The Flame-Colored Embroidery of Chuvash Women by V. Zherdeva See original web-page: http://home.comcast.net/~dryana/rus1.html
Chuvashia, a small Russian republic in the Volga region, is dubbed a land of thousand embroideries, a name it won for colorful and intricate patterns created by local embroideresses. Embroidery as a craft was known to local women since time immemorial. They embroidered national clothes, curtains, table-cloths, towels and other things meant for home use and not for sale. In the early 18th century embroidery was put on commercial rails and started yielding profit. Studying embroidery designs one could learn much about the life of the embroideress: whether she was rich or poor, how many children she had, whether she was happy with her husband.
Chuvash designs have a deep sacral meaning. Many centuries ago the Chuvashes were pagans and worshipped fire as their chief god. The round-shaped design in red or yellow symbolized the Sun. Women believed that embroidery patterns could influence their destiny. To make a wealthy home, they embroidered big red squares in the corners of a canvas. The squares stood for barns full of grain.
There were no strict canons, which gave women a free hand in choosing a color gamut and design. Red was a dominant color along with less popular blue, black, yellow and green.
Embroidery requires attention and patience. To make a symmetrical design, stitches have to be counted. Each embroideress created her own, inimitable patterns impossible to copy. Now the embroidery technique has slightly changed.
Pictorial patterns can be transferred to canvas with the help of tracing-paper. In former times women used grass, oil peels, egg yolks to give needles the desired tinge. The threads dyed this way didn"t fade.
In the 20th century embroidery became even more commercialized after the invention of embroidery machines. A factory in the town of Algeshevo (Paha Tĕrĕ - Chuvash.org
) produces clothes embroidered in traditional Chuvash style. Maria Simakova
is one of its veteran workers. Her embroideries are often displayed at exhibitions in Russia and abroad. Like many Chuvash girls, Maria began embroidering ever since she was able to hold the needle properly, first in crossed and then in satin stitch. She believes that skill alone is not enough to make a good embroiderer. To achieve complete mastery, one needs to develop an aesthetic eye, which depends on genetic heredity and cultural traditions. Maria has five small grand-daughters whom she teaches the "abc" of embroidery.