There are two distinct types of Matyo
embroidery: that done on white background fabric and that done on
black. The former, worked on hemp or linen fabric, was used for
bed linens and clothing. The earliest known Matyo embroideries
were the borders of bedsheets from the mid-1800's, done in red and blue
cotton thread. Motifs included stylized boots and birds, as well
and spirals. Embroidery also started to appear on folk
costumes in the 1870's, replacing the earlier
simple geometric cross-stitch designs. The young men's exaggerated long shirt sleeves were
first decorated with white eyelets, and later embroidered with predominantly
red leaves and flowers. Shirts worn by bridegrooms were especially festive,
with extremely wide and long embroidered cuffs. Yellow and green were the
next colors to be added, and additional colors later still.
Today's embroidery is done mainly in satin stitch, but in
the past a wider variety of stitches was used, including
chain stitch and the distinctive Matyo "figure 8" stitch.
Embroidery on black fabric was primarily done for
the apron, or "surc", which was part of the folk costume for both young
men and women. Many of the motifs used in this type of Matyo
embroidery were taken from the work of szur-makers and furriers.
(The "cifraszur" or embroidered frieze coat was an important element of
Hungarian men's national
costume, while the master furriers made appliqued and embroidered sheepskin coats and
waistcoats often worn by women.) The stylized roses and tulips commonly
seen in Matyo embroidery were originally used by these
master craftsmen. The aprons were made of black satin or silk,
and the embroidery was often arranged in rows, with little background showing
between motifs. This type of work is often called "szucsos" embroidery, in reference
to the furriers, called "szucs" masters.