One of my goals for the two months I’ll be here in Hungary is to research some of the many styles of embroidery practiced in the region in the past couple hundred years. And, ahem, to relearn what I learned in grade school and mostly forgot… We had a bit of instruction in all kinds of applied arts in a class called ‘technika’ way back when, from bookbinding to woodworking to embroidery. Boys and girls both.
And then there are the things I never really learned, like satin stitching, which I find very, very hard. Fortunately there are many other stitches used in Hungarian embroidery!
For example, there is this highly stylized, mostly red-and-blue style from a small town called Buzsak, just south of Lake Balaton:
The detail is from a blouse I bought from an antique dealer in the U.S., I’ve never really seen one in Hungary.
And then there’s this gorgeous chain stitch-based style from the town of Kalotaszeg in Trannsylvania’s Hungarian-speaking part:
And then there’s another lovely decorating style that’s not embroidery at all but rather a very elaborate kind of appliqué:
(Image source: Buzsak Regional Museum’s collection)
It’s also from Buzsak and for the life of me I can’t find any books or web sites that explain how it’s made. I suspect it’s similar to Kim’s method but just using the same piece of cloth for the entire appliquéd design.
We’ll be staying at Balaton a bit while we’re in Hungary so I’ll be visiting Buzsak!
I’m staying at my parents’ house in Budapest with E and Z, now through August 6. So fun to be here. It’s the nicest time of year in this part of the world: not too hot, everything lovely green and often still blooming. My sisters are around, my brother gets home in two weeks, A goes back to New York to work a bit but then will come for an almost-three-week full-on vacation! Yay!
This country is troubled by all the usual politics and then some, but I want to share some of the things I love here, things that are really, really beautiful. So I will try to blog about that in the next couple months, especially because I’m working on some things for my business, to be revealed in September! Friends, I hope so much that you will find them as beautiful as I do.
In the meantime – I started working on some needle-turn applique, inspired by a guildmate who did an impromptu demonstration of her technique at the last NYC Metro Mod Quilt Guild meeting. Kim’s blocks are amazing, and the way she explained how she makes them was just so inviting that I couldn’t resist… So I drafted a rose inspired by the Hungarian embroidery I’ve been working with and got started on the applique on our last night in New York (anything to avoid packing, of course!):
Since then I’ve made a bit of progress, the edges are smoother but my points? Still not that pointy:
You can kind of see the colors I’m inspired by:
These are the kinds of flowers you can buy around farmers’ markets in Budapest this time of year.
And then, embroidered lovely things, spotted around town – a purse with a tulip motif:
Or a scarf with wildly colored embroidery form the same region (Mezokovesd) as my applique rose:
I bought this scarf. How could I not?
There’s so much going on I don’t know where my head is. Business stuff. Getting ready to transfer my family to Hungary for two months. Wondering if I can deal with the crazy that has taken over, over there.
But I can’t wait to see my sisters, my brother, my nephews, to hang out at our family’s house by the lake that my parents helped build with their own hands, to watch the sunset above the Danube from the mountainside, and walk around Pest and show Zsuzsi the house where we lived when I was born. She’s been asking about it. I showed her last year too but she was too young to care. It seems she’s not too young anymore. It’s smack in the center of the city, in one of the noisiest intersections of, possibly, all of Hungary. Gray, smoggy, crowded – home.
Summer in Hungary is amazingly beautiful.
Last day to preorder all of this items from Kate & Hanna!
Recycled sari scarves:
T-shirts with the Kate & Hanna logo:
Blouses with embroidered decoration:
And many more!
My outfit consisted, from the toes up, of fairly fancy sandals, the dress I made, a vintage handbag, and an inexpensive scarf.
I wanted to talk a little bit about this dress, a Kate & Hanna style. We’ve been testing the final version of the pattern using different fabrics, finishes, trims… and it’s just lovely.
One of the varieties I made is the little black dress I’m wearing above, in a silk-hemp charmeuse, with a lovely scallop trim around all the edges.
The dress is so flattering: it has a slightly high waist that makes your legs look real long, the summer version’s got a cute lightly gathered sleeve, V-neckline that elongates your neck, upside-down V front inset that accentuates the waistline, and a waist tie you can wear tied in the back or the front. It is also super fast to sew because: no closures! The front inset and waist tie shape it, along with a tiny bit of elastic sewn into the back of the waistline.
This dress, in a choice of several floral-print cottons, or linen with embroidery on the waist inset is another one of our Kickstarter pledge rewards. You can choose it ready-to-wear or in a ready-to-sew kit.
Another of our pledge rewards are silk scarves made of vintage sari silks. Look at the lovely colors:
I love vintage sari fabric. Well actually I love all kinds of sari fabric but something about the vintage ones I’ve been finding lately is really special. Sadly, not all are silk, and even some of the ones that are silk have some damage. I’ve been hoarding these for a while, scouring eBay for them or wherever else I can find them, and whatever is a good silk I’ve set aside for the Kate & Hanna Kickstarter. Take a look, you won’t be sorry!
I wore this blouse virtually every day, the breezy cotton is just so comfortable. I’ve also been making samples for our current collection out of recycled saris, like this slightly damaged yellow-mint green-purple silk sari:
The pattern is a variation on the blouse in The Rose Collection, I simply changed the center front insert. We will be releasing sewing patterns, with several variations (like long and short sleeves so you can make the blouse for winter or summer), for all three items in this first collection. I think this variation will be one of them. What I love about this blouse the most: the neckline.
We will also have sewing kits for this blouse, using more vintage saris, in all sorts of materials – cotton, poly chiffon, etc. – whatever we can get our hands on that would work.
A few months ago I founded a small company with a friend. We make women’s clothing with handmade embroidery, either sewn in the USA into a finished garment or wrapped up into a DIY ready-to-sew kit that includes everything (fabric, thread, notions, embroidery finished so it’s easy to appliqué onto your garment, and the sewing pattern).
Look how pretty our logo is:
I love it. I’ve also been staring at it more than allows me to be objective, probably. I love it anyway.
It’s been busy-busy-busy ever since – we found suppliers, contractors, wholesalers, planned, scrapped plans, made samples, scrapped samples, made more samples, drafted, redrafted, didn’t get nearly enough sleep, tended to sick children, made a web site, made a video, made pictures, remade them, and finally, after more work than I could have imagined it was possible to do, especially with two little children who are almost always around, we got to A Point.
An important point: our products are available for preorder on Kickstarter!
We are starting with three classic styles: a maxi skirt, a dress with a fitted bodice, and a peasant blouse. Each will come in a variety of fabrics, with several options of rose-themed embroidery hand-made by Hungarian artisans who are, if I do say so myself, INCREDIBLE at their craft. They are from a region of the country particularly well-known for its intricate and gorgeous embroidery: Kalocsa.
A sample sewing kit:
Each kit comes wrapped in a reusable unbleached cotton bag you can use as a lingerie bag, produce bag, etc. We recommend laundering embroidered pieces in these bags, or a pillowcase or lingerie bag. The embroidery is colorfast but may snag in the wash otherwise.
My business partner and I usually work with one or both of my daughters hanging around.
The older one goes to preschool four days a week but this week school was out so there she was too, all day, every day.
Oh, and check out her outfit: she is GREAT at coming up with outfits for herself, they’re wild but so cool she gets compliments from strangers on the subway on them. Z has not permitted anyone to help her get dressed in, oh, over 6 months.
She likes the embroidery so much she’d prefer we put it on EVERYTHING. Preferably in all purple… Note the purple Dora backpack she’s sporting (I made it for her for Christmas).
Funny thing is, I can afford starting a new business or a regular babysitter but not both! So we juggle watching the children as needed, or else just keep an eye out while we work. Mostly the latter. I won’t say there are no interruptions but with two of us around, it works out.
The girls have always been very good at finding ways to occupy themselves and I think that watching their adults work encourages them to focus on their own activities.
The only time we need a third person’s help is when the two of us need to go somewhere together. Like the fabric expo a couple weeks ago – where dogs were allowed but (naturally) not children.
I am very lucky that I get to work in my children’s company.
I adore the work of Mariska Karasz. She made her embroidery into art (seen at Embroidery as Art), but what’s less well known is she had also been a fashion designer. A real inspiration of mine. Images like this just make me happy:
She wrote an embroidery handbook that just makes you want to get down and stitch away; in it she says
Most women draw the line at creative design, but I want you to take that line and draw it on cloth instead.
Which I take to mean: make something, it will set you free.
There’s also a book about her entire career that contains some gorgeous images of her fashion work:
I want the jacket on the right.