Mystery Solved - An Embroidered Cloth from Uzbekistan
Before Julia was born, I used to go to do a lot of antiquing. It’s getting a little easier to do again, now that she is older. I try to introduce her to old things, stop her from touching too much, pray that she doesn’t break anything. The grim facts are – it’s more fun when I can poke around on my own at my own pace. One day...... then I’ll miss her.
I found this embroidered cloth at a NY Pier Antique Show about ten years ago. A man had it all rumpled up into a little ball stashed on his table. What got me was the colors – it was beautiful. I mostly am attracted to antiques for the colors they are - kind of a funny way to make a collection. I have ended up with lots of things that have no particular theme except for bright colors and pretty patterns.
I bought the cloth for what I thought was a good price not knowing what it was or where it came from. It is made out of red cotton fabric and hand-embroidered in hand-dyed silks with two stitches – a variation of outline (or stem) stitch and a little bit of chain stitch. It is huge – big enough to cover a bed. It has been well used. All over the cloth are little whip-stitched patches where the fabric has torn. Someone, somewhere stitched over them by hand in a sloppy fashion. There are even sections that are missing (last photo) where another hand-embroidered piece has been inserted. The cloth was definitely made in sections and then sewn togther by hand with the pieces not matching. I can’t imagine how long this would have taken someone to stitch.
In the new issue of Piecework (July/August 2006), I was so happy to see a similar cloth on the cover of the magazine and to find a very good article inside by Pamela D. Toler entitled Suzanis – The Flower Cloths of Uzbekistan. All of the cloths shown are on white ground fabric so I am still a little perplexed by mine. The author tried to do a lot of research on cloths she purchased in Turkey recently but there honestly wasn’t a lot published. I did learn that cloths such as mine were dowry pieces that would have been stitched by a young girl and then saved until her marriage. Most were considered heirlooms. Most of the embroideries shown have more symmetry than mine But they have similar, related looking motifs. Pick up the magazine if you are interested.
Suzanis are quite the thing in interior decorating right now. Many swanky magazines such as House and Garden and The World of Interiors recently have featured bed coverings of embroidered suzanis. I always wonder if these are the homeowner's textiles or if the magazine's stylist just brought them in for the shoot.
What I really enjoy about my cloth is the wild, joyful patterning of the leaves, vines and flowers. I love the exuberant red ground color which makes the motifs pop. I like that every place I look, there are different colors and different flowers. I like the patches and little hand-sewn tears. It all has a history I will never know about – just wonder.
I didn’t realize it, but one of the pillow kits I designed for JCA has a similar feel. Not a big surprise though. Quirky Crewel is stitched in wool on an orange linen fabric. The colors I used are more contemporary – lime green, purples, fuschia, turquoise, sunflower yellow. This design uses lots of stitches and is really fun to make. It is one of the most popular designs and a great piece to try if you are interested in learning a lot of different stitches.
One of my long-ranging goals is to stitch enough similar feeling linen fabric to have a wing chair covered in it. I’ve got a special chair in my kitchen which we call "the throne" or "Pop’s chair" (my dad used to sit in it when he came to visit). Every time I look at it, I think of it covered in exuberant crewel work. Now when will I ever get to that? I’ll need about six yards of fabric. I’d better start stitching soon.