Before we went to Ukraine I did a little research about Ukrainian embroidery. I learned that the primary colors used were black and red, that they were primarily geometric (right up my alley), and heavily cross stitch. What I didn’t know was that we would see it everywhere!
As soon as we landed in Kiev, we were greeted by our interpreters and guides, who were wearing vests with cross stitch motifs on them! Of course they weren’t cross stitched, they were printed, but I thought it was so cool that they chose a cross stitch motif to identify them as our Ukrainian hosts for the trip.
When we arrived at our host church, we were greeted with a Ukrainian custom, and more embroidery. First, the pastor’s teen-aged children were dressed in traditional Ukrainian costumes, heavily embroidered. I was just itching to examine their clothes, but managed to restrain myself!
It is traditional to welcome guests by offering bread, beautifully braided on top, on an absolutely gorgeous elaborately embroidered bread cloth. Who cares about the bread? I wanted to look at that cloth! My husband heard me gasp, and managed to grab hold of me to keep me from embarrassing myself by running up and grabbing it!
This happened at several of the churches that hosted us for dinner. At another church, this absolutely adorable family with two little boys greeted us, all in embroidered shirts, again with an elaborate bread cloth.
Both ends of the bread cloths are embroidered in matching patterns, usually in black and red. On our final day in Kiev we had an opportunity to shop, and found street vendors selling the bread cloths. All that wonderful work sold for ridiculously small amounts, about $30 to $50 US. Most of the bread cloths we saw were in black and red, although I did see some other colors. Usually the bread cloths were about 3 to 4 feet long, with about 12″ of embroidery at each end. Some of the vendors had other table linens as well, napkins or tablecloths, but mostly it was the bread cloths.
We had opportunity to walk a bit in Kiev for about 3 days, on our way to and from our hotel to our host church for lunch, and then sightseeing on the final day there. And despite seeing all of the bread cloths, all of the embroidered clothes, and all of the finished products, I never once saw a shop that sold supplies. I did see one shop window that I thought had knitting supplies, because there were balls of yarn pictured in the window, but I didn’t see a representation of a floss skein or needle. And of course, we were so busy with our concerts and our daily schedules that I had no opportunity to branch out on my own looking for embroidery supplies.
Next I’ll share a bit about something I managed to collect while I was there!