craft, History & Traditions, Painting, Photography, Traditional Art

Kashubian Embroidery

Traditional Tuesday – [A look at traditional Art Forms]

Poland is a country of deeply rooted culture and pursuits, not the least of which, is iconic Polish Folk Art forms, such as a specialist kind of stitching, called Kashuby embroidery. Initially used as a decoration for clothing, particularly folk costumes and women’s caps, these distinctive motifs have been transformed and used to decorate items as diverse as pottery, furniture, tableware and a range of merchandise from lanyards to mouse pads.

Kashubians are a proud people with a separate language, craft and folklore to other Polish areas. Their motto is “There is no Kashubia without Poles and Poland without Kaszubians.”

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Previously considered an activity for Grandmothers, girls of all ages and even men, in Kashubia, enjoy decorating clothing with Kashuby Embroidery.

Colours

Kashubia, [a province in coastal Pomerania], is famous for its distinctive embroidery that consistently features seven main colours.

http://www.wilno.org/culture/embroidery.html

The palette used in Kashuby embroidery utilises seven main thread colours and believe or not, this tends to be strictly observed, i.e. 3 shades of blue, yellow, red, green and brown/black, for it to be called Kashuby Style.

Each of the colors used symbolized something from nature and the people.

BLUE: –

  • Dark Blue – represents the profound depth of the Baltic Sea
  • Medium or Royal Blue – the colour of the Kashubian Lakes
  • Light Blue – for the sky of Kashubia

YELLOW :-

  • Light Yellow – representing the sand on the beaches and the sun.
  • Medium Yellow for the grains ripening in the fields
  • Dark Yellow symbolizing amber, commonly found washed up on the beaches, in these coastal areas.

GREEN :-

  • Symbolizes the meadows and plant life
  • Indicates the forests teeming with animal life

RED :-

  • The use of the colour red indicated the heart and love
  • also indicative of the blood of every Kashubian. They are a fiercely patriotic people, and would die to defend their homeland.
  • Red also represents poppies in girl’s hairs

BLACK or BROWN :-

  • representing sorrow and adversity
  • symbolizing the earth in the fields awaiting to be sown seeds.

Motifs

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Because of the poverty of the surrounding soil, the Kashubian landscape produces flowers that are stringy, but still colourful. Nature is an important inspiration for floral motifs, especially bell-flowers, lilies, daisies, roses, cornflowers, pomegranates and clovers. Tulips and Acanthus motifs, derived from Christian religious traditions were incorporated as oak or thistle leaves and restricted to embroidery executed by Nuns in the convents.

Adding Beetles and bee motifs to the embroidery stemmed from connections to the ancient pagan traditions of honouring nature.

A lovely element used in Kashuby embroidery is the ‘tree of life.’ Ideally, the branches mustn’t cross or intertwine because it symbolises that life ought to be simple and clear.

In the nineteenth century, fashions changed and traditional folk art patterned outfits began to slowly disappear but some crafts hung on and were printed on to modern merchandise to appeal to tourists.

Formerly, the different style of embroidered costume was related to the particular job the person was doing. Farmers had different motifs and outfits to that seen on fisherman.

In modern times, these outfits are rarely seen outside of special occasions, events or musical performances yet the popularity of the embroidery style, lives on.

More posts on Polish Folk Art

49 thoughts on “Kashubian Embroidery”

    1. I sort of have Polish ancestry, Margaret. I had Great Grandmother from Pomerania and a Prussian Great Great Grandfather. The rest were Scandinavian and a smattering from Cornwall. I find I am drawn to things in the areas they immigrated from. Whether they were Polish Prussian or German Prussian, I can’t identify. I just fell in love with these simple art forms and when I visited Poland the love affair commenced. Polish cuisine really got my attention! Having said all of that, I am interested in many traditional art forms and have a dream of creating a book of such designs at some stage. Have you come across Polish folk art before? There is a beautiful range of ceramics from the Boleslawice area. (I always forget how to spell that correctly).

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    1. I am green with envy, M-R. A whole set? Magnificent. It is a little similar to a Swedish pattern from the sixties/seventies? which could have been inspired by this. Pomerania (or modern day coastal Poland), was part of Sweden for many years, so they have close ties, historically speaking.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I see now I should have edited the photo more. I might replace it as it annoys me that the mark on the mouse pad is showing! I also see my earlier post on Polish folk art, you commented on in your former persona – as the venerable1 – wherein you mention a doco you did on Polish art – the costumes were stunning you said. I am one day going to write about the Polart festival I went to a year ago – I was a bit like a stalker walking around taking photo after photo of the darling costumes. Incredible detail and colour.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, so that must be the reason I have this desire to visit Portugal, Jo. The patterns must be speaking to me. Have you posted about it? I would love to see it if you have?

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  1. I can appreciate all the patience and work that goes into traditional works such as these. Sadly though the appeal of crafts such as these has been overwhelmingly diminished by mass produced machine embroidery that churns out similar looking craft work by the thousands. Progress brings its rewards for sure, but there is definitely a cost involved.
    Personally, I do love the set of doilies done in blue.i used to own quite a few linen embroidered doilies and tablecloths sourced from op shops. I’m not patient enough to do the embroidery myself, but I loved the feel of the linen when it was all heavily hand starched using the hand mixed starch, and ironed up nice and crisp.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a mystique to those crisply starched linens that have been hand stitched, Chris. I do get that, and my table runner could even have been mass produced. I bought it from a market stall in Gdansk, so who knows. It was a little old lady so perhaps it is genuine? It was costly enough to be genuine! And I was glad to pay her that price. It is a shame these old crafts have been corrupted but I am happy if they continue in some form or other, such as my mouse pad and lanyard. Bringing the old into the new minimalistic world is difficult. I’d love to see your doilies if you still have them?

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  2. I love the history and the colors of this embroidery. It reminds me of rosemaling. My daughter and I are doing a fair bit of hand embroidery these days. It’s very therapeutic. I might look into seeing if I can find some patterns for this work. I need one more project to add to the zillion in line already. 😉 It is quite beautiful work. Have you done any yourself? I might have missed reading that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe that is one of the reasons I am drawn to it, Marlene. Its similarity to Rosemaling. Actually Poland and Scandinavia have loads of cultural links, owing probably to their geographic proximity.
      I haven’t done any projects in this particular embroidery but based on the images I have added, it would be very simple to design your own. The technique looks very much like crewel embroidery. You can probably copy one of the patterns here or find one on pinterest. I can draw up a pattern for you, if you like and email the outline? In fact, I might just do that anyway later today, as I have a number of patterns in mind for my book project.
      You could then pick the colours based on the information here.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A great post . In countries with long winters one could not but be drawn to handcrafts and art. I have a large Finnish wall hanging that we were given as a wedding present. It gives great pleasure each time I look at it.

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  4. This is so lovely, and I appreciate learning about the history and color significance. I did embroidery when I was young but, unfortunately, it fell be the wayside.

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    1. I don’t think it is too late to take it up again, Nancy, but you do need good light and good glasses. I gave up Hardanger embroidery for this reason. This however, is much simpler and could be embroidered as an outline, without needing the fill in stitches.

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  5. thank you so much for this. My husband has Polish/German ancestry but we used to go on a kayak trip for a few summers in Pomerania in the 1990’s. We have a dinner service with these motifs and a large vase . I love that you talked about the meaning of the colours in the motifs. means so much more that I know now

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  6. Love this invite to the comment box! The history and colour code of the Polish embroidery is richly described. I think IKEA had some lampshades and cusion covers in those designs. I’m doing a lockdown old silk saree embroidery project, India..and might borrow some idea from the post.

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