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Mendhi hands by Pushpa Jain. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.Fish decoy. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Embroidered dress detail. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong. All rights reserved.Cedar bird by Glen VanAntwerp. Photo by Al Kamuda. All rights reserved.
Polish Textiles


Polish linen table cloth with
cutwork embroidery.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong


Polish table cloth made from cotton, using cutwork embroidery.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong


Wool and linen "serwietka" or table runner. From Kurpie Region, Poland. 1976.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong


Set of Polish dolls with embroidered clothing, made by Kimport, 1930s.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

The textile traditions of Poland reflect the region's long history of the intermingling of different cultures and the evolution today of as many as 60 distinct local cultures, each with its own variations of textile designs, styles, and techniques. Over time, the production of some textiles has moved from home to factory or from the domain of individual traditional artists to the realm of cooperatives of professional artists, but the making of textiles continues to be a widespread practice in Poland.

The textiles in the collection of Michigan State University Museum are primarily of the twentieth century, with some dating as early as the 1920s. The collection includes pieces made in a variety of materials, including items made of homespun cloth made from wool, flax, and hemp fibers, and of many techniques, including weaving, cutwork, and a wide variety of embroidery stitches. The collection includes pieces from four of Poland's distinctive cultural regions including: Silesia, known for its embroidery where background and foreground motifs remain undeveloped, creating a negative pattern similar to the Assisi work found in Italy; Kurpie, a northern region known for the Kurpiowski stitch, a colorful combination of chain, feather, overcast, satin and stem stitches; and Kaszuby, a region known for its multicolored silk and cotton embroidery worked in flat and backstitch style.

Other notable items in the collection include pasiaki, a textile tradition used in household textiles and aprons, originating from central Poland, in which pure wool of a high pile is woven in a striped pattern; checked weaving on linen, often combined with cotton and wool, or on an assortment of pure wool from the the regions of Kurpie and Podlasie; and patterned work or kilim rugs made by a tightly interwoven warp and weft technique, producing a pileless flat surface. Kilims can be divided into two groups. The traditional kilims have borders filled with floral and geometric designs. The second group, influenced by modern art, has a main field of colorful and asymmetric design.

The MSU Museum collections also include publications on Polish textiles and embroidery, a number of Polish dolls dressed in folk costume, and research files including an English translation of Polish embroidery terms created by Eva M. Boicourt.

Donors and Fieldworker:
Eve M. Boicourt, Yvonne Lockwood, Marsha MacDowell


Related Collections:
Clothing and Textile Collections
East European Textile Collections

Exhibitions:
Polish Folk Art, Bloomfield Township Library, 2004. Sponsored by Friends of Polish Art, Detroit.

---compiled by Eva M. Boicourt, August, 2006


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