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Tard – Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Detail of contemporary cross-stitched pillow, Tard

The Matyo region of Hungary, well known for its folk art, is comprised of the town of Mezokovesd and its surrounding villages, especially Szentistvan and Tard. Mezokovesd, being the largest of the three, became by far the most famous as an embroidery center. However, residents of the smaller villages produced a lot of beautiful embroidery that shared many of the characteristics typical of Matyo needlework yet was distinct from that done in Mezokovesd. In Szentistvan, for example, more pastel colors were used, more pink and light blue. Tard was the only Matyo village where cross-stitch was popular.  

I visited Tard in October 2001 and was able to see some great examples of local stitchery, both new and old, and to learn a bit about traditional village life in that part of northeastern Hungary. Surrounded by fields, Tard is a few kilometers off the main highway and has that small-village atmosphere. There is a tajhaz (old peasant house/museum) on the main street, where you can see how the locals once lived. Our guide, Erzsabet, explained that several generations lived together in this house. The “best room” served as a combination living room and bedroom for the women and children, and the men slept out in the stable with the animals. She told us that when a couple was newly married, the young man was allowed to sleep inside with the family, but only until the first baby arrived. Then he was out in the stable with the rest of them! There was also a local courtship custom that took place in the best room. When a boy came to visit the family in hopes of courting a girl, the father would offer him a seat. If he offered him the place of honor under the main roof beam of the house, it meant that he was approved as a suitor. If he was offered another chair, he knew not to waste his time at that house any more. 

While the men in a peasant family were busy tending animals, the women had plenty of work to do, including the production of cloth and clothing. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, villagers grew their own hemp to spin and weave into the sturdy fabric that lasted for generations. It became softer and whiter each time it was washed and bleached by the sun.  Women’s blouses were often adorned with simple cross-stitch borders.  In the early 20th century, women in Tard also did the fancy embroidery that was being done in Mezokovesd on items such as women’s aprons.  The same motifs were used in Tard, but fewer colors, red being predominant.  Elaborate cross-stitch pieces were also done on black background fabric, mainly in red with yellow accents.  Red or blue stitching on white background fabric is also traditional.  Common motifs include flowers, hearts and birds. I saw some older pieces that also incorporated words, names and dates into the design. Some local residents still do cross-stitch, but I was told more women today prefer doing the Mezokovesd-style of embroidery because it is faster and they can sell it to the tourist market.  

Places of interest: Tajhaz Tard: This old peasant house was built at the turn of the 19th century, and houses a display of early 20th century furnishings.  The early 20th century house next door also features local folk art. 
Address: Beke ut 55 - 57.  Hours: Open 11:00 to 5:00, April 15 - October 15, or by appointment.  Contact: Mrs. Szolnoki (Szolnoki Andrasne), Beke ut 261, tel. 36-49-332-367. 

Matyó Museum: Mostly has embroidery and other objects from Mezokovesd, but also a few items from Tard and Szentistvan.
tel: 36-49-311-824
Szent Laszlo ter, Mezokovesd 

Click here to shop for traditional Hungarian cross stitch patterns!