The forgotten art – art of making lizhnycks

What is art of making lizhnycks? Lizhnyck – a word difficult to translate, something between a blanket and a rug, no one knows where it came from. They have been made as it is said – “for ages”. Now they are becoming not only a source of additional income, but also a source of identity in today’s Hutsul region. They are unique, because they are made using an unusual technique.

The first lizhnycks can already be admired at the Hutsul Museum in Kolomyia. The lizhnycks gathered there are colourful, full of geometric patterns. They lie behind the glass of showcases and decorate the exhibition of folk costumes. Here and there carelessly thrown on a chest or bench they fit into the whole arranged interior of the former Hutsul cottage. The exhibitions are covered with a layer of dust, although beautiful, they have been closed in glass cages, separated with tapes. You can take a picture of them and read the label with the signature, but no housekeeper will put them on the bed, no one will wrap with the wool that provides warmth.

At the market in Kosovo lizhnycks are eagerly bought by locals as well as tourists

Other lizhnycks are found at the market in Kosovo. They wave in the air presented by the saleswoman in the entire splendour. They are not so colourful, because currently they are sold the best in three subdued colours of natural sheep wool: gray, white and black. These are also cheaper. The “area” of lizhnycks is located somewhere between products offered to tourists and stalls with everyday objects. Because nowadays they are served as a kind of traditional handicrafts, appreciated outside the Hutsul region and they are very willingly bought by tourists as well as items still accompanying the inhabitants of nearby villages in their everyday life. The salesmen spread the wool rugs on the stands by presenting their thickness, showing patterns and praising numerous values: the lizhnycks gives you warmth and they are natural. Sheep’s wool is rough, but it naturally warms up, stimulates circulation. It helps with bone pains and headaches. Wool is combed one or two sides making the lizhnycks “looking in way that they provide warmth”, just in time to wrap oneself up, when in a wooden, unheated hut the fire in the stove is already extinguished. On the floors, they look not only nice, but also insulate against cold. They can also be used as an impressive bedcover.

You can see how woolen miracles are created in the workshop of Mrs Maria Melnyczuk

However, it is only in the workshop of Mrs Maria Melnyczuk that you can see how woolen miracles are created, how the weaves of threads take shape, how the patterns of thick fabric emerge. How much effort and hand work does it take to make a dense tangle of sheep fleece rug, which in the future will go to the marketplace or be sold immediately on request. Since Mrs Maria is known for her profession and appreciated in the area. She fulfils the requests for the whole region. The workshop is located in the extension at the back of the family house. The room is small and wrapped tightly with foil. The raw wool is stored, so you need to protect it from the wind, which could get inside through the gaps between the boards. However, the process of making lizhnycks begins much earlier: first you need to prepare wool. Wash, dry and comb. This is how yarn is made. Then, Mrs Maria forms a thick thread in her fingers with a fast rotating spindle. This thread, called the “motaszka”, wound on a niddy-noddy can be then dyed if the request concerns coloured patterns. It is worth singing at work, good thoughts, good mood and good intentions of their creators are part of the handicraft. Then, on large looms, the thread turns into fabric. Mrs Maria has got skilful hands, she makes quick movements, which she already knows by heart by interlacing thread on the looms. In the past, the lizhnycks used to be stitched together to make them bigger, now the looms are big enough to allow for

making over a meter long rug. Finally, the ready-made lizhnyck should be combed out. One sided or both sided, according to the client’s request and purpose of the fabric. A ready-made lizhnyck “is on an ego trip” and waits for its own buyer. Mrs Maria, like many other women, learned this art at home, helping the older family members. This is how knowledge was passed in many homes, but nowadays there are fewer and fewer such artists each year. It was the first time she had a chance to talk about her work, but she is doing well, putting everyone in a good mood with a cheerful disposition and energy. If Maria’s lizhnyck take on these qualities of their designer, they will surely be a wonderful, memorable complement to the interior design of the house in which they will live.

Author of the text: Iga Cichoń
Photos made by: Dorota Chojnowska, Dariusz Dąbrowski, Małgorzata Pociask

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