Christine Brown on Romanian Textiles: Part 2: The Pieces Brought In…and a Few More

This is the second part of a two-part Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program given by Christine Brown on “Romanian Textiles.” 

The first part of Christine’s program was a lecture which you can reach using this link:

I need to be clear that this Part II is entirely my own treatment and neither Christine, nor anyone else I’ve consulted or drawn on, is responsible for any errors in it.

There was a remarkable amount of material in the room, and Christine moved to that next.

On the first level of  the front-of-the-room board there were four pieces.

The round piece is a cushion cover.


The second one was larger, a table decoration.


As we saw in Christine’s lecture, aprons are an important component of the traditional costumes of Romanian women.  The next piece was such an apron.


Some of the bands in this apron are woven.  Others are embroidered.  This style of apron is worn in the Nasaud region where the peahen and peacock headwear is worn.

On the far right side of the board, was this square-ish textile.


The five decorative devices on it are beaded rather than embroidered.

Christine had two items of embroidered sheepskin, shown under plastic to retain their dead white color.  The first of these was the vest below.

Here is a closer view of the front of this vest.

R5 front

Here is the back of this vest.

R5 back

There was also a hat.  Here are two images of it.

R6 a and b

We moved to the second layer of brought-in pieces.

To treat this material, Christine had invited a special guest, Nadine Dutcher, who taught English as a foreign language, in the years 1977-78, in an area of Romania close to Hungary.

Starting on the left again, she said that this first piece


was intended as a tablecloth, but was large enough to use as a bedspread.

A closer detail of this piece.


The item on the right side is also a tablecloth that is shown folded in half.


A closer detail of this piece.


My images of the four small pieces on this level of the board are not good, but here they are, for what they are worth.

The first of these four pieces is a small bag.


The other three are pillow covers.


The next two images below are deceptively large.  Both of these pieces are about the same size as the two above.



The remaining piece, on this level of the board, was the one below.


This is a signed wall hanging by a known Romanian artist in the 1970s.  Its designs depict carved wooden spoons.

The next piece was a sizable kilim.


The weaving is slit tapestry, but the curves in the designs in its field are accomplished with “eccentric wefts.”  In her discussion of eccentric wefts, Marla Mallett, in her book, Woven Structures, indicates that their use suggests “an extremely stable warp, held under excellent tension.”  Marla also notes that “shallow, curved shapes are easily created,” when a weavers is employing slit tapestry.

R14a and R14b

There were several more of these kilims.  I’ll just show them without much comment.






Notice that the designs in the kilim above include birds (we saw a kilim during the lecture that had birds and humans in its designs).


About such motifs, in Balkan kilims, Tim Hays (who was traveling and not able to attend Christine’s session) and who, with his wife, Penny, is a student and collector of Balkan textiles, writes:

“Tree of Life” motifs are very common on kilims woven by Christians in Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and elsewhere in the Balkans. They also appear on the kilims woven by Muslims in Bulgaria and Anatolia. But not the birds. These seem to be restricted to pieces woven by Christians. Many older Balkan kilims were woven by Christians for the Ottoman market and later for the European market. Serbian Kilims even have fish. These are a symbol of importance to Serbian Orthodox weavers.

This material seems quite young and designs can move rapidly from traditional usages, but the presence of birds in the 19th century would suggest that a given kilim was woven by Christian weavers.

Another member of the audience had brought two pieces she had bought in Romania.

The first of these was a table runner with embroidered ends.


The second piece was a bag with its source prominently indicated in its design.


Jeff Krauss brought a Romanian folk mask.


There are apparently various types of such masks that have been a part of Romanian tradition.

On the internet site “” I found the following passage and explanation.

“The traditional masks are ancient remains of the collective memory. Masks were used in the fertility rituals, rain calling rituals, hunting rituals or in ritual dances. They represent characters from folk mythology.

“The mask games are played in specific moments of the year (Christmas, New Year, etc.) or on the events definitive for humans� life (wedding, death).

“In Vrancea County, at the dead watch, men wearing masks on their face dance in the courtyard, at the fire. Accompanied by drums, they offer a last party to the one who passes the threshold between the two worlds.

“Only men wear masks. It is forbidden to say the name of the persons under the masks. These customs are probably the remains of ancient initiation rituals.

“Masks are made of fur and animal skin, of cloth, ceramic, carved wood, lime, fir or birch bark, metal rings or pieces, thick colored rope, bird feathers, hemp tow, horse or pig hair, beans and corn, straw, colored paper, beads, buttons, glass pieces, horns or pieces of objects. Some of these materials are colored.

“The most used tools for making masks are the knife, the clasp, the scissors, the hammer, the chip axe, the hand drill and the pincers.

“Masks are remains of a strange, symbolical world which is getting lost in the industrialized world of today.”

The next piece shown was much larger and looked to me as if it could have some age.  Someone suggested 1900.


As Tim Hays’  notes in his comments, immediately above, such “tree of life” designs were used by both Christians and Islamic weavers in the Balkans. There was a suggestion in the room that the border devices in this klim are a Turkish usage.

Here are some closer details of R20.

R23a, R23b, R23c

Wendel Swan’s daughter is married to a Romanian, and last year, they traveled there where he has family.

Subsequent to this program (which they attended) they sent Wendel some additional images of Romanian textiles.

The first of these pieces, below, is an item of contemporary tapestry similar to others we have seen above.


This is a piece they bought during their trip and brought back.

But the other two images are of textiles in the husband’s family.  These two pieces are still in Romania.

The first is a round table cover.  (The photo may not show it at its best.)


It’s not clear from the image what technique was used to create it.  Marla Mallett, looking at this photo, says it is likely done in needlepoint.  Tim and Penny Hays report that is similar to pieces they saw while traveling in SE Europe.

The third piece is a fragmented half of a large kilim.


Here is a closer detail of it.


This kilim has some interesting features.  First, its colors.  It has two reds, a lot of green, a clear yellow and a strong purple.  If from natural dyes, these colors could suggest some age.

Another feature that attracts my eye is the large scale of its design devices.  These seem larger to me than those we usual encounter in larger Anatolian kilims.

Tim Hays has consulted some European sources who indicate that this piece is definitely Romanian and may be over 100 years old.  He says it was likely woven in the Banat area of southwestern Romania.

The presence of some seemingly older kilims in the room tempted me,  as I built this virtual version of this program, to look about for some more older Romanian kilims. 

Tim Hays drew my attention to a lecture by Stefano Ionescu, the Romanian textile scholar and tour leader, entitled “Folk Kilims from Romania.”  If you want to hear Stefano’s lecture, you need to invite him to give it, but we have his permission to show you a few of these older Romanian kilims.

This first piece is described as  “Rupea, Ottoman kilim” and is estimated to the 17th century.  Stefano indicates that this is the only kilim surviving in the Church collections in Transylvania.


Rupea is in the north of Romania.  It is a town in Brasov county in Transylvania.

Here is a closer detail of it.


A second piece is described a woven in Wallacia, in the second part of the 19th century.


Wallacia is a historic area, parts of which are in today’s southern Romania.

The third of these folk kilims is said to have been woven in Oltenia and is dated 1788.


Oltenia is in southwest Romania and is a part of Wallachia.

Below is a closer detail of this third kilim.


The next piece was also from Oltenia.


This piece is said to be a “trousseau” weaving.  It is dated 1857 and the calligraphy on its right side in this image, reads “Made by me.” (the “me” apparently assumed to be self-evident to those who would read it).

Here is a closer detail of this piece.


This would have been a time when the presence of a bird would signal a Christian weaver.

Next is a kilim from Banat in south Transylvania.  Tim Hays suggests that its probably from the Romanian Banat.


The piece below is also from Transylvania, but this time from the county of Maramures, in its northern part.


The next piece is from the Dan Basta Collection.


It is dated 1835 and is attributed to Bucovina, a historical area, part of which is now in far eastern Romania, with the other part in the Ukraine.

The last piece I want to show from Stefano’s lecture on “Folk Kilims of Romania,” is attributed to Bessarabia. 


This is another historical region which has, over the years, been passed back and forth, divided up and combined with, some neighboring areas on the far eastern edge of Romania.  “Moldavia” is to its immediate west.

Here is a closer look at a detail of its field.

So you can see that there are some older “folk” Romanian kilims worth our attention.

Christine took and answered further questions and adjourned the session.

The usual interactions occurred.

Bibliographic Addendum:

There are also some remarkable sites on the web that focus on Romanian ethnic clothing (and often that of other groups as well).   Here are a few: has a costume page with levels:

The Ethnographic Museum of Transylvania has  a site:

A British web site Elsnik, has Romanian costume pages.

The Brooklyn Museum via The Metropolitan Museum of New York, has interesting, quality Romanian costume material.

As I indicated in the text above, I drew my description of Hungarian folks masks, from

And to repeat another credit, my eight examples of older Romanian “folk kilims,” were taken from an illustrated lecture fashioned and given by Stefano Ionescu.

Here, also is a link to information about a Romanian tour that Stefano conducted under TM auspices.

The above link may not be “live,” but you can copy it and paste it into your browser.

Stefano indicates that he will lead two tours in Transylvania (in 2013; one in May, one in June) based on a program, which includes dozens of Romanian Folk Kilims.

Ordinarily, this would be the end of such a post, but,  in this case, it is not quite.

Christine and I talked, as we worked on this virtual version, about how diverse traditional ethnic dress was in SE Europe, and how impossible it is even to suggest the diversity that in fact existed in a single lecture and program.

Still, “going out the door, ” here, we can try.

Here are some additional images of traditional Romanian dress we encountered as we went along.  They are not specifically credited, but all have been drawn from sources in the Bibliography or from internet sites.

Sometimes there are captions, but often not, and you may have to guess at what some items are.

Only one thing is certain: these are all items of traditional Romanian costume.


R. John Howe

The well-coated Romanian gentleman, above, wishes you adieu from the year 1844.

The End

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