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The Quilted and the Non-Quilted Feast

The first day of our tour we spent sightseeing in Moscow, and in the afternoon we ended up inside the Novospassky Monastery, where a delicious meal had been prepared for our international group.

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We were to dine in one of the towers that sit on every corner of the wall surrounding the monastery.

The entrance was through a low door in the inside wall, up some long and narrow steps to the gallery, and again ducking through low doors and into the tower room.

It was a lovely sight: tables already set with lots of delicious food, old cupboards against the walls holding beautiful pots and crockery, traditional costumes on display, along with various crafted items, – and everything lit only by candles and the natural light coming through the small windows, filtered through blue and white glass.

Many old and newer samovars were displayed around the room and on the steps to the upper room:

We were told that we were going to have a traditional Russian meal, – as in a feast, – and our guide inside the monastery described each course as they were served: what they were, a little about tradition and production, how they should be eaten, etc.

I think there were more than ten different courses, – I lost count somewhere during the meal, – and all of it was delicious; the pumpkin soup, chicken and mushroom pie, pancakes with caviar, fish, pork, cucumber rolls and everything else.

We had sweetened mint flavoured juice to drink, – very good after a long and warm day out in the streets. Then there was cake and desserts along with hot tea made from lots of different sour fruits and berries, and sweetened with comb honey.

What a treat!


 

A week later we went into another monastery, in Suzdal, and inside one of the churches there, we laid eyes on another feast.

22 year old Xenia Shlyakova had single-handedly provided a full table of yummy food, – all made from fabric and set onto a large, handmade, table cloth.

There were all kinds of food:  fish with both red and black caviar, mushrooms, and chicken…..

……. pelmeni, cucumbers, roasted pig with vegetables, goose and apples, prawns with lemon and strands of dill……

….. breads in a basket with an embroidered napkin, and decorated bread or cake.

Bearing in mind the topic of the festival was Love, and Wedding, this would probably be the kind of decorated bread made especially for weddings. Note the poppy seeds on the braided loaf, – they are all tiny french knots.

Of course there were desserts too, – fruit, berries, cake, and cookies.

No feast is complete without something to drink.  In the bottle there is moonshine, and my guess is tea in the teapots and the samovar.

I wondered a bit about the boot on the top of the samovar, but Mr. Google informs me that it is used instead of a bellow to fan the fire inside the samovar.

And then the tea is sweetened with comb honey, – everything so neatly made, down to the last detail.

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One the artist’s beautiful quilts was overlooking the table.

 

Both feasts were amazing experiences, and even though the last one was for the eyes only, it is remembered just as well as the one which we could also taste and smell.

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

 

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Dolls, – Tradition and Art

 

Dolls were a prominent part of the Quilt Festival in Suzdal. There was a separate competition category for dolls, and there were also several doll making classes during the week.

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The dolls exhibition and classes took place in the library building, an interesting sight in itself.

I loved the two quilts fitted into the arcs in the upstairs room. The large angel wings, put together from lots of individual wings made by children, was a popular selfie spot.

 

Old doll making traditions seem to have survived and are very much alive and kicking in this country, – maybe because dolls were not seen only as toys for little children, but were also part of traditions connected with adult life. Linda Walsh has an interesting article on her blog about Russian folk art dolls and their use.

According to tradition, rag dolls should be without facial features so that evil spirits would not mistakenly recognize them as humans and inhabit the dolls, – thus it would be safe for little children to play with. This old belief implies that dolls at some time must have been regarded as something more than just the sum of the fabric scraps they were made of.

There were a few faceless dolls in the exhibition, but most had facial features of some kind.

Anyway, regardless of face or not, the dolls were highly individual creations, – not two of them were alike.

The amount of work and attention to details were impressive.

People could enter works related to the terms “Urban Fashionista”, and also “Birds”, “Fish”, “Bears”, and “Bunnies”. Hence, there was a collection of imaginative, stuffed, animals, and, not surprising perhaps, – also cats.

 

“Angels Everywhere” was another subcategory of the dolls competition. And there were lots of angels and angel wings in many variations. One could also see the main theme for the festival, “Love”, reflected in many of the creations.

And even more angels:

The artist Nata Shulepina had created a special project called “Pray for me”:

Svetlana Minina taught classes on doll making at the festival. What she can express through a plain piece of cloth is truly amazing. Her small sculptures are really works of art.

I also loved the bird-woman sculptures, also made by Nata Shulepina  .   According to Wikipedia, these are mythical creatures, some telling the future, and some akin to the Greek sirens.

Not all dolls were as esoteric as the ones above, though. Some were engaged in down-to-earth, practical, activities:

Dolls could also be seen in other venues.  In the vendors’ area there were two life size dolls:

I loved the doll with three pairs of arms and hands. That could sure come in handy on many occasions.

Linda Walsh writes in her article about dolls with many arms:

“Ten-handed doll is a ceremonial multihanded doll. This doll was a common gift for weddings or for young hostess wishing everything to be well. It was considered the doll to help a woman to do all the housework , needlework, weaving, sewing, embroidery, knitting. The doll was made of bast fiber or straw. The doll can be put in the place, where woman spends her time working.”

The tradition of giving dolls as gifts with accompanying good wishes, has certainly not been abandoned. I have received such gifts on previous visits to Russia, and again on this trip.

This lovely doll was thrust into my hands by a fellow quilter on the opening night of the festival. Just like that, for no reason I can think of, other than that we had just been introduced. She is an amazing quilt artist, and the doll now sits right next to my sewing machine.

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I bought this colourful, small, mat from a lady in a stall on one of the first days. On our last day we ran into each other at the Apple Festival inside one of the monasteries, and she gave me this small doll. We had no language in common other than body and facial expressions, but I understood this was meant for good luck.

According to this site, it seems this kind of doll is for wishing good health to the receiver.

Thank you! 🙂

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

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Skarvsöm in Sweden and Yakutia

When visiting quilty events in foreign places, especially abroad, I hope, and expect, to see something different, – something we do not have at home, something new and exciting, – even exotic perhaps. But I also notice things that are familiar and similar to things I have seen before. Some times I know right away what the object reminds me of, and at other times it is just a feeling that I have seen it before, but cannot quite pinpoint what, where or when.

When walking the Quilted Field in Suzdal I came across a couple of quilts made in a technique I thought looked familiar. When studying the photos after I got home, I recognized the sewing technique as “Skarvsöm”.

I remembered reading about this technique many years ago in “Norsk Quilteblad”, the newsletter of the Norwegian Quilter’s Association. It was then described as a traditional patchwork technique in Sweden, well documented as far back as the 1700s, and mainly used for ceremonial cushions for weddings.

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“Skarvsöm” is made with woolen fabric which is felted so it will not unravel. It is often traditional patterns formed with squares, rectangles and triangles, but in between each and every patch or design element, a narrow strip, most often in a contrasting colour, is inserted, like a passepoil or piping. When the seam is finished, the strip is cut even with the surface on the right side of the work.

Here and here are examples of how it is made, and in Sweden’s Digital Museum you can see many examples of old items made in this technique, so it  is well documented. Here is a blog post with a short article on the history of this kind of quilting in Sweden.

Åsa Wettre also dedicated a whole chapter to this technique in her book “Old Swedish Quilts”.

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Since I could see no names on the quilts above, I wondered at first if someone from Sweden had entered their work in the Quilted Field project, but dismissed this idea as I thought our Swedish travel companion, Anita Fors, would have mentioned it if this was the case. My curiosity aroused, I messaged the organizers and asked about the names of the quilt makers, and if this was a traditional quilting technique throughout Russia. Within a few hours I got to know that this is a traditional technique from Yakutia, and the two makers are Anna Zverova and Vera Vorfolomeeva.

The latter also made these two quilts hanging in the special exhibition of Best Quilts from Previous Quilt Shows:

I noticed she had used not only one, but three strips of fabric in the seams between the patches, all throughout the red/yellow/black quilt, and in a few places on the other quilt too.

Further study of my and my husband’s photos revealed that this technique was also used in some of the clothing and other gear presented at the Yakut wedding demonstration, like on this coat:

…. the mittens:

 

… and the saddle bags/carpets:

 

It has been interesting to observe and learn about all this, and as often happens, new information creates new questions and more curiosity, – in this case as to what could be the connection between the Swedish and Yakut traditions.

Given that the two geographical areas are almost half a world apart, it is probably pure coincidence, – but I cannot help but wonder.

After studying all this, and also having long online conversations about the subject with our travel companion Anita, I got a sudden urge to try my hand at “skarvsöm”.

Just take a look at the beauty here.

 

Edited:

This kind of sewing is called “kybyty” in Russia. Here is a You-tube-video where Vera Vorfolomeeva shows how to do it.

Here is also a stunning picture of the StBasil cathedral in Moscow that she has made in this technique.

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

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The Yakut Wedding

As I said in my two previous posts here and here, there was a lot going on on the day of the Quilted Field.

One of the posts on the entertainment program, was a demonstration of Yakut wedding customs, especially on how to dress the bride.

 

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It all started with a small procession of the participants entering the field and the stage. First came the groom..

…then various family members and a shaman (…I think..).

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One person was at the microphone explaining what was happening, but only in Russian. We could guess quite a lot from what we saw happening on stage, but we probably missed out on a lot of interesting details.

The bride came on stage already with the pink dress on, but there was a lot more to be added, both clothes, jewellery, belt, handbag, hat and mittens, – all of this in beautifully made traditional style clothing.

Everything was done with slow, ceremonial movements while some haunting songs, reminiscent of sami joik, but not quite, were played in the background, occasionally interrupted by the storyteller explaining something.

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When the bride was ready, the groom came and led her to the other side of the stage, both holding on to opposite ends of what looked like a big tassel.

Afterwards there was some kind of ceremony, and then some serious gift giving, – everything in slow motion:

 

In the end they danced some sort of line dance, – again with very slow motions and sombre faces, – very dignified. No hoopla or laughter.

 

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No wedding is without food and drink, of course, and they had brought some of their traditional foods and drink on to the stage. After the ceremony and dancing, they came around and offered the audience tastes of both food and drink, served in carved wooden vessels.

The food was waffles and some small pancakes, – very good, – and the drink was white and had a sour-ish taste. After reading up on Yakut wedding traditions on the web, we think that it must have been fermented mare’s milk. Nobody got sick or died as far as we know,  😉 even though everyone drank from the same cup.

This also gave us a chance of a closer glimpse of their wonderful attire, – all beautifully made with lots of details to admire. I should have liked to examine them all more closely and in person, but the photos will have to do. There was a lot of fur, as would be expected on traditional clothing from the coldest place on earth, but there was also woolen fabric and what looked like silk brocade on some of the coats. There was also lots of silver jewellery, some of which reminded me of the designs from Juhl’s Silver Gallery in Kautokeino, who has got their inspiration from the tundra and the people living there.

Yakutia, or the Sakha republic as it is also called, is the largest republic in Russia, and is almost as far east and north as you can come in that country. This group had travelled 8-9 hours by plane to get to the festival, – all inland, which is telling of just how large this country is.

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The organizers had better cameras than mine, so the photos on their website have some more close ups and details from this event.

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Here is a Youtube video of a Dressing-the-bride ceremony at a big event in 2012.

(It stops rather abruptly, before they are quite finished, I think.)

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In my next post, we will take a closer look at some of their quilts.

🙂

Eldrid

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The International Quilt Festival of Suzdal, Russia

This August I travelled to the International Quilt Festival in Suzdal, Russia. It was a 10 day trip, with 8 of them spent at the Quilt Festival and in the immediate neighbourhood of Suzdal, a small town about 2 hours east of Moscow.

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I have been wanting to visit a Russian quilt event for a while, as I know there are several, and when I saw pictures similar to this one posted on the internet last year, I decided that this was where I wanted to go.

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Suzdal is a very old town. It was founded nearly 1000 years ago, and for a while it was the capital of a principality while Moscow was still merely a small outpost.

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The Suzdal Kremlin (photo above) is way older than the more famous one in Moscow, and is on Unesco’s world heritage list, along with one of the monasteries in Suzdal.

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The capital was moved, but over the centuries,  Suzdal became a religious centre with several monasteries and lots of churches. During the Soviet time, industrialization passed Suzdal by, and much of the old architechture was preserved. When the people realized what a gem they were sitting on, laws were passed to prevent highrise buildings in or near the town centre. More than 300 buildings in town are now listed or protected, including 5 monasteries and more than 30 churches. Suzdal is now a major tourist attraction on the so called Golden Ring, and more than a million tourists visit every year.kyrkjer

This also means that the place is well equipped with reasonably good hotels and restaurants, so the town, with a little less than 10 000 inhabitants, is capable of hosting quite large events.

The travel agency connected with the quilt festival, which organized the tour, had put together a varied and interesting program, which, in addition to the quilt festival events, also included a trip to a local farm and several guided tours of the town and area.

Since there were so many interesting things to do, and to look at, that were not necessarily quilt related, I brought along two family members who are not quilters, and we all enjoyed ourselves very much.

 

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The quilty events like exhibitions and classes were spread out on 8-10 locations throughout the town; – in hotels, churches, culture house, library, and even inside one of the monasteries. Exhibitions were open every day for more than a week.

The quilt shops were located in one of the hotels on the outskirts of town, along with the show administration and most of the classes. Our hotel was in the very centre of town, right next to the town square where much of the entertainment was going on, and with short walks to most of the exhibitions and attractions, and to a variety of good restaurants.

 

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Some events were one day dos, like the Quilted Field event held in the grounds of the Museum of Wooden Architecture.

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People sew quilts of the same size, 1 x 1 meters with ribbons attached to all four corners. The quilts are then laid out on the grass in a checkerboard pattern, and tied together at the corners.

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The audience can then walk, run, dance, or skip across the Quilted Field, enjoying all the different colours and motifs, and of course take lots of photos. People love to pose with their quilt, or with their family and friends, and photograph each other in the field.

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In addition to the quilted field, there were also quilts hung on clothes lines and on the walls of the old houses around the area.

 

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There were also lots of stalls selling food and various crafts.

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In addition to all this, the organizers also put on a more than 4 hour long show with lots of song and dance, traditional wedding processions and games, in which both young and old took part.

The theme of this years quilt festival was “Love”, and on this day the focus was on courtship and weddings. There was a special competition category of wedding quilts, and these quilts were hung around the area, and the winners were announced at the end of the day.

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People had dressed up in traditional wedding dress, and a procession of wedding guests following the couple marked the start of the show program.  Later the guests mingled with the audience, and it was interesting to study the various costumes they were wearing.

Quilters also wore their home made dresses, and we recognized a few of them from the fashion show in the town square on the previous day, – more on that in a later post.

On stage a folk dance group sang and danced to traditional folk tunes. They were very good, and wore a variety of wonderful costumes, – the sort quilters would love to take a closer look at.

I think they performed for more than an hour, and still I was sorry to see them go.

 

The audience were invited to learn traditional wedding dances in front of the stage. One couple led the dance, one lady had a microphone and explained the moves over the loudspeakers. Of course, we did not understand the words, which were in Russian, but we understood the moves and steps that were shown. They started out with the polonaise, which we also did at our daughter’s wedding 10 years ago, so it was really very similar to our customs at home.

A small play was performed, again all words in Russian, but you could guess a lot from the mimics and tone of voice. My guess is that this was about a young girl who wanted to be a fine lady in town, and turned up her nose at the simpler farm girl who wished to stay put. However, the farm girl got the eligible young man in the end, but luckily an officer also came to the rescue of the “fine” girl, so all was well in the end.

I loved their costumes.

 

The whole thing was very informal. You could sit and watch all the time, or get up and walk around looking at the quilts, participate in the dancing and games, go have a snack at one of the stalls, or sit on the grass enjoying your packed lunch. There were not only quilters present, but families out for a Sunday afternoon walk, officially invited guests, and also busloads of tourists visiting the museum as part of their tours. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves very much.

 

This is already getting too long. I will have to make several new posts to show you more of the quilts, and of other (hopefully) interesting stuff.

🙂

Eldrid

 

 

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Silversea

It is time for the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival again. Since I am working on commissions which can not be published yet, I will enter an older quilt into the festival this time.

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This wall hanging was made in 2004, and is one of a series of quilts I made using old photos taken on and around the island where I live.

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The photo I used here, was taken sometime in the 1920ies during the cod fishing season, which is usually in February till April. It is probably early in the season since there is still snow.

The photo is taken on the fjord, which we have a good view of from our house. As you can see, there are lots of small boats on the fjord, each one hoping to get their share of the valuables still swimming deep down underneath, – hence the title I assigned to this piece: “Our Share of the Silver”.

Some women owned their own boats and gear, and traditionally they occupied the innermost part of the fjord, which was then called “Kjerringhavet”, – meaning “The Women’s Sea”

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I manipulated the photo so that there are a lot more boats with women in them.

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Then I designed some blocks, which would look like a swirling school of fish when put together, and placed the photo in the middle. I also turned the photo blue to better blend in with the fabrics I planned to use.

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I thought it was a bit tame with only the blue colours, so I added some sunshine, – which I am also sure these women had in their lives from time to time.

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The photo was printed onto cotton fabric, and the rest of the quilt has both cotton and silk fabrics in it. The quilting lines follow the movement in the blocks surrounding the photo.

The quilt was eventually bought by an organization who then donated it to the old people’s home in our neighbouring village Kalvåg, where it now hangs.

This is entered in the Art quilt category of the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival. Be sure to go over there and have a look at all the beautiful works that have been posted, and also make sure you visit the other categories while you are at it. You can also vote for your favourite of each category from May 21st to May 29th.

This is my 13th time participating in the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival. My previous entries can be found here:

Spring 2009

Autumn 2009

Spring 2010

Autumn 2010

Spring 2011

Autumn 2011

Spring 2012

Autumn 2012

Spring 2013

Autumn 2013

Spring 2014

Autumn 2014

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

Ukrainian Folk Costumes II

We have just celebrated the 200 year anniversary of our Constitution on 17th May, and as usual on the National Day, everybody who own a national costume, wore it to the festivities.

While I was enjoying myself looking at different dresses with a myriad of interesting details, I was reminded of the rest of the photos of the Ukrainian costumes that have been sitting in my computer for some time, waiting to make their way into this post.

Well, here they are at last.

The first one here is a costume from the  Transcarpathian flatlands. We are still in the era of the sewing machine, as can be seen on the vest. It has colourful ruffles made from a very thin fabric, which have frayed a bit over time. The shirt has fantastic smocking and embroideries on the cuffs. The photo of the skirt is sadly out of focus, but shows the multiple colours of the ruffle border.

I have been studying the belt, but cannot quite decide on the construction technique. I have been wondering if it might be made in the old braiding technique called “sprang”, but I am not sure. Maybe someone reading this will know. As I wrote in the first post, there was no information on the individual costumes other than the region they came from.

The costume above comes from the Lemko area. Again, the amount of detailed work is amazing. I like the dense embroidery of the head dress, which is also repeated on the cuffs, and I love the large pearl collar, – and not just because quilters are partial to hexagons.

When studying the embroidery on the skirt, you will notice that each motif is perfectly aligned with the pressed folds of the skirt.

I wonder how many pearls would be used for a dress like this.

Then we move on to Bukovyna, and here they had costumes for both men and women on display. The one above is for males, and it looks like they were not averse to wearing flowery decorations embroidered in many colours, – including hot pink.

The detailed work done on leather is impressive, and I love the woven belt. Also, I was surprised to see that the bottom of the trousers has a border of drawn thread embroidery. They show very little wear, so these trousers  must have been for very best use.

Above is the female costume, which, as a whole, appears less colourful than the male counterpart. The most impressive parts are the sleeves, which look unusually long, by the way, – and all covered in embroidery in three very different patterns. The edging on the vest with alternating dark and light fur, must have taken quite some time to accomplish. The belt has a similar pattern and colours as in the male costume, but seems to be narrower.

 

Now, this one from the Pokuttia region has everything: embroidery, fringes, pearls, handmade cords, – you name it, – and then some detailed leather work to blow your mind.

First, I love the head dress with the colourful borders. To wrap it around the head and make it sit correctly must be an art in itself. The shirt sleeves are also heavily embroidered.

But the most impressive part is the vest. I have no knowledge of leather work, so can only guess at how these things are done, but even to an untrained eye, there is no denying that a lot of work has gone into this piece. Just look at all those small pom-poms, – they look like they are felted. Anyway, each and every one of them have been fastened, – probably sewn, – to the leather along with an accompanying dark triangular leather piece.

The narrow checkered borders on both sides of the the front looks like narrow dark leather bands have been woven into slits in the light leather background. Then there is some cross stitch embroidery, and red and yellow twisted cords are couched on both sides.

The alternating pieces of dark and light fur on the edges of the vest, are even narrower than on the vest we looked at above, and there are also lots of small triangular leather pieces, looking like praerie points, on top of the fur pieces.

 

This women’s dress from the Hutsulian area is also rich in details, and colours.

The head dress is interesting, consisting largely of pearls, – but I wondered about the tinsel. I guess it must have been highly valued at some point to be displayed so prominently.

I love the pattern in the pearl necklace, – although there are repeats, it appears quite irregular.

The upper part of the shirt sleeves has a very dense, colourful embroidery.

The vest has similar decoration details as the one above, but they are arranged a bit differently. Lots of couched cords, and the edges of the dark triangular pieces are also couched in dark thread, – so much so the leather almost disappears. Lots of eyelets are also used as pure decoration. It also has a colourful embroidered border at the bottom, in style with the shirt embroidery.

Here it is obvious that the base leather is sheepskin, which I also suspect is the case of the vests in the photos further above.

In addition to a woven belt, there is also a woven band adorned with pom-poms wrapped across one shoulder, reminiscent of a ceremonial sash, some times used at weddings. Now, if this is a wedding outfit, maybe that would explain the tinsel, – just guessing here.

 

The corresponding men’s costume from the Hutsulian area is even more adorned than its female counterpart, minus the pearls.

The shirt front is richly embroidered in many colours and patterns, including numbers which indicate it was made in 1961.  The woven belt is quite wide and has stronger colours in it than the one on the women’s dress, – maybe it is newer and less faded.

The vest has similar decor elements and placement as the one above, minus the embroidered border at the bottom. This one has larger, dark triangles, and they are adorned with lots of eyelets and have their edges couched with green cord. The checkerboard strips are wider and have three bands woven into them.

The footwear is also similar between the two costumes.

This is a woolen cape from the same area as above. It has some embroidered decor around the neck, down the back, and along the seams.

The tip protruding at the back looks like it could be a hood, but  I have not been able to detect an opening for the head. It is a mystery to me why it looks like this, unless it is meant to cover a load carried on the back.

The last two costumes that were on display, are from the Podillia area. The men’s costume has a long shirt, with a wide embroidered border around the opening at the front. Stitches around this opening also serve as a strengthening of the fabric, which can easliy tear at the bottom of the split.

The decorative leather work on the west is more similar to the ones from the Bukovyna area than to the two shown directly above. This also goes for the belt, which seems to be woven in a jacquard technique.

The most prominent feature of the women’s costume from Podillia, is the strong decor on the sleeves. With two heavy, black and red pieces at the top, – not sure whether they are embroidered or sewn in fabrics, – and a wide, black zig zag ribbon sewn in a spiraling pattern around the sleeves, they sort of define the whole costume. The red colour is also repeated in a many stranded pearl necklace.

The vest is decorated in similar technique as the one above.

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Seeing this exhibition, and then studying the individual photos afterwards, has been like a journey, – very interesting. People everywhere like to dress up, and being well dressed is always a way to show off either wealth or status.

A lot of these costumes has been very time consuming in making, showing that these people had time on their hands, and material, to spend on other things than just scraping a living.

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The first post about the exhibition can be seen here.

 

🙂

Eldrid