What you need to know about the matyo embroidery

What you need to know about the matyo embroidery

As all the other traditional Hungarian folk art matyo embroidery is a handmade product which is prepared in Hungary with authentic embroidery techniques. It is so unique that it became a part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012. It is not a surprise as the matyo community became famous for their colourful embroidery and culture. But what is the origin story of this Hungarian design?

Matyo embroidery in the light of Hungarian folktales

There is one quite authentic folk story which tells the origin of that handesa. It says that once the devil took away a matyo lad to hell but his lover wanted him back so badly that she made a pact with the devil. The devil asked the girl to bring the most beautiful summer flowers to him in her apron and if she can do that she can have back the lad. The only problem was that it happened during winter time and there was not a single flower around.But the girl was very smart and decided to embroider her apron with the most colourful flowers and brought that to the devil. The devil was so amazed that he decided to let the lad go home with his lover.

The real history of matyo embroidery

A less legendary approach is the historical one. Based on facts this Hungarian handesa looks back 200 years of tradition. At least this is the age of the handmade matyo embroidered decoration sheets they covered the beds with. The countrywise used white linen was changed to red and blue pattern embroidered sheets in Mezokovesd in the second half of the 19th century followed by the flower patterned naturalistic folk art at the end of the century.

These colorful and amazing embroideries not only inspired the sawer but the drovers of the designs the so-called “writer ladies" also. The most famous and successful ones came from furrier families and learned the the secret of this Hungarian handesa from her ascendings. So it is not a surprise that the colours and design of this folk art enrooted in the ornaments of furrier needlework. At the beginning of the 20th century the different roses, flowers and tulips are ruling in the matyo design and next to the most significant red other colours starts appearing.

There is an interesting symbol system behind the colours usage in matyo folklore. Black is the colour of the ground and harvest, red is the symbol of happiness, yellow symbolizes summer and the Sun, blue shows sorrow. Green appeared after the WWI as a sign of grief.

In the early 1900s matyo embroidery takes more and more space on surfaces of the clothing and home textiles often without the symmetric design and repetitiveness.The decorative mood of matyo women is at the top of the first decades of the 1900s, when perhaps the most beautiful matyo embroidery of history is born.

The matyo folk customs are also authentic. For example, male shirts were firstly decorated with white embroidery but replaced by a wider more colorful embroidery. Women's wear is also different from the usual Hungarian folkwear with its ankle lining bell-skirt and wealthy decorated slender lining shirts “litya”.