FLOWING through troubled Roumania, like a clear, undisturbed, underground river, her peasant art, more rich and varied, according to some authorities, than that of any of the surrounding nations, silently testifies to the indomitable artistic genius of her men and women of the soil.
     Oppressed for so long, practically ever since the Roman general Trajan defeated the Dacians scarcely one hundred years after the birth of Christ—these over-taxed, hard-working peoples are at last coming into their own. Those of us who are interested in international politics will recall that it was the friendliness of the Peasant Party that gave Roumania's exiled King the courage to attempt a return to his throne.

CERTAINLY the women of Roumania can well be proud of their heritage of needlework, and carpet weaving, for even during the most troubled period in the history of this ravished nation, the last half of the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries, they brought their art to a high peak of perfection.
     Likening it to a river is a happy simile, for the Roumanian word for embroidery is "Riuri," which, literally translated means "river." It was thus named perhaps because of the likeness of the wavy parallel lines so often used (see the sleeves on the blouse in the illustration) to the sinuous course of the river as it winds through the valleys.
     Although native costumes are plentifully seen during the present time, indications point to a steady decline of home-created garments. Industries are increasing. In the fertile valleys formed by the Carpathian mountains, where the purest strain of the Roumanian race exists today, and where, in the past, the costumes, legends, and examples of peasant art were of a. more distinctive character than in any other part of Roumania, petroleum wells are being worked. Other causes, too, contribute to this unfortunate prospect.
     If you want to see a beautiful land, with a peasantry still wearing the traditionary costumes of their ancestors, don't delay, but go at once, seek out some remote Carpathian village, where, if the oil wells are not too much in evidence, you may have your desire for "local color" gratified.

THE Roumanian woman's costume is very simple, but the wealth of handwork which decorates the Sunday clothing of even the most humble, makes it have a richness and a beauty far in excess of its original value.
     The head-dress is merely a veil or cloth of linen or silk, tied round the head; the upper garment is a smock pulled in at the waist by a hand-woven piece of braid; and the skirt is wide, full and plaited, worn in some districts with aprons, front and back, or made of a square cut out of a piece of material and wound round the hips. It is left open at the side to allow for freedom of movement.
     But here the simplicity ends. The head-dress, the smock, the belt, and the skirts could each serve as a topic for an article. Their arrangement and decoration make a fascinating study. Matrons and widows only, wear the head-dress, with which we are somewhat familiar through the pictures of the Queen Mother, Marie. For spinsters there is no such prerogative. They must wear a pigtail down the back, but they make up for their disappointment by tying large bows of gay ribbons down the length of it, giving them an appearance as colorful as their Easter eggs.

OFTEN head veils are of a sheer material (see illustration) embroidered in geometric designs, across both ends and down the edges, at the sides. The stitch is probably a loose darning-stitch such as is used in darned net, and gives the effect of lace.
     The matron in the illustration on this page has caught her veil once tightly under her chin, and then softened it in folds about her face. The embroidered portion under the chin is one of the ends, and she has cleverly utilized the fringe for a cockade.
     More often, with young women, the veil is caught at the back, with the ends hanging loose behind.
     The skirts and smocks carry the most colorful decorations. Both the sleeves and the front of the smock, and the end and sides of the apron, present an excellent field for exploitation, luring to the genius of the needlewoman.

STITCHES are familiar enough—chain, cross, English embroidery, satin, scallop, Holbein, and the embossing-stitch, together with many others. George Oprescu, in his book "Peasant Art in Roumania" gives the following detailed description of the embossing-stitch, "used almost without exception to work the part of the smock which lies between the shoulder piece and the sleeve. The embossing is usually done in silk, white like the material, grayish, or faintly yellow. . . . The thread is visible on the right side of the material only, on the wrong side it is practically concealed.
     "The embossed patterns are taken vertically down the sleeve, the embroidery thread following a zigzag course between two threads of the material which lie fairly close together.

"IT is then gently pulled up. The design is formed by leaving unembroidered patches between these lines of honeycombing. The whole thing is calculated with the utmost accuracy, for the slightest error would distort the pattern."
     Skirts and aprons, although the work-a-day ones are of dark material, are no less artistically enlivened.
     But in addition to her ability to embroider, the Roumanian woman has claim along other lines to a place in the artistic hall of fame. It is she, and no other, who is responsible for the beautiful weavings which strangely enough, prospered most during the harassing period mentioned previously, when Roumania was ground down to the utmost. Perhaps, indeed, like Czecho-Slovakian women, the peasant workers preserved their national and racial integrity through their handwork during that time.

IT is only possible to touch lightly on these tapestries here, and the picture is best presented by George Oprescu. He says: "—the Roumanian peasant woman weaves the hangings which are a decoration for the home, and for countless other purposes. I said 'weaves,' I should rather say 'creates,' for the making of these pictures in wool, these flower gardens which are hung upon the walls, is in every way a work of creation—the peasant woman has no pattern—a pattern would intimidate her—With the crockery ware of the plates and pitchers they enliven the peasant's house, which is somewhat gloomy owing to the small windows, and somewhat bare as a result of many wars, pillages, and other ordeals which the country has suffered. Hung on the walls, thrown across a bed or a bench, sometimes used as a table covering-these hangings are the Roumanian woman's greatest glory, the pride and joy of her home."

AMERICA has heard a great deal about Roumania and her Balkan sisters, and is liable to hear more. This country is important, very much so. And too, she is rich in natural resources, hitherto exploited by strangers to her degradation.
     Her whole history is more amazing than any romance ever written. But there are changes in the air now. Roumania has her chance. Her territory has been doubled, her educational system is better, and she has an ever increasingly sane form of government.
     Her peasant classes are to be reckoned with. It takes minds to produce beautiful works of art. Roumanian women in particular should be heard from. They have had much to contribute in the past.
     We shall be interested in seeing what they bring to the future.

F. Y. W.

Those wishing list of reference books used in preparation of this article send two-cent stamp for return, and address the Editor, Roumanian Issue, Needlecraft, Augusta, Maine. Belgium will be the next subject in this series appearing in the September issue.