Using Hungarian Embroidery in a Blanket
June 24, 2022

I am Hungarian by birth, and I come from Budapest. I am the eldest of four children in a teaching family. My family is Jewish and dreadful things happened to my family during the Holocaust. Nonetheless, when 1956 arrived and my father wanted the family to go to the US. It was my mother’s mother who said no when my father asked her. Actually, she did not say no but quoted Vorosmarthy. Mihaly’s Szozat to my father “Itt elned, halnod kell.” (Roughly translated: “You live here, you will die here.”)

So, we stayed.

I came to the UK in 1973. I have clear memories of visiting my family in the 70s traveling by train. After each visit, I brought Hungarian treasures out of the country. I am a trained classical pianist and a passionate embroiderer. So, unlike most other Hungarians I stuffed my suitcase full of sheet music and embroidery threads. On one occasion a whole lot of us on the train were searched. We were asked to open the suitcases for inspection. As the suitcases were open and the contents revealed I could smell the aroma of salamis and sausages from my fellow passenger’s luggage. I opened my suitcase, there was no aroma, just music, books, and embroidery threads. The guy looked at me and looked at my suitcase. He thought that I have lost my mind.

Some years ago, I decided to create a blanket that incorporated my heritage. Luckily for me, I love embroidery, so my adventure did not present a huge expense. I could do my own embroidery and I had dresses that I could recycle, too.

I started by cutting up my old dresses to small 5 inch by 5 inch squares. Some of the dresses had patterns on them and the rest were plain. I prefer to wear pure cotton dresses, so all the recycled materials were cotton. Some of the plain cotton fabrics I embroidered. I then started to arrange the squares at random to see the effect. When I decided that I liked the mix, I joined up the squares and stitched them together. The next step was to decide on the backing. For many years, I collected cotton fabrics and I chose one of these at random for the backing. I purchased cotton wadding (or cotton batting, if you are US based) for the inside layer so I end up with a “sandwich” of material.

For the top layer the number of squares embroidered and plain joined together the backing of your choice which will be 2.5 inches top to bottom and side to side than the top layer and the wadding. You will make a surround matching the backing. I call the wadding (batting) the meat in the sandwich. Having a surround creates a relationship with the backing and brings the blanket together. You then pin together the three layers and use quilting stitches to hold the three layers together. You have choices of what stitches to use for the edging. It was lucky that I chose a red and white pattern for the edging tiny squares as I just used a simple Greek key pattern. It is easy.

Do not feel it necessary to rush to complete and remember you will have created a family heirloom which will be handed down to the younger generation. Do not feel pushed to create perfection. The beauty of family heirlooms is that the young ones will remember the creator of the blanket for many years. A little imperfection makes the item more endearing. More than anything else, enjoy your project…

Lots of love to you all,

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