Mordovian folk embroidery

Mordovian folk embroidery

Fragment of embroidery of Erzya’s loincloth decoration. XIX century. Nizhny Novgorod Province, Lukoyanovsky District (now the Nizhny Novgorod Region, Lukoyanovsky District)

Mordovian folk embroidery is a unique phenomenon. This kind of applied art arose long ago – its roots go back centuries. The development of the national embroidery never ceased, preserving the symbolism of the ancient folk culture in the richest ornamentation, bright color, the nature of the performance. The manual can be interesting for teachers and students of art schools and schools, handicraftsmen, folk artists who want to remember forgotten lessons of national crafts, as well as for anyone who wants to learn how to sew by stitches of the Mordovian people or in the way talented folk masters could.

The materials used in the manual represent fragments of genuine Mordovian folk embroidery of the past centuries, which can still be found in the costume of hereditary bearers of traditional culture; tables of ornament are borrowed from the book by L. Geikel “Clothing and Ornament of the Mordvins”, issued in 1897 in Finland; technical methods of work are shown on the samples prepared by the head of the applied department of the School of Art. Gvozdevoy, pupils of the School of Music No. 2 V. Lyapin and M. Aristova.


Embroidery of the Mordovian people is a unique phenomenon

Folk embroidery is one of the oldest kinds of applied art. But even today, this kind of creativity has not lost its relevance. We admire the skill and skill of the needlewomen of the past to decorate the rough linen cloth with stitches of bright threads, we are delighted with the intricacies of the patterns of embroidery of national clothes. Each people’s ornamentation of clothes by embroidery, its color, technical features of execution have their own original solution, reflect the tastes and ideals formed by centuries. This is the richness of folk culture. This is a great opportunity to learn about each people a lot of valuable, enough “pull for the right thread.”
The merit of Mordovian embroidery was evaluated in the works of Russian and foreign researchers. Thanks to the beauty of the Erzy and Moksha embroidery, samples of Mordovian folk costume are included in the gold collection of the collections of major museums in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Penza, Saratov, Tartu, Helsinki. More than one generation of our contemporaries tried to master the skill of embroiderers from Mordovia. But many of the secrets of the unique art are hidden behind the threshold of time. How to solve the mystery of beauty and perfection of a self-made shoe embellished with an intricate embroidered pattern?
In our manual, we decided to tell how the stitch behind the stitch can learn the techniques of Moksha and Erzya embroidery, learn the grammar of the account when creating a geometric ornament, unravel the puzzle of the most economical or simple way in performing patterns with complicated filling. The pattern of an ornament of any embroidery is very complex, but the pattern was made up of a set of simple figures. How to find the original shape of the ornamental motif?
Folk craftsmen knew where the beginning and the end in the execution of the most intricate pattern, and at the same time chose the simplest ways of filling it. The practical guide will help the master who turned to the patterns of Mordovian embroidery, learn the secrets of the embroidery account, the secrets of obtaining color and black and white effects, on which the richness of embroidered decor of the Mordovian folk costume is built.

Mordovian folk embroidery

Mordovian embroiderers. The beginning of the XX century. Simbirsk Province, Alatyr District (now the Republic of Mordovia, Atyashevsky District)

The history of Mordovian folk embroidery

The art of decorating their own clothing embroidery Mordovian people mastered in ancient times. Unfortunately, among the archaeological finds of the tissues preserved little, therefore, to fold the idea of ​​embroidery of the ancient period is not easy. The earth has preserved small fragments of fabrics a thousand years ago – they are rude and loose, woven from woolen yarn or thread from fiber of plant origin. Old masters knew different techniques of weaving, getting a cloth of linen or twill weave threads, diversifying the structure and quality of homespun canvases. The color of clothes made from household fabrics corresponded to the color of natural materials: white and black sheep’s wool, grayish tones of plant fibers of hemp, linen. For embroidery we used threads colored with vegetable dyes: a decoction of roots and grasses, kidneys, leaves, bark of trees. There is a simple embroidery of red and black hair. With special diligence the ancient craftsmen made out the edges of the clothes, here, in addition to embroidery, woven or leather cords, braid, tin beads and small pasty beads, bronze plaques were sewn. It is likely that, based on the possibilities, at the same time, women could use the dressing with expensive materials, such as bronze ornaments, beads and beads, and also create their imitation, which was carried out by embroidery.
As archaeological monuments show, about one thousand years ago embroidery on the account was born. Canto for its performance served as a self-made canvas linen weave. The stitcher stitched the main stitches along the lines of the fabric yarns, obtaining straight (horizontal and vertical) seams.
The introduction of sewn elements in the costume, for example, sewing with tin beads, marked the beginning of the work with seams in the attachment and oblique (diagonal) stitches. Imitations or reproduction of oblique stitches are preserved by reliefs on the foreheads of the head halves and breast decorations.
At the same time, embroidery acquires the function of indicating the purpose of clothing. The practical need to warm clothes, protect the body is combined with the need to note for what age clothes are prepared (youth, middle or senile), what kind of family status the carrier (premarital, family, widow, etc.) has. In conjunction with the embellishments, embroidery assumed a special magical role in clothing for the performance of rituals (initiation into adulthood, marriage, transition to the age of maturity and senility, funeral rites). Of particular importance was a complex of signs that could show which tribe-tribe belongs to a man.
The eternal ritual system of people’s life has formed the order and in the performance of embroidery on clothes. Embroidery was the criterion by which the whole rural community was judged and obeyed by the laws of their ancestors, skillful and hardworking master.

Mordovian folk embroidery

Sash pocket with crochet-hook. The beginning of XX century. Penza province, Saransk district (now the Republic of Mordovia, Kochkurovsky district)

In the XVIII-XX centuries. embroidery was practiced in all Mordvin villages. For several centuries the Mordovian people developed certain tricks for the execution of embroidery, the nature of the ornament and its color. From century to century, its patterns become more complicated, often acquiring borrowings from neighboring peoples.
To the needlework peasant girls were trained from childhood. By 14 – 16 years, the girl herself had to prepare a dowry, which included a large number of shirts, aprons, towels, handkerchiefs. All this was decorated with an embroidered or woven pattern. At this time, the family released the girls from all sorts of domestic and agricultural work, so that they managed to weave the canvas, sew and sew the shirts for themselves, prepare for the wedding gifts to the future relatives and guests.
In this process, I set my own schedule. After harvesting autumn work, women treated flax and hemp, prepared tow for yarn on canvas. Late autumn with a short period of light – the time when spun. Late in the cottages, the beams were burning, the spindles and spinning wheels buzzed, pulling out a thin thread. Every hour was dear, so that by Christmas we could strain more strings for making canvases. Before the spring March sun, weaved canvases. Lye and bright sunlight helped make the fabric snow-white. With the addition of the day they sat down to embroider. Ability to beautifully embroider was highly encouraged by the Mordvinian people, so the masters looked closely at the work of their friends in order to adopt the best technical and artistic techniques. In warm weather, the most convenient place to work is a porch, in the darkness of a smoky log hut drowned in black, it is impossible to calculate the stitches without errors, and the white canvas can be soiled by soot. Therefore, pure needlework, embroidery, weaving and making elegant belts were engaged in the yard. And the quality of home-made clothes was estimated by the whole world.
For different garments, canvases of various density and interlacing of threads were prepared. For onuch-footcloths worn with bast shoes, we used twill weaving technique, in oblique hem. Such fabrics were thicker and less worn. The most common was the way weave weave. It was the canvas that made the embroidery. The outfit was made from the finest canvas: well-bleached, thin and dense.
Women’s shirts were prepared for all occasions: for a wedding, for small and big holidays, for funerals, etc. According to their purpose, each shirt had a special character of decorative decoration. The girl had to be able to embroider. The one who did not learn this, was forced to order embroidered clothes from rural masters. The family hid this fact so that the daughter would not be dishonored. With special responsibility, the skill of skilled embroiderers was shown to the people around when they were preparing a wedding veil for one of their girlfriends.
The best examples of Mordovian folk embroidery were preserved in the festive women’s costume. In addition to the wool known to the people from antiquity, they were embroidered with silk, which was brought by merchants from the southern countries, the finest dressing with wool-shlenkoy. Purchased materials were expensive, so they were used only for decoration of festive, wedding shirts, hats.

Mordovian folk embroidery

Fragment of breast embroidery of women’s Erzyan swinging clothes. 30-ies. XX century. Republic of Mordovia, Bolshebereznikovsky District

Mordovian peasant women carefully preserved the original techniques of embroidery in their area, constantly enriching and developing it. That is why it is always possible to determine by the color, ornament and texture of the embroidery where it was performed and when it was applied. By embroidery it is not difficult to distinguish Erzya’s clothes from Mokshan. If you are attentively acquainted with the costume of representatives of different regions, you can find a noticeable difference both in the ways of dressing out embroidery, and in the manner of wearing it. It is no accident that researchers identify the boundaries of the existence of similar types of costume, defining groups related to culture. In each group of Mordovian costume embroidery had its own characteristics, it is on it can determine the origin of clothing.
Mokshanskaya embroidery of the southern districts of Mordovia – Ruzaevsky, Insara, Kadoshkinsky – differs from the embroidery of the Mokshan costume, living in the protected northern areas – Temnikovsky and Elnikovo. Special features are the embroidery of peasant clothes, from ancient times settled in the lands now located in the south-west of the republic within the modern Torbeevsky and Zubovo-Polansky districts. Not inferior in its variety and embroidery of the Erzya costume, especially as unlike the Moksha place of residence the erzi are at a considerable distance from each other. Erzya districts are part of Mordovia, Chuvashia, Tatarstan, Nizhny Novgorod, Penza, Saratov, Ulyanovsk, Samara, Orenburg regions. Embroidery keeps many secrets connected with the history of people’s life.

Mordovian folk embroidery

A fragment of the embroidery of the hem of the Mokshan shirt. The beginning of XX century. Tambov Gubernia, Temnikovskiy district (now the Republic of Mordovia, Temnikovsky District)

Secrets of national craftsmanship

To learn the secrets of folk craftsmanship, one must carefully consider at least one detail of genuine folk costume, for example, a shirt. Embroidery on Mordovian shirts is small and dense, is located narrow paths along the edges of clothing, along seams. Before sewing the shirt, the craftsman decorated the embroidery with her details. In the cuts of the cut out cloths, the front and back halves were defined, and the nature of the embroidery was different. All the patterns in the finished shirt had to converge according to the pattern.
The instruments used by the Mordovian embroiderer were known from antiquity: a needle and a seamstress-ketch-off. With a sewing needle, we have known since childhood, but sewing is a special device. Let us describe it in more detail.
Kechkaz is translated from Mordovian languages ​​as a hook. Indeed, an important part of the Mordovian seamstress was a steel hook with a sharp end, which was freely pierced by the fabric. The non-working end of the hook was attached with a ribbon to a small pocket. Usually for the pouch used tight embroidered fragments of worn out clothing.

By placing a pocket underneath, the handyman hooked the end of the fabric with a crochet and thus adjusted the tension of the fabric. Working on embroidery or sewing clothes, the skilled needlewoman performed smooth stitches, stitches that corresponded to the structure of the fabric and its density.
Consider the fragments of finishing Erzya and Mokshan shirts. The embroideresses here showed each in their own way a magnificent ability to deduce patterns of an ornament and to connect in work various seams. Moksha and Erzya embroidery can be distinguished by the color, the nature of the patterns, the technique of execution. However, the stitches that performed the embroidery can be considered general, they were performed on account of the threads of the fabric: painting, set, countable smoothness, oblique stitch, etc. These counting stitches, known to many peoples, caused strict symmetry and mathematically exact interrelation of ornamental motifs in the pattern.
Techniques of embroidery, based on the counting of fabric threads, significantly limit the freedom of embroiderers to work, forcing them to adhere to three directions: vertical – along the warp threads, horizontal – along the duck, and diagonal. Because of this, all forms of ornamental motifs inevitably acquire straight lines, enclosed in strips of curbs.
Thanks to the introduction of different stitches in the dressing of embroideries, embroiderers achieved a surprising effect: the seams began to play, like the cutting of gems, they were likened to glittering of silk, then they acquired soft velvety. On the surface of the embroidery, our eye discerns, in addition to the color, a relief pattern made up of stitches, standing out against the background of the canvas linen.
More widespread in the embroidery of moksha and erzi had seam painting, in Mordovian sermat, verbatim – letters, drawings. An ancient seam painting, consisting of small stitches, created a two-sided, thin pattern on a white canvas. A light, dotted line marked the outline of the motif, which was then filled with various decorative dressings: hooks, zigzags, forks, etc. The finest lace lay a pattern of black or dark blue threads on Mokshan clothes, red carpeted trails spread on the white canvas of a smart Erzyan shirt.
Embroidery with a complex geometric ornament was carried out in the technique of the set – kochkav (e.), Kochkaf (m.), Literally – typed. The accuracy of the counting of threads during work in this technique is indicated by the Mordovian names of the embroideries: the cat nile sureses (embroidery in six rows of four strings in each), keveti ki (fifteen-tier), etc.
Along with monophonic painting and a set, there were multicolored embroideries executed by counting smoothness. There were many variants of this embroidery. In the Erzyan costume, counterslips were filled with narrow strips resembling braids, woven on planks. An uncomplicated pattern of zigzags or small rhombuses was built on the contrast of a red background and a dark green or black pattern. The introduction to the decoration of the golden thread strengthened the coloristic effects.
The Moksha countable surface was different. In the decoration of Mokshan shirts, you can find many options for working with this technique. Patterns of a geometric or highly geometrized vegetal ornament with counting smoothness filled colorful half-sockets on the hem and mantle of the shirts.

Mordovian folk embroidery

Samples of Erzyan and Moksha ornamentation

In Mokshan headdresses and shirts, the embroidery coloring was based on a uniform rhythm of two or three colors, where the leading color was the soft color of the madder, which had a terracotta-red shade, supplemented by a delicate ocher-green or orange. The unifying here was the delicate black contour of the painting, which delineated each motif of the pattern, gave the form a precise embossed precision.
The most interesting is the countable surface of Zubovo-Polyanskiy and Torbeevsky districts. This embroidery was always built in the form of a colorful rectangle or a triangle with a dense carpet pattern, the edges of which often had a rim of black meander. The pattern consisted of skillfully woven rhombuses, rosettes, combed triangles and other geometric shapes. The craftsmen combined materials of different quality: wool, silk. Colored silks poured and burned like gems, illuminating with a magical light the embossed jewelry pattern of the entire embroidery.
The technique of color transfiguration has found its application in Erzyan’s clothes. Mordovian perevit reminds of a broad waistline, which was carried out on a stretched in one direction (on the basis or on a weft) of fabric. Free-sagging threads of fabric were gathered into bundles, which were wrapped in colored wool. Depending on the nature of the arrangement of the beams and the way they were fixed, simple, complex, narrow, wide bands were obtained.
To move on a sparse grid gave the effect of openwork stitch sewing with complex geometric patterns. This technique, like other embroidery techniques of the Mordvinian people, had its own national characteristics.
The simplest reception, slanting stitch, Mordovian embroiderers began and completed the dressing with embroidery. On the basis of oblique stitches, the reception of the Mordovian cross was developed, when the second row, which enhances the relief of the line, is laid along the oblique stitch by the opposite inclination.
To understand the national embroidery, it is necessary, first of all, to study the technical methods of performing Mordovian folk sutures.

Mordovian folk embroidery