The Embroiderer

The Embroiderer - Spring 2022 Story Collection is inspired by the Hungarian Kalotaszeg írásos embroidery tradition from Transylvania, Romania and contemporary artist Sarah Pedlow. The collection celebrates the women who preserve the knowledge and practice of these craft traditions by continuing to stitch and teach the next generation.
Sarah Pedlow is a contemporary artist facilitating the preservation of regional embroidery traditions through ThreadWritten, which she founded in 2012 as a way to share the colorful embroidery of Eastern and Southern Europe. A trip to an ethnography museum in Budapest in 2009 led Sarah to explore and study the rich embroidery and traditional costumes of the Kalotaszeg region of Transylvania, Romania. The style of embroidery, called írásos in Hungarian, is characterized by floral motifs set against a black background representing death, stitched in only one color: red, blue, black, or white. Examples also include motifs on a white background. Other colors, including green, pink and yellow provide accents in the clothing of the region. As is common in many parts of Europe, Kalotaszeg was dominated by many different countries throughout its history and its political boundaries have shifted numerous times. The style originated in Transylvania in the 1700s and today, the women still stitching írásos mostly identify as Hungarian.
After seeing examples of the different regional embroidery styles at European flea markets in Romania and Hungary, Sarah sought to find local women who still practiced these craft traditions. Sarah found inspiration in the colors, patterns and objects that people lovingly created – the objects representing who they are and where they came from. Floral and plant motifs are common, drawing from the flora and fauna of the region. Originally, embroidery was done in wool from local sheep. Over time, outside influences from the Turkish and Ottoman empires in Central Europe brought in new patterns, such as the tulip from Turkey, and the textiles of the Kalotaszeg region have similarities to Turkish textiles.
Sarah stitching Piroska embroidery with her teacher near Huedin, Romania.
Sarah followed her art practice of wayfinding to seek out the textiles and the people who were knowledgeable about these traditions. Following her curiosity led to a series of serendipitous connections that eventually inspired Sarah to create ThreadWritten, where she seeks to preserve embroidery traditions and honor their origins. Today Sarah teaches workshops in Hungarian, Armenian, Portuguese, Mexican and Ukrainian embroidery and Icelandic net bags as well as workshops that encourage art-making inspired by these traditions. She also leads a series of small group travel tours where participants learn from artisans in lesser-traveled regions of Portugal, Hungary, and Romania. Recently, she has been co-leading workshops on traditional Ukrainian stitching and raising money to support the war relief efforts in Ukraine. 
L: Embroidered blouse from Borshchiv, Ukraine;
R: Transylvanian Hungarian vest.
In addition to teaching, Sarah also has a rich artistic practice and her work combines photography, stitching, wayfinding, and three-dimensional cut paper to create palimpsests that mix memory, tradition, and her own contemporary spin on historical traditions.
Examples of Sarah’s artwork.

Sarah says: 

“I am deeply curious about the world, how the things people make reveal who they are, and the culture of textiles: what we wear on our bodies and use in our homes. I excavate and curate the past and the present by stitching and cutting photographs, curling back the paper to make the images three-dimensional. I use photos from my daily life as an American living in Amsterdam and my travels working with embroiderers in Eastern and Southern Europe.

My work is a process of wayfinding, mapping, and place-making, noting a street giveaway now broken and left for trash or a dropped braid of hay as a synchronistic sign along the way. I also use images of 19th-century clothing, interlacing the contours of memory, cultural emblems, and the reality of living in a disposable visual culture. A ribbon is a line, is a seam, is a silhouette. A bow is an ‘X,’ is a cross-stitch, is a signature. A curtain is a blouse, is a veil, is a curtain.”

Postcard in a window in Amsterdam

The Embroiderer - Spring 2022 Story Collection includes four mini skeins (each approx. 25g) of worsted weight 100% superwash wool milled in the US. The collection will be available to order from our web shop starting on Sunday, May 1 at 9am PST here:

The colorways in the collection are (clockwise from top left):

  Dead of Night - A vibrant black with hints of emerald green, peacock blue, maroon and violet. This yarn reads as black from a distance, but up close is a kaleidoscope of color.
Paprika - The traditional red of Kalotaszeg embroidery. A bright cherry red with pops of fuschia and dark rusty red.
Alpine Green - Inspired by the natural alpine landscape of the region, this bold base of shamrock green has cerulean blue and parrot green accents.
Sunburst - This canary yellow has soft coral and cantaloupe highlights and is often used as an accent color in Kalotaszeg embroidered aprons.  

Sources for more information:

All images courtesy of Sarah Pedlow.  Copyright: Quill & Quiver Fiber, 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published