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Kalocsa Hungarian Folkloric Embroidery

Updated on August 26, 2016
Ilonagarden profile image

Being of Hungarian descent I have a fascination with the folk art and culture of the Magyars. Enjoy the beauty of it with me in these hubs.

Folk Dress

Showing the traditional costume.
Showing the traditional costume.

Hungary has a number of regional styles of embroidery, so characteristic from each other that that they can identify the region in which they were made. Of all the styles that developed one of the most popular is the Kalocsai designs full of many types of flowers and leaves in a rainbow of colors.

It is in competition for popularity with the Matyo roses and intensive stitching of a different region. Both are traditional Hungarian hand embroidery, but one, Kalocsa, is light and bright, and full of springtime.

Focusing On This Region's Style

This post concerns the style found in the Kalocsa area which is located in the Bács-Kiskun county of Hungary. The city is quite old, but the needlework has taken on a modern range of color that make the look very light and bright.

It is most often seen on a white ground, occasionally a black background is used.It is the most recognizable and well-known form of Hungarian needlework.

Stitches Transform Into The Flowery Forms

This style uses satin stitch, stem stitch, and french knots.

Samples Of Heavily Decorated Vests

Kalocsa colors for younger women
Kalocsa colors for younger women | Source
"Sad" colors for older women or widows
"Sad" colors for older women or widows | Source

A Flower Garden Of Colors And Motives

It looks like a virtual flower garden. With so many stylized versions of Grandma's flowers, the wide variety of colors are those might be found growing in a garden during spring and early summer. That might explain the allure of these patterns.

The colors seem to burst joyfully from the fabric.

Usual Color Combination

Many medium pastels with an emphasis on red and pink impart a youthful vibrancy. This is the default color palette. For young girls, and brides apparel, many household goods are also decorated in these hues.


An alternate look, called the "sad colors", contain shades of purple and lavender... along with other harmonious colors. It is called "szomoru", meaning gloomy.To most of us, this is a gorgeous set of shades and anything but sad, yet it is the palette for older women to use for their colorful aprons and vests.

The All White Traditional Variation

Before colorfast dyes became available, the embroidery work of this region was the white and cutwork pattern as seen on this piece of fine work.
Before colorfast dyes became available, the embroidery work of this region was the white and cutwork pattern as seen on this piece of fine work.

Color Evolution

At first, all the embroideries of this region were done in white on white. Then as colorful threads became available, they became more of what we are familiar with today. The earliest colored embroideries date from the years 1904-1905. Non-fading colors were introduced circa 1912.

Careful Stitches

Stitches Or Colors?

Since this regional form originally was all white and is also made with that color today, it isn't actually the colorfulness of the piece that identifies real Kalocsai needle art, it is the fact that the work would look the same on both sides with no knots showing.

This is how a quality piece original to the area is identified.

Richelieu or Riseliő style

Kalocsa regional embroidery often employed cutwork within table cloths, doilies, and edgings of items. This refers to the cutwork embroidery which snips out patterned holes and stitches them with a buttonhole stitch. Once very intricate and difficult, it is much simpler to make with modern machines.

It makes a very lacy looking effect which is highlighted with colorful satin stitch motives.

Broderie Anglaise

This was the manner in which fabrics were hemmed or accented before the Riseliő style became popular. It looks something like "eyelet lace" to my eyes. Believed to originated in the area of Hungary during the 16th century, it took its name from the popularity it found in England.

A Modern Example

Rich with Riseliő style cutwork.
Rich with Riseliő style cutwork. | Source


The flower patterns are taken from nature and made to look as natural as possible. As a gardener I recognize many of them.

If The Colors Aren't Vivid, It's Not Kalocsai

The Represented Flowers

Bleeding Hearts
Paprika peppers
Ears of wheat
The types of flowers and plants represented. One kind of flower may be found in different colors.

Where in The World Is Kalocsa, Hungary?

Kalocsa, Hungary:
Kalocsa, Hungary

get directions

Explore the Arts Of This Place

Decorated Capes

Vintage photo of men of Kalocsa wearing traditional capes heavily embroidered.
Vintage photo of men of Kalocsa wearing traditional capes heavily embroidered.

Patterns and Motives Of A Culture

Hungarians Love Decoration

It seems that everywhere you look in the area of this region there are decorated surfaces, The houses are painted with the identical flower forms and colors of the embroideries, the furnishings are decoratively painted, and of course, the household linens and the clothing are like fields strewn with flowers of every imaginable type.

The Hungarians have a field day with their patterned and colorful pictures filling the spaces of their everyday lives. It makes a lively look for interiors and exteriors!

In Kalocsai Mode

House wall painting, interior.
House wall painting, interior.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      How beautiful all of this embroidery is! If I had to pick a favorite I would have to choose the all white with cutwork, but it's all gorgeous. The brightest colors would seem like spring year round, and the info behind the purples is interestingly thought provoking. Hungary's history made me think twice about it.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image


      4 years ago from New York

      OMG - The sad colors for me are beautiful "happy & magical" colors! I have always been fond of the white on white embroidery and the cut-out technique too but have never had the patience to do it myself. The embroidery techniques you have shared with us are so beautiful and I have found the history very interesting.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      4 years ago

      Wow - This is just beautiful. I too like the "sad" colors, but I think they are all beautiful and the craftsmanship that goes into them is incredible. Thanks for introducing me to this embroidery.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Beautiful and interesting hub!

      I enjoy doing embroidery work and I loved going through your hub. These are neat and fine designs with very beautiful colour combination. Thank you for introducing the readers with a part of Kalocsa culture.

      In India also embroidery work is very much appreciated and is a part of our culture and tradition.

      Thank you for sharing! Pinned on my Art board!


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