THE SLOVAK NATIONAL MUSEUM'S REGULAR SPECTATOR COLUMN

Fabric blueprinting - a Slovak tradition

THE COLLECTION of fabric blueprinting in the Spišské Museum in Levoča is definitely one of the most valuable in the museum's ethnographic textile collection.
It was acquired mainly during the 1970s and 1980s. At that time women in the mountain villages of the Levočské hills still wore some of the traditional garments, like blue printed skirts and aprons.


DETAILS of embroidered apron and decorative coat buttoning.
photo: Courtesy of SNM

THE COLLECTION of fabric blueprinting in the Spišské Museum in Levoča is definitely one of the most valuable in the museum's ethnographic textile collection.

It was acquired mainly during the 1970s and 1980s. At that time women in the mountain villages of the Levočské hills still wore some of the traditional garments, like blue printed skirts and aprons.

The aprons, called fartuchy, which were used on special occasions in the Spiš region, dominate the collection. The oldest, from the last third of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, are made from homemade linen dyed black and dark blue with white, light blue, yellow and green patterning.

In central Spiš, women used to have their linen dyed in the workshops in the towns of Spišské Podhradie and Stará Ľubovňa.

One of the most popular and the longest running in Spišské Podhradie was that of Alfred Steller, which was in operation right up until World War II. Steller taught many apprentices the techniques of dyeing, one of whom was Štefan Boroň, from Spišské Podhradie.

Thanks to Boroň the museum in Levoča acquired a collection of printing moulds. These are made completely of wood or a combination of wood, leaves of metal, and nails.


photo: Courtesy of SNM

Boroň also provided precious information about the work of master dyer Steller. This workshop used to dye and print on linen and later on a type of cotton cloth called paťolat. These were distributed in numerous villages around Spišské Podhradie.

Steller's workshop was a particularly busy place in the summer because the homemade cloth had to be bleached and dried, then brought to the dyeing shop.

Between the two World Wars, Steller also ordered cloth from a factory in Ružomberok. One roll would consist of 120 metres of cloth. After dyeing and printing he would offer the cloth at the weekly markets and annual fairs in the district.

Between the 17th and the 19th centuries the dyer's guild of Levoča, Schön und Schwartzfärber's, played a significant role as well.

It was the oldest such guild in the country, founded in 1618 in what was then Upper Hungary. Thanks to its Guild Book we have an accurate record of the spread of the craft of dyeing across what is today Eastern and Central Slovakia and parts of Ukraine and Hungary.

The dyers' names were listed chronologically, with the names of any other dyers in the family. The very last names mentioned were Ludwig Lumnitzer, in 1855, and Fridrich Lumnitzer, in 1866.

Several of the patterns for scarves, skirts and apron by the Lumnitzers and Steller are almost identical. The dyers knew the tastes of their customers well, as well as which patterns in what combination of colours were popular in a certain village.

The Spišské Museum of Levoča's valuable collection of fabric blueprinting has also been exhibited in Great Britain, Hungary and Poland.

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