Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Embroidery from Northern Left-Bank Ukraine, Sumy, Chernyhiw and Starodub regions

Hello all,

I feel like I should get another posting out, but I am very busy at work right now. So I will do a quick and easy posting. 
Embroidery is just about universal in Ukrainian Folk Art. In some nations, Poland and Hungary, for example, there are some wonderful local embroidery styles, but also areas in which embroidery was not practiced. In other nations, like Romania and Slovakia, it is found everywhere. Ukraine is one of these.
I have in the past asked people from a certain ethnicity to recommend books which contain patterns from their nation, and have gotten the answer that they didn't know of any. I find this very odd because Ukrainians have published books of embroidery patterns again and again. 
One serious drawback of many of these books is lack of data on the origins of individual patterns or pieces of embroidery, or only regional derivations are given. [DMC also does this, they have published wonderful books showing examples of embroidery from different countries, but neglect to give detailed data as to where they were from and what they were originally used on.]
I have a wonderful little publication in my possession which was printed in Canada in 1953 by Arka, which was put together by a woman named Liudmilla Demydenko. She does a very good job of giving data of origin. This  was intended to be a series of 16 little sets of plates. I have the first one, and have seen other copies for sale, but I have found no indication that any of the others were actually published. My copy indicates that the first volume is in print, the second and third were being printed, and the remainder were being prepared. If anyone has any more information, I would dearly love to know, please inform me. 
If not, it would be a wonderful thing if the  existing materials could be reprinted now.

Left-Bank Ukraine is the part  of Ukraine east of the river Dnipro, the great river which bisects the country. These designs are from the northern reaches of this area, which had been little affected by foreign influences. The embroideries here were done in zavolikannia, [darning stitch], counted satin stitch, or cross-stitch, which is newer to the area.

This first plate shows embroideries from a rushnyk [ritual cloth] from around the village of Bakhmach, which is in Chernihiw [Chernyhiv] Oblast, close to the middle of the border with Sumy Oblast. These designs would be very versatile, with many possibilities. We have a large band design, two different spot designs, and a narrow border.

This is embroidery from a rushnyk from the town of Nizhyn, in south central Chernihiw Oblast.

Here is a design from a rushnyk from the area of Starodub. This area is now north of the Ukrainian-Russian border, but was historically Ukrainian and a large number of Ukrainians live in this area. After Eastern Ukraine was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1781, it remained part of Chernyhiw province untill 1919, when the Soviet Government detached it and it has since then been part of several different Russian Provinces.  For more information on the history of this region see this article. 

You will notice that the design is made of large areas of a single color. This type of design is very typical of the northern regions of Ukraine, all across from this area to Volyn'. The narrow borders above and below the main design would be done in zavolikannia, or darning stitch.

The remaining designs that i am presenting are taken from women's chemises. The main embroidery is done on an inset sewn to the top of the body pieces, just above the seam where the sleeves are sewn on. Often the same or another band design is embroidered on the top edge of the sleeve, this is called the pidpolytsia. Here is a 19th cent. painting of a girl wearing an embroidered chemise. You can clearly see the seam between the shoulder pieces and the sleeves.

This band is sometimes omitted, and an area design is worked over part or most of the sleeve. Or, as in the painting above, spot designs are scattered on the lower part of the sleeve below the second band of embroidery. It also happens that there is both a second band of embroidery and an area design below that. Here are some examples.

A narrower band of embroidery is also done on the bottom hem, which always is visible below the hem of the skirt.

 This design is from a village near Krolovets called Sosnytsia, in the north of Sumy Oblast. This is an area design which was embroidered on the sleeve of a woman's chemise. This is a design quite typical of this region.

 Here is a design from the village of Baklan, which is the region of Starodub. This design is also an area design from the sleeve of a woman's chemise. The design is a simple net with alternating spot designs in the center. At the bottom alternative spot designs are given.

Here are a series of designs from the town of Kozelets', in southwestern Chernyhiw Oblast. The topmost design was done on the shoulder inset, the ustawka. The middle band was done on the upper edge of the sleeve, the 'pidpolytsia', and the spot designs on the bottom were scattered on the lower sleeve. Here we see a combination of cross-stitch, outline stitch, and counted satin stitch.

 Here are some more designs from Nizhyn, These are from a woman's chemise. The top design is from the shoulder inset, the ustawka, the middle is an area design done on the sleeve, the bottom left design was done on the hem, and the two lower right designs were done one on the collar and the other on the cuffs.

Here are some designs  from the town of Horodnya, in the northwest  of Chernyhiw Oblast. The upper design was done on the shoulder inset, the ustawka, and often repeated on the upper sleeve. The lower  design was embroidered vertically down the middle of the sleeve. This was often done in Polissia, the strip of territory along the Ukrainian-Bielorussian border.

Here is a photograph showing how such a chemise looks when finished.

Here are three different designs from the shoulder piece of women's chemises. All of them would have been done horizontally. The top one is from the town of Konotop, which is Sumy Oblast, just over the line from Bakhmach in Chernyhiw Oblast.  The design on the lower  left is also from Nizhyn, and the one on the lower right is from  the village of Bilopillia, east of Konotop in Sumy Oblast.

I will finish with two last designs, both also from the shoulder pieces of women's chemises. The upper one is also from the village of Horodnya, and the lower  one is from the village of Korop, in East central Chernyhiw Oblast, somewhat north of Bakhmach. Both of these designs are presented 'upside down', that is, with the seam of the shoulder piece and sleeve at the top, and the collar towards the bottom.

Here are a couple of photographs showing various forms of the costume of this area, with plakhta, spidnytsia or andarak, [three different types of skirt].

Thank you for reading. I hope that you will find these designs useful and inspiring. Use them in your homes or on your clothing, or wherever you wish. Keep a portion of the Ukrainian northeast in your lives.

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:
L. Demydenko, 'Ukrainian Folk Embroidery', Toronto, 1953
S. H. Kolosa, I. V. Hurhula, 'Ukrajins'ke Narodne Mystetsvo - Vbrannia', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1961
T. Nikolaieva, 'Ukrajinskyj Kostium' [Ukrainian Costume], Kyjiw [Kiev], 2005 
Bilan &Stel'mashchuk, 'Ukraijinskyj Strij' [Ukrainian Folk Costume], L'viw, 2000

Monday, December 19, 2011

Costume of Ynys Mon, or Anglesey, and North Cymru or Wales

Hello All,

Today I will talk about another variation of Welsh folk costume from  Ynys Môn, an island and county off the north coast, called in English Anglesey, and in Latin Mona. Here is a map to locate it

 Ynys Môn has a long and significant history as a special place for the native Druids of Britain.
For more information on the island and its history, see this article:

The local folk costume has a few different variations, the Pais a Becon, which is the local name for the Pais a Betgwn, in  a couple of different styles, and another costume called Gwn stwf a Het silc, which may be translated as 'Gown in Linsey-woolsey'. These are not restricted to Mon, but are also found on the mainland of North Wales, The image above is of a woman in Llanberis.
 I am going to focus on the cotton Becon, or Betgwn, which differs significantly from that of Ceredigion, or Cardiganshire, and only seems to have been worn in the North of Wales.
Here are a couple of ladies from Mon wearing this type of costume. These are modern replicas of museum pieces.

There are several obvious differences compared to the betgwn of Ceredigion. Firstly, they are much shorter,  as indeed most were, Cardiganshire had among the longest betgwn in Wales. Secondly, they are made of cotton calico. These were made in several colors, but most commonly in some shade of yellow. Thirdly, they commonly have a large lay down collar, often round, but sometimes square. The sleeves vary in length and construction, as you can see in the above two images. Sometimes they are sewn of rectangular pieces sewn on to the body of the becon at right angles, this of course, requires an underarm gusset for ease of movement.
The position of the shoulder seam is clearly seen in this old photograph.

 The becon overlaps in front where it is often shorter, because this part is normally covered by the apron.

At other times the sleeve appears to be gathered, and set in.

As you can see, the rounded collar often had a gathered frill or flounce, and the square collars did not. The becon was not always shorter in front. Here is an image of a woman who apparently went out without her apron. You will notice that the becon seems to have been gathered at the waist with a drawstring.

A long sleeved becon or betgwn of linsey-woolsey was sometimes worn instead of, or over the cotton becon in this area. The sleeves were set in at right angles, and they were held closed by the apron, or pinned shut in front.

These were longer than the cotton becons, and the tails were often pinned back to keep them out of the way when working. They sometimes had big square collars. Here is a painting of Peggy, who was mail carrier in Biwmares [Beaumarie] for many years. Her tails are pinned back and she is wearing long cotton sleeves under the outer betgwn.

Here is a rear view of a museum piece.

 With the becon was worn the pais, usually translated as 'petticoat'. If a woman could afford one, first she put on one of cotton or linen. Often the petticoat was gathered into a fitted top piece. 

An underpetticoat of red flannel was often worn over this, as it was thought to protect against rheumatism. You can see one peeking out in this photo.

The top petticoat  was of various colors, usually restrained, and overwhelmingly seems to have been made with vertical stripes. Tucks were commonly sewn in. You can see that the top part was  never intended to be seen, and is often made of a different material.

Aprons are usually worn over the petticoats and becon, although there are some old paintings showing them worn under the becon. They usually have horizontal stripes.

Although sometimes plaid or checked aprons are worn. Notice the gathered full short sleeve sewn perpendicular to the body of the becon, as shown by the 'drop sleeve' seam.

And sometimes the apron was of plain white linen or cotton, as in this closeup of a painting of a Market scene in Holyhead.

Sometimes aprons were made of 'silk linsey', in which silk was woven into the cloth.

As in other parts of Wales, a cotton kerchief was tucked around the neck under the cotton becon, look closely at the various images above, particularly at the woman out and about in her red flannel underskirt and no apron. Pockets were worn under the apron.

Another garment which was worn in North Wales is called Gwn o stwf Cartra, or Gown of Linsey-Woolsey. This was an actual gown sewn of locally woven cloth, usually of a mixture of linen and wool. 

The Gwn typically had long sleeves gathered into cuffs, was fitted at the waist, usually had a high neckline and opened in front. It was worn with the under petticoats of linen and/or red or other flannel. It was finished and accessorized with the same costume pieces as the pais a becon, including shoulder shawl and apron.

If you look closely, you will see that most of the fullness of the skirt is in back. This is very typical over much of Europe. This was achieved by gathering in the back, [note the princess line seams on the back]

and using rather flat box pleats in front.

These Gwns were recorded in photos and other images from the North of Wales.

Small woolen shoulder shawls are worn here, as in other parts of Wales. Here is an example which belonged to Mary Pritchard of Llanfairpwll.

This is a postcard of a girl from Borthaethwy, on Mon.

The large, expensive, imported Paisley Shawls based on Kashmiri designs, are as popular here as anywhere.

Cotton caps which varied somewhat in shape, had goffered lace and ribbons on the sides, were worn here as in other parts of Wales and Northwest Europe.

 Various types of hats were worn, as you can see from the above images, straw hats, short hats, top hats, as well as the famous Welsh Beaver. Some of the shorter straw hats are much more practical for working.

Clogs are worn for work by those who could afford it, but people in Wales, as in so many other places often went barefoot, sometimes with stockings  which had no soles, but were held on by a loop over the big toe, as here above.

The famous Welsh beaver hat is also worn here, as in other parts of Wales. The ones made in this area seem to be more cylindrical compared to those made elsewhere, which tended to be more conical in shape, tapering towards the top.

Here we have a hat from Anglesey on the left, and one from Cardiganshire on the right.

I will close with some more images of the costume of North Wales.

As always, thank you for reading. I hope you have found this interesting. Folk costume is always rooted in very local tradition. It is a shame that so much information on local costume has not been recorded. 

 Here is a website in Wales where you can buy beautifully woven Welsh fabric for costumes. They also make children's Welsh costumes, but not very authentic.

 For those of you who like dolls, here is a website offering some very nicely made dolls in Welsh Costume which are available.

 Here is a website which gathers together a great deal of information on many aspects of Welsh Culture and History. It is written in both English and Welsh, and is called Casglu'r Tlysau, or Gathering the Jewels. It is well worth browsing.

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:
The collection of the  Ceredigion Museum.  This is a link directly to their Museum:
Here is a website showing items in their collection. 

Ken Etheridge, 'Welsh Costume in the 18th & 19th cent.', Swansea, 1997
Huw Roberts, 'Pais a Becon, Gwn stwff a Het silc' [Traditional Welsh Costume in 19th cent Anglesey] Llansadwrn, Anglesey, 2006
F. G. Payne, 'Welsh Peasant Costume', Cardiff, 1964
Megan Ellis, 'Welsh Costume and Customs', National Library of Wales, Alberystwyth, 1951
Joan Perkins, 'The Welsh Doll', Swansea, 1990
Lilla M. Fox, 'Costumes and Customs of the British Isles', Boston, 1974
Adam Glickman, 'Stereotypes, a book of Postcards', San Francisco, 1991
Lois Blake, 'Welsh Folk Dance and Costume', Llangollen, N. Wales, 1954