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The History Center blog shares research and findings about local history, excerpts from the History Center Archives, information about upcoming exhibits and other opportunities on how to get involved with The History Center in Tompkins County. To learn more or view the archival materials mentioned, visit us in downtown Ithaca, follow us on social media @TompkinsHistory, or subscribe to our monthly newsletter History Happenings

Textile Tuesday - Hungarian Embroidery - Sarkoz

Sat, March 11, 2023 6:09 PM | Anonymous


The Sarkoz area is located in the southwestern part of Hungary, and its folk art is known as the oldest and most distinct of all Hungarian styles. “Sarkoz” means “muddy thorough fare,” and serves as the name for several distinct villages. Until the end of the 19th century, this area was inundated by floods, which resulted in extensive swamps that isolated villages.  Today, all the swamps are drained, and the area is reconnected.

There have been several styles of embroidery practiced in this region. The most popular and the most famous is the bonnet embroidery style. These bonnets are embroidered on a lightweight black background with white thread. Their main motif is the “Tree of Life” with flanking birds, which is an important Sarkoz wedding symbol. These bonnets are placed on the head of a young bride at midnight, on the eve of her wedding. A miniature “Tree of Life” is also placed in front of a young couple sitting at their wedding table. For the modern urban home, these designs have been enlarged and copied into a sofa pillow material. The base material of the pillowcase is homespun, and the color combination of the threads is limited; for instance, to blue and white, or purple and white, or apple green and black. Despite the limited number of colors, great varieties of stitches are used. Filling out the motifs with the right kind of stitches necessitates an easy reference - the sampler. Most professional Sarkoz embroiderers have their own sampler to remember the complicated rules.


In 2010 The History Center hosted the exhibit 'Hungarian Embroideries and Folk Art' from the collection of Hungarian-Ithaca Eniko Farkas. This exhibit included #matyo, #kalocsa, #sarkoz, #rabakozi, and #castle style embroideries. The texts developed for this 2010 exhibit are re-shared here as part of our ongoing #TextileTuesday learning series for the Knot Sew Fast: Patchwork of Tompkins County exhibit, on display February-August 2023.

Original text was written by Eniko Farkas in collaboration with History Center staff. 

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