Sunday, May 1, 2022

Weekend Review: Ukrainian Embroidery

Ukrainian Embroidery / Ann Kmit, Johanna Luciow & Loretta Luciow
Minneapolis, MN: Ukrainian Gift Store Inc., 1994, c1984.
112 p.

This is a book I picked up a very long time ago; I can't recall where, although I think it might have been at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon. It is a wonderful Canadian book featuring all sorts of Ukrainian embroidery; as the first hardcover publication date was 1979, it is strongly influenced by the era, with some of the photos clearly older. However, there are close-ups of stitch examples and traditional garments and household linens which are traditional and thus never dated, as well.

One thing I like about the 'current' photos in this book in particular is that they were taken at a time when Ukrainian embroidery was frequently used to decorate regular kinds of 70s eveningwear, and so we see examples of current fashions with embroidery used in a modern way. It's inspiring and I found it really interesting to see how Ukrainian Canadians melded cultures in this way. (if you're also interested in that era of dress, you can check some examples of this trend at a recent online exhibit from the Ukrainian Canadian Museum, called "Everything Old is Cool Again: Groovy Vintage Fashion from the Ukrainian Diaspora)

This book is a small one, physically -- only 112 pages, and short and square. It provides background and history (briefly) and an overview of the stitches, but more from the point of view of how they were used and where they came from. There is a chapter on general techniques, which includes some basic stitch diagrams, but if you wanted to follow along with the suggestions and techniques, it would be easier if you were generally familiar with embroidery already, I'd say. Each chapter then talks about techniques - primarily openwork, flat stitches, cross-stitch, and non-counted embroidery. In each of these there are many pattern diagrams for the reader to follow.

As a resource of style and history, as well as that modernization of the styles that I mentioned, this is a valuable book. I enjoy looking through it often, and love that the cover image shows a style of embroidery that is different from what many people think of as "Ukrainian". There is a lot more than cross stitch in Ukraine. 

Another interesting bit to this book is that the last section is an overview of how to put together a traditional vyshyvanka (embroidered blouse) for yourself. It's a very simple, traditional one: based on measurements and basically a few gathered rectangles. But it's a traditional way to make one, and if you like this particular style -- drawstring neckline, gathered sleeve, it's perfect and quick. There are other varieties with neckline and sleeve variations that are a bit more complex if you really want to get into making these blouses. However, this version is easy, and also fits in with the wider world of the 70s and its DIY simple sewing ethos; I can see how this would have been a popular style especially then. 

Anyhow, if you ever do see this book, take a look through it. It's pretty enjoyable! 



  1. Oh thanks for the link to that exhibition. I loved looking at the outfits and the article about the head pieces.

    1. Wasn't it a fun exhibit to scroll through? Lots to examine.

  2. Another book for my list! Thanks for all of the links, including the museum in Toronto.
    I find it amazing that Canada has the 3rd largest Ukrainian population in the world.

    1. It does indeed! That is why there are so many regional Ukrainian museums, I guess ;) Lucky for me.


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