Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Suzani - Part 1

One of the highlights for me was to get up close and personal with some suzani in Bukhara. Our evening meal was in a family home - traditionally cooked 'Plov' (a meat and rice dish - more on food later) and a talk and demonstration on the decorative embroidery of Uzbekistan used on wall-hangings, coverlets, cushions, prayer mats and bags - traditionally part of a bride's dowry and used to decorate the newly-weds home. (I'm still researching the detail.)

Our hostess (and I apologise that I didn't write down her name or that of her family) explained how the cloth and bundles of silk thread were dyed (or overdyed after the embroidery- which would alter the colours in the thread as well as the base cloth).  A variety of materials are used in this part of the process including onion skins, beetroot, indigo, madder, pomegranate, cochineal and crushed turquoise. Various combinations also produced another range of colours.

The designs are drawn onto the base cloth (in this case the father of the household was the main artist) then the cloth (or sections of cloth) are embroidered. The width of cloth is determined by the width of the loom, so large suzani are made of strips joined together. Once the design is drawn the sections can be taken apart for different embroiderers to work on, then re-joined to complete the piece.

The main stitch used in this area is a chain stitch produced with a fine crochet hook. The thread is laid under the cloth and pulled through to the top forming a chain. The designs are infilled with rows of fine chain stitch - though of course this depends on the skill of the embroiderer.
(Some suzani are embroidered with a satin stitch or other stitches but I saw mostly chain stitch and couched threads.)

A basket of naturally dyed silk thread....... It's very stiff in this form but our hostess showed us how she runs it between fingernails which softens it sufficiently to embroider with.

We were shown a number of exquisite pieces, all the work of the family enterprise. Silk embroidery on a silk-cotton ground. The colours were glorious.

I will let the photos speak for themselves.

I could have happily spent hours (and many dollars) there.

Of course there was an opportunity to shop after the dinner but I already had these in my suitcase.......

A couple of closer views of the stitching. Suzani embroiderers, like many traditional quilters also leave something unfinished or a little 'mistake' because 'only God is perfect'.

So much work and so beautiful. Historically full of symbolism - if you know how to read them. (Something to investigate later.)

Sue xxxx


  1. The Suzani's are breathtaking - and so many great photo's ... a joy to browse! Thanks

    1. Glad you enjoyed them - I'll post more later. Wait til you see the tiles,,,,