Monday, January 20, 2014

Embroidery of Zastawna county, Cherniwtsi oblast, Bukovyna, Ukraine

Hello all,
Today I will follow up my article on the morshchanka type of shirt by focusing on embroidery designs from Zastawna county, Cherniwtsi oblast, Bukovyna, Ukraine.
The motifs of many of these designs are extremely unique, one might even say bizarre.
Some of them look like they could have been the inspiration for Atari Space Invaders.
They resemble no other embroidery tradition in either Ukraine or Romania, although they do have some Balkan elements.
I have no explanation as to where they come from, except as a result of the imaginative creativity of a local community.

These designs originated on the top part or inset embroidery of women's chemises.
They include a framework of black cross stitch and outline stitch, the fields of which are filled in with colored cross stitch, flat stitch, seed beads, flat sequins or chain stitch with metallic gold and silver thread.

The seam between the inset and the sleeve is visible in this image above. The top of the sleeve has a monochrome design usually done in brick or bargello stitches laid in columns. The lower part of the sleeve has either vertical or diagonal stripes, or a large vertical 'tree' with narrow designs on the sides.

The central strip of embroidery may also be executed in other techniques, although it always forms a contrast to the rest of the embroidery.

Many of the motifs are outlined, and have hooks around the edges. Spot designs of this type are lined up to form stripes on the fronts and backs of the chemises, as well as framing the trees on the lower sleeves. These types of designs are also used as borders on household linens, dresser scarves, basket covers and the like. The many hooks sometimes give them an insectoid aspect. The next three designs are from the village of Chorny Potik.


These motifs may also be placed so as to form diagonal stripes, often between the branches of the tree on the lower sleeve, as here.

This type of embroidery has recently become popular in other parts of Ukraine, especially for tablecloths and such, many based on spot motifs. It is well known that the style of embroidery is Bukovynian, however.

The trees on the lower sleeve often feature flat stitching in a very attractive manner.

And sometimes other techniques. Filling designs with chain stitch is very common.
I will finish with some more images of this embroidery.

 Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this interesting and inspiring. I urge you to take this embroidery and incorporate it into the ornamentation which surrounds you.



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.
Roman K.




Source Material:
R. Zakharchuk-Chuhaj, 'Ukrajinska Narodna Vyshywka Zakhidni Oblasti URSR', Kyjiw [Kiev] 1988
Liudmyla Bulakova-Sytnyk et al, 'Zhinocha Sorochka Borshchiws'koho-Zastawniws'koho Prydnistrovia', Kyjiw [Kiev], 2012
Yaroslava Kozholan'ko, 'Traditional Dress of Bukovyna', Chernivtsi - Saskatoon, 1994
O. I. Kubajevych et al., 'Derzhawnyj Muzej Etnohrafiji ta Khudozhnjoho Promyslu AN UkrSSR', Kyjiw [Kiev}, 1976
Oksana Kosmina, 'Traditional Ukrainian Clothing', Kyjiw [Kiev], 2007
M. Bilan et al, 'Ukrajinskyj Strij', L'viw, 2000
Tetiana Kara-Vasylieva, 'Ukrajinska Vyshywka', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1993
Natalia Kalashnikova et al, 'National Costumes of the Soviet Peoples', Moscow, 1990
V Bilozub et al, 'Ukrainian Folk Art - Clothing', Kyjiw [Kiev] 1961
K Matejko, 'Ukrajinskyj Narodnyj Odiah', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1977
Petro Odarchenko et al, 'Ukrainian Folk Costume', Toronto - Philadelphia, 1992
Olena Kulynych-Stakhurska, 'The Art of Ukrainian Embroidery', L'viw, 1996
Lesia Danchenko, 'Ukrainian Folk Art, Leningrad, 1982
M. Uljanova et al, 'The UkrSSR State Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art', Kyjiw [Kiev], 1983
Tamara Nikolaieva 'Ukrajinskyj Kostium - Nadija na Renesans', Kyjiw [Kiev] 2005
Eric Kolbenheier, 'Specimen Embroideries of the Peasant Home Industry in the Bucovina', reprinted in Canada in 1974
Lubow Wolynetz, 'Ukrainian Folk Art', The Ukrainian Museum, New York, 1984


  1. Дуже дякую! я ніколи ще не бачила таких узорів!! у вас чудовий блог! дякую вам!

  2. Thank you Roman, beautiful vibrant embroidery. I have often wondered what inspired these strange motifs!

  3. Greetings from Costa Rica!!! I love this blog Roman, and I would love to be your follower, but....I do not find the place where to register my self!! please let me know how to do it!

  4. Beautiful. :) Most motifs mean a certain kind of protection, people embroidered it to protect themselves against the evil or various diseases. I especially love the black motif in the first picture and would like to find out, what does it mean. There are similar designs in Slovak embroidery, too.

  5. Do you know who might make and sell men's clothing from Wolyn in far western Ukraine where my Polish grandparents lived? This would be the historical towns of Wlodziemiercz, Anusin, Turopin, and Turiisk. My email is ricrupnik at yahoo dot com. I wrote it out so it would not be deleted in the normal form. Thank you !

  6. Thank you so much for this work - I will be interested in almost anything at all that you research!

  7. what is the difference between Ukrainian Bukovina and Romanian Bucovina shirts? How does one distinguish between the 2?

    1. Ah, that is not an easy question. The ones that I have shown here are all Ukrainian. They are from the north of Bukovyna. Embroidery from the west of Bukovyna are all Ukrainian as well, but they are really Hutsul and quite distinct. In the south of Bukovina, Suceava region, etc. are Romanian. The central region, around Cherniwtsi, is mixed. The style of embroidery is different in the different counties. One would have to compare the style of a particular shirt with the various regional styles, and it would not always be conclusive. I should do an article just on that. There are tendencies, but no hard and fast rules. I will soon do an article on that subject.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Dear Beatrice, indeed not an easy answer, but, briefly: Romanian shirts usually have different patterns, more simple, smaller, smaller scale of embroidery; also, a different selection of colours; less blue, less green. Usually there is a dominant shade and the other colours are added as accents. Ruthenian embroidery is robust, both in terms of size, intricate patterns and colours. Romanian embroidery is rather delicate: smaller patterns, more repetitions, discrete shades. Hope this is useful. By the way: at the time these shirts were created, the borders were different, the demographic was different :)

  8. Доброго дня можна схему купити

  9. Доброго дня можна схему купити

  10. Absolutely fascinating! I have been doing some research on the matter as I want to sew a “ie”. My grandfather was a Romanian Ucranian born in Berhomet on the Siret River. I would be interested in patterns of women’s shirts in that area. As Ioana Corduneanu mentioned before, borders were different and we cannot generalize about anything. There were influences and the folk art of sewing was passed from generation to generation. I wish I knew more about this...
    Thank you for your work of research!