!!!

Mama Joan said...

What great fun and neat buys. Can't wait to see them in person and talk to you. Hope you are settling in after you long trip. Hope to see you soon.

Edgar said...

What a super post - I could have read on and on....!!! Love the white work - it is just lovely!! Awaiting your next post with vigor.....

Kathy said...

Oh my their work is just stunning. And your trip sounds wonderful.

JillMN said...

OMG Cathy, those are gorgeous! The first one, with the triangular corners is to die for. Sounds like you had a great trip. Hope to see you soon.

Cindy said...

beautiful and what a wonderful story to go with.

BrendaS said...

Beautiful work! What a great trip to do with your Mom. Can't wait to hear more about it in your next post:))

Laurie in Iowa said...

Gorgeous needlework. Looking forward to reading more about your trip.

katica said...

those are absolutely breathtaking! Oh to have gone with you, I could have helped with the translation, as I speak Hungarian! I didn't even know about this little town and have now marked it for future reference for when we go again! I would love some more info on the ladies you met with!

Karen said...

The doilies are absolutely breath-taking! I look forward to reading more about your trip.

pj said...

Oh Cathy, so glad you had a good trip and are home safe. That embroidery work is beautiful! I would have wanted it all too but you got some great pieces. Ready for chapter two of your trip! Love the pic of you...precious smile! pam in iowa

Ginny said...

This has to be some of the most beautiful needlework that I've seen. How special that you were able to meet the ladies that created it!

Shahida shimul said...

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Lynn said...

These are gorgeous works Cathy!! Just stunning! I certainly hope that they have passed on their skills to some of the younger generation.

Margaret said...

Wow, what a wonderful trip to take! And those pieces you bought -- gorgeous! How exquisite! It must have been wonderful to be able to talk to those ladies and see - and buy -- their work!

Vonna said...

I have read both of your posts so far about your trip and I am just amazed at these gorgeous doilies that these lovely ladies made and the food on your other post...looks just divine! I'd love to have a hunk of that bread and slathering of butter like your cousin had ;)

woolwoman said...

WOW Cathy - that white on white native needlework is stunning. How sad that this local treasure is probably dying out. I have a feeling that the young women are more interested in gadgets and cell phones than sitting and learning this type of needlework. Loved reading your vacation tales - hope to hear more about the trip. Melody

Katrina said...

Absolutely gorgeous!!!

Becky K in OK said...

Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your visit. All your photo posts are wonderful too.

Bekca said...

Wow, these embroidered pieces are fantastic. I'm so glad you got to visit a place you feel such a connection with. Thank you for sharing.