It is difficult to imagine the Hutsul life without a lizhnyk. It can be used as a luxurious cover on the bed, a carpet on the wall or on the floor, but covered by the blanket slip it will be a light and warm blanket. Few of tourists couldn’t refrain to buy this soft marvel for themselves or as a present for friends. It is not only its beauty, but it also improves the microclimate in the urban apartments and even maintains the indoor temperature. We are talking about the big shaggy Carpathian lizhnyk.
The history of Carpathian lizhnyk
Till the end of XIX century lizhnyks differed from the modern ones. They were made of unpainted wool and they had 5 meters long. Such woolens were called dzherham and used as a sheet or a blanket at the same time; small lizhnyks were put on the horse instead of the saddle.
The quantity of lizhnyks, hanging out on the pole near the bed, shows the wealth of Hutsul.
There is a traditional belief in the Zakarpattia (Transcarpathians) region that the lizhnyk attracts good to the house, that’s why at the weddings lizhnyks (not only embroidered towels) are laid under the newlyweds’ feet.
In 1869 the Polish ethnographer Vincent Paul, describing Hutsul life, said: “The quantity of lizhnyks, hanging out on the pole near the bed, shows the wealth of Hutsul”.
As far back as in the beginning of the century, in 1930, at the fair in Poznan (Poland) lizhnyks created the real sensation. They immediately became in great demand. But in time the natural and ecologically clean product was excluded by different synthetic covers.
At present, this shaggy marvel is made almost in all Hutsul villages, but particularly in Snidavka, Sheshory, Pistyn. However, the acknowledged capital of lizhnyk production is Yavoriv (12 km from Kosiv and 115 km from Ivano-Frankivsk). In this village lizhnyks are woven almost in all houses by adults and even by children. A small exhibition of lizhnyks is at every homestead. Some lizhnyks are ready for sale, others are drying.
How lizhnyk is made
To make the lizhnyk a craftsman uses wool from sheep that were raised in the high Carpathian mountain pastures, and natural dyes. Firstly, wool is washed and dried, combed by the special comb, and as a result a fluffy ball like a cloud is formed. By the way, blankets and pillows, filled with combed wool, promote healthy sleep. However, wool has the property of absorbing and returning 30% moisture into natural environment, without creating the feeling of dampness in the bed.
The combed wool are easily twisted into threads (rovnytsi), and lizhnyks are made out of them, mainly on the homemade looms. There are several traditional patterns by which you can know in which village this lizhnyk was made. Thus, lizhnyks in Yavoriv can be curved, parquet, Russian with “eyes”, rainbow or cream.
The newly-woven lizhnyk is plunged into the special machine – valylo, the big wooden tub, narrowed down, along which water is channeled into a structure known as a “zholob”. (The year 1515 is the earliest date in the historical papers where the use of valylo in Deliatyn area is recorded. Thus, it is a very old mechanism). Water flow smashes and sharply arises up by making a whirl where lizhnyks are churned for several hours (as Hutsuls say – valieiutsy). When you are standing near the valylo, it seems like you are near a big waterfall. While being in the valylo, lizhnyks become tough and fluffy. It is very good when the lizhnyk is churned in summer in warm water. Then it is dried on the poles and combed in order to tease the wool.
How to choose lizhnyk of high quality
To choose the lizhnyk of high quality, you need to look at its colors. If the lizhnyk has black, grey and white tints, it is natural, but if it is brown and green, it is painted. Then we put it on the light: if it is thin and translucent, so it wasn’t in the valylo for a long time or it wasn’t there at all. Such lizhnyk isn’t good. You also should pull a fiber out of it: if it is short, it means the lizhnyk was woven from threads, left on the comb after combing the good lizhnyk. So, not to waste a good thing, lizhnyks are made of recycled resources. You should carefully examine the base of the lizhnyk because it must be only woolen.
To choose the lizhnyk of high quality, you need to look at its colors
The natural lizhnyk is said to have a special energy which passes the strength of mountains and warmth of craftswoman’s hands, and interchange of natural colors influences sight positively. Besides, this Carpathian cover is famous for its healthful properties in treating radiculitis and colds. In order to treat the last ones, it is recommended to be rubbed by vodka and wrap oneself up in the lizhnyk. The strength of “alive” sheep’s wool will do its work – the illness will go without a trace.