Russian Embroidery

We've spent the last few weeks of BeWeave It talking about Olympic fashion, we thought it would be fun to take today to talk a bit about the fiber traditions of the host country. Of course, Russia is a truly huge country spanning nine time zones, and in that space there is a lot of fiber fun. We're going to narrow our focus on Russian embroidered towels.


Needlepoint was considered more than just beautiful or a means of decoration, it was considered very powerful. It wasn't uncommon for goddesses and other magically powerful figures in Russian mythology to be experts in needlepoint, and they would often create cloth with magical properties. One of the most important pieces of cloth in traditional rural Russian life was a special towel known asplat in the north, roushnik andshirina in the central regions, and ubrus in the south. These towels were not to be used in the manner of everyday towels, but were reserved for ritualistic purposes. 


Towels would be worn, placed on carriages, used to decorate altars, and exchanged to mark an engagement.Obydennoe towels were especially important. When a village faced some sort of disaster, be it weather related, cattle related, or anything else, the women of the town would sometimes weave and embroider an obydennoe, orone-day towel. The towel would have to be created between sunrise and sunset of a single day so no evil could penetrate it. The towel would then be paraded around the village and symbolically destroyed to rid the village of whatever evil was plaguing it.

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