I’ve been looking for a book on Hungarian embroidery (in English) for some time and while Treasures of Kalocsa is not strictly about embroidery, but rather the variety of folk art from this region of eastern Hungary, embroidery certainly figures prominently.
While I have yet to read it cover to cover, I’m pleased that my mom agreed to give this rather pricey ($77 including shipping from Hungary) volume to me as a birthday gift. At least half of the book is devoted to background on the area, the role and development of the folk arts (focused on embroidery and decorative painting). The author Kati Fejer takes you on a tour of the town and profiles the “women and one man” who are involved in continuing this tradition and keeping it current. Some aspects are a bit scholarly and are enhanced if the reader has some knowledge about the history and politics that impact the area.
The book is generously illustrated with full color photographs of gorgeous examples of regional embroidery on clothing, household and religious items in a wider range of styles and color schemes than I was previously aware of, from white on white cutwork and Madeira to riotously colored flat stitched pieces. While there are some drawings and stitch diagrams in the hand embroidery section, I found it to be more of a source of inspiration than a how-to manual. The section on Kalocsa “machine embroidery” (which has NOTHING to do with fancy new-fangled machines and computerized templates) does provide step by step instructions for a unique style which uses a straight stitch machine to create lace like creations in combination with hand embroidery.