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Halt a century ago all Lithuanian women used home-made fabrics. In Dzukija this continued right up to the 60's. Even now home-made towels, tablecloths and bedspreads are admired as pieces of folk art. Mostly they are made of linen. Their beauty is based on the combination of patterns and colours. The majority of patterns on white linen cloth are based on ancient geometrical ornaments which symbolize the sun and other natural objects. The central pattern is usually composed of several uncomplicated but contrasting elements framed by smaller compositions. Their main peculiarity lies in their constancy and rhythmic repetitions. The same patterns but of different proportions are used on separate articles of the same set. The weaving pattern is usually in harmony with the proportions of the object, e.g. a table, for which the article is used. With time, the compositions became freer.

The patterns of towels are sometimes composed lengthwise. In this case the ends have a red woven band. Other kinds of towels have crocheted lace. Red bands used to be woven into the ends (in Aukstaitija) or sides (in Zemaitija) of tablecloths as well.

The weaving patterns of bedspreads are based on geometrical ornaments, composed of squares, catpaws, suns and the like. In south-eastern Lithuania catpaw patterns are smaller. The same patterns are used on fabrics woven with a different number of warps. But naturally, with the increase in the number of warps the patterns become more complicated. With time plant and animal motifs appeared and now they are often combined with geometrical patterns. Colour introduces a still greater variety. Cloth woven with two warps is usually striped. Zemaitija preferred bedspreads with transverse stripes, while Aukstaitija liked lengthwise stripes more.

A lot of attention was paid to colours. Striped or checked bedspreads do not have many colours, usually two, three or four. Dominating colour combinations are black, green and red; green, white and red; black and red.

The more complicated the pattern, the more colours there are, particularly in Dzukija and Suvalkija. There the number of colours may be as large as eight, the following combinations being the most frequent: black, green and red; violet, black, red, green and yellow. Bedspreads woven in pick-up technique have two contrasting colours.

The ancient artistic traditions and relation to customs are best preserved in towels. They are woven from bleached linen. Warp may be cotton, weft is usually linen, natural or dyed in brown. Lip until the middle of the 19th century towels used to be from 250 to 300 cm long and 28-35 cm wide . Later their dimensions changed to 150-200 cm in length and 35-40 cm in width. There were two kinds of towels - those for everyday use and those for decorative purposes. The latter were usually hung on a carved towel rack in the corner of the best room.

At the turn of the century towels used to be given as gifts to the bridegroom's parents, brothers, sisters, the matchmaker, guests and dowry chest carriers. This tradition goes back to the 16th century. Towels were also used in funeral rites: they were used to adorn the place where the dead man lay in state, to place across the shoulders of the coffin bearers, to support the coffin while lowering it into the hole, and so on.

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Next: Sashes Previous: Large and small distaffs


Copyright , 1996 Lithuanian Folk Culture Centre.