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Monday, July 21, 2008

the art of stitching

antique suzani, uzbekistan, 20th century

suzani (english), suzankāri سوزنکاری (persian) -- n. needlework, the art of stitching

I'm crazy about textiles, particularly the rich weaves from the East. I discovered the Uzbek suzani a few years ago and fell so madly in love that I devoted my entire semester screen printing portfolio to them. The textiles themselves are so vibrant and uplifting they seemed to make my hours alone in the studio late at night more manageable. 

Suzani is a decorative tribal textile from Central Asia, most commonly Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. My personal favorites come from Samarkand, conveniently located along the famous Silk Road that has connected trade from Europe and China for centuries. The Samarkand suzani tends to favor vibrant reds, pinks, and yellows in large-scale patterns that add to the bold beauty of the textile.

beautiful umbrellas made from various antique suzanis

The textiles are all hand embroidered, using two primary stitches--the chain stitch and couching. In the chain stitch, a series of looped individual stitches form an apparent chain that easily curves and is used to follow loose floral drawings. This technique is also applied in lace and crochet. In couching, thread or yarn is laid across the fabric and fastened with perpendicular stitches of yarn or thread. This technique allows the artisan to cover large areas with thread and lends a 3-D quality to the textile.

Historically, the suzani has been used as a young woman's dowry in Uzbekistan; according to legend, the mother begins embroidering when her daughter is born and when the girl reaches adulthood she finishes the textile before giving it to her betrothed. The emphasis on floral motifs is generally assumed to be a reference to fertility. Recently, the ancient textile has been adapted for a variety of applications and is now gracing the people and places of the West! Check out some of the great suzani-inspired products available:

what's in store (from top right):
suzani boxes, jayson home & garden
embroidered suzani peacock pillow, ruzzetti & gow
vintage suzani chair, abc carpet & home nyc
matthew williamson africa enamel bangle,
cloisonne pot with lid, jayson home & garden
high top suzani boots, ottoman collections
madeleine weinrib pillow, madeleine weinrib atelier

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