Sunday, May 15, 2022

Weekend Review: The Art of Ukrainian Embroidery: techniques and technology


The Art of Ukrainian Embroidery / Olena Kulynych-Stakhurska
Lviv: Misioner, c1996.
155 p.

I found this book via Interlibrary Loan - such a privilege to have access to it, as this book is nearly impossible to get one's hands on otherwise. As it is, I was only able to find it at one location in all of Canada. 

That limited access is really too bad, as this is an excellent resource book. The author has an interesting foreword, in which she explains why she thought that travelling around Ukraine to many villages and towns, talking to the remaining experts in embroidery (this was during and just after Ukraine's experience under the Soviet government) was so important. She believes that "the art of embroidery...reflects the spirit of the Ukrainian nation. Popular wisdom filled its work with innermost feelings of the soul, a deep philosophical idea that through symbols imprinted itself on the cloth." 

She also says that there are more than 100 distinct stitches in Ukrainian embroidery but that many of them are being lost to the easier and faster cross-stitch (she's not a fan). She feels that the beauty and soul of Ukrainian embroidery are entangled with these traditions and so doesn't want them to disappear. In the intro, she explains that she has been working on this project for over 25 years, and that the "techniques and technology" of the title are based on her own collections, museum collections, and the  ethnographic work she did with individuals across Ukraine. It's a book intended as a record to aid researchers, and I think it accomplished its aims very successfully.

The book itself is structured stitch by stitch, with a clear diagram of the stitch, followed by the name of the stitch -- often different depending on what part of Ukraine you're in, and those names and variations are all noted as well. Then there are basic instructions on how to complete it - I think that if you are already an embroiderer you'll have much more luck deciphering the instructions, but then I always find written descriptions of stitching harder to figure out that someone just showing me :) There are many clear images of the stitch as worked, too.

There are 155 stitches here, ranging from simple ones like backstitch, running stitch, stem stitch or chain stitch to drawn work stitches (in the style known as Merezhka) There are many variations and unusual techniques included. Interspersed are full page colour plates of examples from her collections; clothing, household linens, both overviews and details. And it's published as a fully bilingual edition, with Ukrainian and English text side-by-side.

The book is thorough and inspiring. It's really a must have if you are interested in the history of Ukrainian stitching. I'll be looking for my own copy, and hope that I will someday come across one! 


  1. How wonderful! Thank you for writing this review!

    1. I hope you can find a copy if you're interested too -- it is such a great resource!

  2. Replies
    1. It's a fabulous collection of stitches. Really worthwhile to search for.

  3. Hi there! I recently borrowed this same book from an interlibrary loan and realized one of the photos I took of the author's preface was cropped all funky! I am so pleased to find your review as this is such a rich resource and I love that it inspired you too. By any chance, did you take a picture of the author's preface and would you be comfortable sharing?

    1. Hi Kelly, I think I might have? Not 100% sure but I will look for it in my files and if I do have it I will share with you.


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!