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Traditional Uzbek Needlework of the Silk Road
We at RugIdea.com invite you to take a look at our hand-picked suzanis which are
introduced in different sizes, and designs. Below, you may find some information on
The word “suzan” means “needle” in Persian, and has been applied to traditional
needlework, or the embroidered cloths of Uzbekistan, which are called “suzani”.
Uzbekistan lies in the heart of Central Asia, and was a major stop on The Silk Road,
the ancient trade route of exotic goods from China and the Far East through Asia to
the Eastern Mediterranean, and beyond into Europe. These embroidered suzanis
have been created by young women and their families for several hundred years as
dowry pieces; that is, they were made to show off the important needlework skills of
a prospective bride, and to decorate her new home when she married.
In the past, particularly in the 19th century, four to six narrow strips of a cotton, linen
or silk base fabric were temporarily basted together to make one large panel, and
given to a specialist artist to create and draw a design of meandering flowers or
bouquets. Then, the panels were taken apart and distributed to the bride as well as
female members of her family, who would each embroider a strip with silk floss.
When completed, the strips were reassembled into a finished, dramatic fully
embroidered large panel. This is the reason that the embroidered designs do not
always line up evenly from section to section on antique pieces, or the dye lots of
the silk embroidery colors do not always match where the pieces are joined, but this
mis-matching adds to the charm of the piece, and indicates that each panel was
individually stitched by hand.
Suzani types are regional in style, and often named after the Uzbek cities and
villages where the design was originated or most often used. These types include
Bukara, Samarkand, Tashkent, Nurata, Kitab, Djizzak, and Shakhrizabs, plus many
more. By the early 20th century, Uzbekistan was one of the Central Asian republics
within the Soviet Union, and embroidery was no longer considered an important or
even appropriate skill for a female worker in the Communist proletariat. As a result,
this craft, along with the Uzbek silk ikat fabric technique, virtually died out, as women
went to work in factories or in agriculture, while suzanis were relegated to attics and
museums. Later, around 1990, when Uzbekistan was abandoned to a precarious
economic condition by the break-up of the Soviet Union, many antique suzanis,
which hadbeen carefully kept as family heirlooms, emerged onto the international
antiques market, and their prices have soared into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Because there is high demand for these beautiful textiles in today’s market, but the
cost has become so prohibitive to acquire an antique version, enterprising Uzbeks
and Turks have revived the craft, and taught the great-granddaughters of the
original brides to embroider anew. As a result, since 2000 suzanis are being created
again as handmade reproductions, using both traditional motifs, as well as inspired
new and original designs. The new craftsmanship has been mixed, but our suzanis
have been individually selected from hundreds of pieces for the fineness and skill of
their embroidery, the harmony of their colors and the color-fastness of the dyes,
most of which are made from natural substances. Indeed, the quality is so good that
often only an expert can tell the difference between these contemporary hand-
embroidered suzanis and the antique pieces that were the inspiration for the revival
of this superb craft.
Internationally renowned interior designers use contemporary suzanis as elegant,
colorful and affordable accent pieces in many styles of décor, from traditional to
ethnographic to modern, and they always add charm and character to a room. Since
suzanis are now made in an assortment of styles and sizes, they can be used as
wall panels, table coverings, throws, bedspreads and bed covers, pillow covers and
shams, and large accent pillows. Suzanis can also be found in a variety of designs
and color palettes, from the rich traditional Uzbek reds and blues of the 19th
century, to more subdued, tea-washed pastels in dusty greens, pinks and blues,
and autumn tones of rusts and browns.