Russian Embroidery

The Sun Chariot, a popular motif in northern Russian embroidery. The Sun Chariot, a popular motif in northern Russian embroidery.

Embroidery has for centuries played an important role in Russian daily life. The mainly linen garments were often decorated with embroidered hems, and the towels were often skillfully embellished. Embroideries were also often included in dowries, reflecting the social position of the bride's family, but also the skills of the bride.

Most of the Russian embroidery is counted thread work, although free-style embroidery also occurs from the late medieval period in the form of the chain stitch (called tambour in Russia); it first occured in the western parts of the country, and only became popular in the north by the late eighteenth century. Another important facet is that the cross stitch, so prominently used in western Europe, was only introduced in Russia from the west in the second half of the nineteenth century (actively promoted by the soap-manufacturer, Henri Brokar, also known as Genrich Brokar). The huge extent of Russia, stretching west from the Ural mountains, and even if we exclude Ukraine and Belarus, has given rise to a large number of regional traditions. However, a number of general trends can be discerned. Gold embroidery, among the upper classes, was very distinctive all over the country. It was applied to women's outer clothing and headdresses. Gold embroidery was also used for religious vestments.

Apart from the gold embroidery, it is possible to distinguish two major traditions of Russian embroidery, originating in the north and the centre of Russia respectively. Embroidery styles from the north are characterised by the many figurative patterns and a limited range of colours. Russians tend to refer to this style as 'painting'. Red, being regarded as the colour of beauty, is a very dominant colour, and the main stitches that are being used are the back stitch and the double running stitch. Embroideries are created with a red thread on a white material, or white thread on a red material. Important motifs include the Sun Chariot, and representations of horses and riders. This style is also found in Central Russia, but it is typical for the northwestern parts of the country. It is also found among the ethnic groups of the Vepsians and Karelians. Another northern tradition is darned embroidery, particularly known from Olonets district in the northwest.

The very colourful embroidery styles in Central Russia include a wide range of motifs that reflect daily life and the environment, including stylised forms of plants, birds and animals. Characteristic are the comb-like diamonds with two projections on each corner. Embroidery stitches being used include the satin stitch and the herringbone stitch. Garments and other textiles were also decorated with braids, laces, ribbons, or patterned weaving.

See also Ukrainian embroidery.


  • DOROFEEVA, Evgenia (2013). 'Russian embroidery' (click here)
  • KOZAKAND, Roman (2011), 'Russian embroidery, an overview' (click here)

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 22 October 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 23 October 2016 13:17