Saturday, February 4, 2017

Kучерявий Шов or Curly Stich of Borshchiw and other districts

Hello all,
Today I will continue to speak about the embroidery of the Borshchiw region and some nearby districts. This is a type of embroidery which is raised and depends on texture rather than outline to achieve its effect. It is commonly called Kучерявий Шов, Kucherjavyj Show or Curly Stich. It is also found in Moldova, Mordvinia, and other places around the world. It is not, however, an actual stitch, but rather a group of stitches which are also done in other places, but executed with a thick wool thread. This technique was rarely done after about the 1940's, cross stitch mostly replacing it in its home region. In spite of this, a great number of women's chemises in this technique have been preserved. North of the Dnister, it was mostly executed in black, while to the south of the river, it was generally done in a rusty orange-red.

In some recent books, the technique has been shown and explained. This is somewhat true of 'The Art of Ukrainian Embroidery' by Olena Kulynych-Stakhurska, although the explanations of Borshchiw embroidery are incomplete and her book suffers from the poor quality of many of the photographs.  A more recent book is much more complete and has an amazing amount of exposition of technique as well as incredible photographs and graphing. This is 'Borshchiws'ka Narodna Sorochka' by Oleksij and Liudmyla Pokusyns'ki. This latter book, however, only focuses on this one embroidery style. I will rely heavily on their work in this article. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in this embroidery style.

 The various technique of this type of stitching are often used in concert, as in this example. Here kolodky, or half cross stitch is used in opposite directions to divide the various bands, chain stitch is used for the other colors, and bytym, outline or holbein stitch, is used in the wider bands. In the following explanations I will use the local names of these stitches.

 Kolodky, or half cross stitch may be executed in two different ways, which look substantially the same on the front, but differ when examined from the back. This is used mainly on the topmost of the three embroidery regions, to cover an area uniformly.


Here is a piece worked in kolodky 1, from the front and from the back. 

Kolodky 2

This differs from the first only in the trajectory of the needle on the backside of the cloth. This technique eliminates the need to turn the cloth every other row, but uses more thread, and the result is perhaps not as even.

 Here is an example of embroidery worked with kolodky 2, from the front and the back.


This is the local term for both outline and holbein stitch, which differ only in that the first is worked in one journey, and the second in two, the result on the front being the same, but differing on the back. This is used to make regions of texture with diagonal designs.

Poverkhnytsia or Kafasor

This stitch is used predominantly for the central band of embroidery which acts as a contrast to the rest of the sleeve. It may be executed all in one color, red, yellow, or green, or in various colors. It consists of laying down columns of horizontal stitches,  leaving gaps in order to form designs. Designs may also be achieved by using more than one color. This technique is also used in neighboring Bukovyna, but using narrower thread.

Here are a couple of examples, both front and back.


 I do not know the accepted English name for this, but it may be called surface stitch or topwinder. It is similar to Armenian Marash embroidery in execution, but the effect is very different. This consists of laying down single stitches in a pattern, usually in triangles, and then winding a separate thread through the ground stitches which rarely, if ever, breaks the surface of the cloth, except at beginning and end. Here is an example of this stitch as done in most parts of Ukraine, front and back. This example is from a Hutsul men's shirt hem.

 Here is a schematic as to how this simple design is executed. Note that the red is only used to distinguish the ground stitches from the winding stitches, it is not actually done in red.

 Many motifs are done in this technique, which give Borshchiw embroidery its style.

Straight edges.

Here the main design is executed in kolodky, including the diagonal motifs, while the edges of the diagonals are executed in verkhoplut.

 Verkhoplut is also used to execute motifs with diagonal elements, from the fairly simple to the more complex 



This last, rather heart shaped motif is shown in Kulynych-Stakhurska, and seems to be rather common. Here is a half finished piece using this motif.

 There are other, auxilliary stitches, but these are the main ones, and they are combined in many different ways.

 The larger part of the Pokusins'ki's book is made up of the analysis of quite a few men's and women's shirts from Borshchiw. Here are just a couple of examples.

 These are two women's chemises and one man's shirt; all from the village of Pidpylypia, and made in the 1920's. As for all of the images, click on any to enlarge.

There is a great deal more in the book.
Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. I hope that some of you may  be inspired to try this type of embroidery, and reintroduce it to our modern world.

Roman K.

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