Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nyzynka embroidery of western Ukraine

Hello all,
Today I will talk about an embroidery technique which is an elaboration of the Nyz' embroidery which I spoke of in my last posting. This is called nyzynka. It is most closely connected with the Hutsuls, but is also found in Pokuttia, among the Boikos, and in Zakarpattia.  Today it is widely copied in many parts of Ukraine.
The basic technique is the same as Nyz', in that a thread of the background color travels the width of the design crosswise, traveling over and under 1, 3, or 5 threads normally. This is traditionally worked from the back.
Here is a nyzynka design shown from both the front and the back. 

So far, this is a straightforward darning stitch which is found in many places. Nyzynka is distinct in that it fills in the design in with different colors, typically  yellow, orange, green and red, with blue and violet being added less often.

 For the small diamonds and the wide lines, the filling colors are simply laid parallel to background threads in a sort of brick or bargello stitch. For the fine lines the filling colors are laid at an angle over two threads so as to form a solid line, otherwise, you would simply have a diagonal row of dots.Usually, at least one of the major design elements is left white.

The standard composition consists of a wide band in the center, with two border designs which have a toothed or hooked edge. If the embroidery is done on the shoulder piece of a woman's blouse, there may be only one such border, the other edge being at the seam, and often having gathers below it, especially in Hutsul costume.

As you can see, there is usually a gap between the two, which is filled with rows of herringbone stitch, [sosnytsia or snuriwka] or braid stitch, [retiaz' or pletinka] Typically there will be rows of a solid color which frame other rows in which the color changes rhythmically, alternating light and dark as well as warm and cool colors. In some recent embroideries, this is replaced with rows of cross stitch.

 For men's shirts, usually there are two rather narrow bands which frame the front opening, with a border on the outside of each.

When used on a pillowcase or rushnyk, a border is placed on both edges.
While the background color is most commonly black, it may be red or maroon.

Hutsuls usually put just one band of embroidery on the shoulder inset.

But in the eastern parts of the Hutsul area, they have been influenced by the three-part canon of the embroidery of Podillia and Bukovyna. They most commonly omit the central band, but will sometimes embroider the lower sleeve in diagonal or spot designs.

Traditionally the motifs used were ruled by the strong clean diagonal lines which the technique offers. These include diamonds, hooks, and teeth, and can be simple or quite complex.


Starting in the 1930's more colors began to be used, as they were newly available from DMC.
More complex motifs also began to be used. 

Original compositions on decorative table linens became common.

The eight pointed star, so common in Ukrainian embroidery done with other techniques began to be incorporated, as well as motifs with horizontal lines.

 Floral motifs have been introduced, and are now quite popular.

  Even curvilinear motifs, which seem to be quite at odds with this technique, may be found.

This last example is a man's shirt, which includes a couple of godawful birds in cross stitch which are absolutely NOT traditional, and which were obviously copied from or inspired by some european woman's magazine.
 Conversely, it is common to see what were originally nyzynka designs done in cross stitch.

  To me, these look clumsy and coarse by comparison, but it is an easier technique to master.
This design could easily be backformed to nyzynka, but since cross stitch is such a very different technique, new designs have been developed which, while they were obviously originally inspired by nyzynka, have diverged to the point where they can only be done in cross stitch, by introducing large white fields and horizontal/vertical elements.

If a large area of solid color is desired, backstitched nyzynka is used. This is executed in exactly the same way as it is for nyz, four threads are covered going forward, then the thread passes backwards under one thread, and then advances for another 4, one of which is covered twice.

This is especially popular in Pokuttia, where it is often done two or three times in a row, as here, resulting in a solid area of color with diagonal textural lines. Here are a couple of designs from around Horoden'ka. The use of texture to form designs is also done in other techniques in the area.

This technique is also used further west, by some of the Boikos. This chemise is from Transcarpathia, with the typical Transcarpatian/Boiko embroidery over the gathers, which has nyzynka embroidery on the sleeves and cuffs. Unfortunately, I have no information as to the exact provenance of this piece.

 I will close with a few more examples of nyzynka embroidery, some of them are only half-filled in, so that you can see the design more clearly. These were done by Eudokia Sorokhaniuk, in an attempt to make it easier for people to continue doing this type of embreoidery.

 This is an exceptionally complex design, and is followed by two possible borders. The borders used are always based on the central design.

Thank you for reading.  I hope that you have found this interesting and inspiring. Try this technique, bring some of the Hutsul mountains into your home, to wear or to adorn your house.

Feel free to contact me with requests for research. I hope to eventually cover all of Europe and the Former Russian Empire/Soviet Union. I also gratefully accept tips on source materials which i may not have. I also accept commissions to research/design, sew, and/or embroider costumes or other items for groups or individuals. I also choreograph and teach folk dance.
Roman K.


Source Material:
Eudokia Sorochaniuk, 'Nyzynka - Embroidery of the Hutsuls', Pennsauken, NJ, 2002
Olena Nykoriak et al, 'Hutsul'ska Vyshywka', Rodovid, 2010
Olena Kulynych - Stakhurska, 'The Art of Ukrainian Embroidery', L'viw, 1996
Maria Kalyniak, 'Ukrajins'ka Vyshywka, Suchasne Traktuvannia', L'viw, 2004
'Yevhenia Henyk, Embroidery Weaving Album',Kyjiw [Kiev], 2007
'Mykhailyna Sabadash, Album' Kyjiw [Kiev], 1990
K. I. Matejko, "Ukraijins'yj Narodnyj Odiah', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1977
Lubow Wolynetz, 'The Changeless Carpathians', New York, 1995
L.S. Towstukha, 'Handicrafts in the Ukraine', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1979
I. F. Krasychka, 'Ukrajins'ki Narodni Vyshywky', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1961
E. Hasiuk and M. Stepan, 'Khudozhnje Vyshyvannia', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1986
V. H. Bilozub et al, 'Ukrajins'se Narodne Mystetstvo - Tkanyny ta Vyshywky', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1960
Tetiana Kara-Vasylieva, 'Ukrajins'ka Vyshywka', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1993
E. M. Lytvynets', "Vyshyvannia i Nanyzuvannia', Kyjiw [Kiev], 2004
Olena Kylynych-Stakhurska, 'The Art of Ukrainian Embroidery', L'viw, 1996



  1. questi tipi di ricami mi anno sempre affascinato grazie per aver condiviso questa splendida ricerca

  2. Thank you so much,Pane Romane! I have been looking for more information on nyzynka. Although my late grandma was good at it,I never came to using the technik myself. Now that I'am in the US I do lack the printed material like this in order to master nyzynka. Would like so much to obtain a book of the kind for my own use.
    I did tech my son the cross stitch but not nyzynka,which is so unique and breathtaking.

    Z povahoju,Myroslava.

    1. Myroslavo, Most books on Ukrainian embroidery have basic instructions on nyzynka. One of the best sources for Ukrainian items in the USA and Canada is Yevshan. This book on Nyzynka is available from them at this link.

  3. great site. keep up the good work. I love this kind of embroidery, too.

  4. Awesome...great embroidery...do you have any contact number, i want to share a picture of embroidery with you, done on the same pattern and technique and very beautiful.

    1. my email is in every article.