Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pozaihlenne and Nastyl [Pearl stitch] Embroidery of Pokuttia and West Podillia, Ukraine

Hello All, 
Today I will talk about an embroidery technique which is found in the Horoden'ka region of Pokuttia, and also in a few villages across the Dnister river in western Podillia, in the Buchach and Zalishchyky regions. Above you can see this stitch on a shoulder piece [ustawka] of a woman's shirt. This stitch is not used anywhere else, not even on the collar or cuffs of the same shirt. Both of these pieces shown above were made in the 1920's in the Zalishchyky region of Ternopil' oblast. 
This stitch is called pozaihlenne, as well as other similar names. It is a variant of the verkhoplut or topwinder stitch. 
This stitch begins by laying out short straight stitches in cotton thread which are all parallel. This forms the 'carcass' of the design. A second journey is then made diagonally across the ground threads, which rarely penetrates the cloth, except at the ends of a diagonal element. In Borshchiw, as I have written before, this is done in a heavy black wool, forming one of the types of curly stitch, but in the area which I am speaking of now it is done in untwisted silk floss.
Here is an ustawka from the village of Sadky, Zalishchyky region, Ternopil' oblast, with the carcass of a similar design shown below.

Here are a couple of diagrams which show how this stitch progresses. Pay especial attention to the triangle of solid stitching, which shows how the thread proceeds on the diagonal.

Here is an ustawka of a woman's shirt in progress.

Here are a few examples of women's ustawky and sleeves done in this technique, with auxiliary stitches.

The original colors used were either a brick red, as in this man's shirt from the village of Sadky, Zalishchyky region, Ternopil' Oblast;

Or a dark cherry red, as in this man's shirt from the village of Khmeleva, Zalishchyky region, Ternopil' Oblast.

Later other colors were added to these designs. Liudmyla Bulakova-Sytnyk shows this image of a woman's ustawka, which she says is from Vinnytsia Oblast, which I question.


Here is another woman's ustawka and sleeve with more colors added. The seam is under one of the rows of braid stitch at the right.


 Close examination the men's shirts, however, will reveal that they are made somewhat differently.

These were executed using a stitch called nastyl, or pearl stitch, Перловий шов;
which is laid down in diagonal lines in a similar fashion, but on the cloth itself rather than on a carcass of short stitches. The following diagram shows how to turn corners to make a diamond, but that is not done on these shirts.

The result on the back is a series of stitches laid straight, while the work on the front proceeds diagonally.

The stitches are laid in triangular fields, alternating direction with each field, and the diagonal edges, rather than being laid smoothly, are formed into little projections, each finished with  small cross stitch, so as to resemble the zaihlenne stitch.

Here is a graph of the stitches in this design.

Here is a video of a woman working a diagonal run of this stitch

The silk floss catches the light differently in the fields because the stitches are laid in different directions. This is the main beauty of this technique, which is also true of counted satin stitch.


Here are a couple of schematics which show how these designs were placed on men's shirts. These are unusual in having a zigzag outline to the design.

This shirt is from the village of Beremiany, Buchach region, Ternopil' Oblast.

 This shirt is from the village of Lysychnyky, Zalishchyky region, Ternopil' Oblast.

The cut of the shirt is of the long tunic type typical of this region, which reaches the knees, either with or without gores under the arms.

Men's shirts of this type also came in for elaboration of color and design.

These shirts show us a very different sort of men's shirt embroidery than we are used to seeing. The cuffs and collars are done in a variety of other stitches.

This shirt is from the village of Sadky in Zalishchyky district, Ternopil' Oblast.

  Often the addition of other colors is also combined with the addition of other stitches into the composition as well. You can see that the designs work with the fact that nastyl is laid down in diagonals.

This shirt is from the village of Lytiachi in Zalishchyky district, Ternopil' Oblast.

These two seem to match the two diagrams earlier in the article.

On this shirt, while the main design was executed in nastyl, the isolated stars were done in zaihlenne. This shirt also uses cross stitch, diagonal stitch, and braid stitch.


This shirt is from the village of Sadky, which this website claims is in Buchach district, but actually seems to be in Zalishchyky district.

Add caption

Here is a woman's shirt done in similar mixed techniques.


Here is a website that shows more about these shirts.

Thank you for reading. I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. 
I would very much like to see a revival of this technique, and see such shirts made and worn once again.

Roman K.


Source Material:
Liudmyla Bulakova-Sytnyk, 'Podil's'ka Narodna Vyshywka', L'viw, 2005
Olena Kulynych-Stakhurska, 'The Art of Ukrainian Embroidery', L'viw, 1996
Liudmyla and Oleksij Pokusynski, 'Borshchiws'ka Narodna Sorochka', Kyiw, 2012


  1. Some of the designs look like Paleolithic Era Ukrainian designs found on the artifacts left by the Mammoth hunters.

  2. Hello Roman,
    i send you a email.
    Best Regards Silvia (ZeitenSprung)

  3. Thank you for sharing this information. I am interested in how the stitches on the cuffs were made. It looks as if they are simply over two threads, mostly in a horizontal pattern except for the stars. The fabric appears to be even woven linen of a small count. Is that correct? I enjoy looking at various Ukranian clothing items. The frequent use of red is curious. What was the original source of the red dye?

    1. Thank you Sarah.
      Which stitch on which cuff? There are several of each. Yes, most traditional clothing in Europe was made of even weave linen. I do not understand why you find the use of red curious. Red is the single most common color in all folk embroidery. It is the brightest and most cheerful color. The original source would likely be madder, with other possibilities later.

  4. Thank you so much for preserving this history and sharing it with us! This is wonderful. My great grandmother was from Zalishchyky, she immigrated to Canada in the early 1900's and I don't know much about her family or her personal history. I am keen to learn more about her culture and my history.

  5. Wow! I just discovered your blog. Thank you for helping preserve these traditional crafts :)

  6. You are doing a great job! Thank you!

  7. Ви використали фото моєї роботи. Я не проти, але це не стара сорочка, а сучасна, яку я вишила в 2016 році в подарунок для тата. І комір я вишила не такий як в них був, а використала узор з борщівської сорочки