Sunday, May 31, 2009


Embroidery is a huge subject which I won't even attempt to do justice to here. I just want to promote an exceptionally good book on the subject, the one pictured above by Sheila  Paine. 

The book has a number of pictures of textile bazaars, like this one (above) in central Asia.  If you're there and you're an artist, then this is where you'll spend most of your travel money. 

Here's (above) a market place in Guatemala. A riot of color!

Above, a Peruvian textile scroll depicting all sorts of deities, including river gods. Ma-a-a-an! Very Nice!

Embroidery is still alive and well in Spain and Portugal. The guy above is wearing a shirt with symbols of love on it.  I find that touching. The man proudly wears a shirt that declares that he's loved by a woman who's handy with a needle. It's so charming and primal.

White shirts with understated red trim like this also used to be common in Poland and North Germany. 

Oddly enough France, which taught the world about color during the Impressionist period, put most of its embroidery energy in recent centuries into plain white lace.

Not so with the Czechs. Here's a Moravian girl (above) in traditional dress. A long time ago Moravia used to be a separate country but is now incorporated into The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany.

Elaborate embroidery is often associated with power or status, as it is with these African chiefs (above). It's a mostly woman's art.  You could say that it's a gift that women have been giving family members and the powerful for possibly thousands of years.  It's a terrific present, but I find myself wondering how people who live in the outback manage to keep it clean. They must sell a lot of stain remover in those countries. 

You've probably seen variations of this Pakistani costume (above) before. There's a village there that outdoes everybody in the region.

Here's (above) a small hanging from Tajikistan, which I assume is near Afghanistan. It's mostly blue anchoring down red with an amazing greenish-grey highlight. I've never seen grey used as a highlight color before.

Here (above) a Transylvanian woman wears an outfit consisting of different kinds of wool. The region is still famous for its embroidery but it's transitioning into weaving and other techniques. Embroidery is becoming a lost art; it's just too labor intensive.

Did anyone do more elaborate embroidery than the Chinese? Here's a detail from an official court robe, replete with the dragons, cranes, and traditional flaming pearl. The multiple shades of blue blobs (clouds?) with white highlights are an awesome background for the dragon. 


cwyatt said...

Eddie...These are gorgeous!!!

I am fascinated and in awe of beautiful embroidery and fabric (Probably because I am terrible with a thread and needle!).
I also collect different kinds of fabrics and books on printed and embroidered objects. Those books inspire me the most when I am trying to come up with a new style for a show or even a personal painting. Great reference!

Lester Hunt said...

Beautiful post, Eddie! I've seen (and bought) beautiful embroidery in Mexico. My impression is you see this stuff in places where the cost of a few spools of colored thread is low (which is true everywhere), and the cost of human labor is also low (which is true in poor countries). Humans always find a way!

Unknown said...

I like the Moravian outfit!

Anonymous said...

Guatemala has the BEST embroidery! The indians are GENIUSES at making blue, red white and black extremely colourful with dashes and dots of other colours. A morse code rainbow! A lot of indians, especially girls and women wear it as their unofficial uniform.

They also make a mean stone cooked tortilla.

Anonymous said...

good form Eddie

Kali Fontecchio said...

That would be cool be dressed up like that, in ten pounds of lace and embroidery ( somewhere with a cold climate of course).

For now I'm happy with my cheap outfits made in foreign countries.

Jennifer said...

Nice post. You're blog is always interesting.

Chinese textiles have some of the most beautiful embroidery that I've ever seen. My mother has a few Chinese silk embroidered pieces from the 19th century.

You can imagine the time it takes to hand-embroider(is that a word?) those fabrics. With the right equipment, you can embroider your own fabrics in less than an hour. Just plug in your pattern and color scheme, then press a button.

Severin said...

I bought an embroidered blanket in Belize. Before buying it, though, I asked if it was really a Belizean blanket, at which point the shop owner kind of chuckled and said, "No, but you have to come to Belize to buy it."

The blanket was actually made in Guatemala, which I suppose is why it's so pretty!