Turkish Oya

Recently we got in a couple of books that renewed my interest in crochet. The Beaded Edge 2 (1701) contains a wonderful array of designs for crocheted edgings and trim. With just a small crochet hook and a variety of threads and beads, you can create cool trims for scarves, biscornus, and other projects. You can also create a long piece to use as jewelry. Here is a lovely example.

What was really interesting is the information contained in both books about the handmade lace known as Turkish Oya. “Oya” generally means edging, which was the primary purpose and could be found on scarves, clothing, and linens. There are several ways this lace can be made including shuttle, needle, and hairpin. We are going to talk about the crocheted version of this edging done for scarves.

Many regions claim this technique originated with them. The first references date back to before the birth of Christ and may have been influenced by netting done by fishermen. Some versions use a needle and actually create a knot for each stitch. Boy, I am not even going to look into doing that! You know how knot-challenged I am. However, I learned to crochet at the age of 7, so I am pretty confident I could create an Oya with a crochet hook. So, let’s get started.

The Language of Oya

The most fascinating aspect of Oya to me was how it was used to convey a message. Keep in mind this was a region where a woman was expected to remain silent or not to bring up certain subjects. Over time, a secret language developed among the women. At a glance they could tell by the color and design of the Oya edging just how the other women felt. Blue indicated happiness but yellow meant you were tired.

Several articles talked about using the designs to convey your emotions. For example, if you liked your future mother-in-law you would send her a cloth edged in a “meadows and grass” design. This meant you were as happy as flowers in a spring meadow. If you despised her, you sent a “gravestone” design which translated something like you expected to have a bad relationship with her until death. To make matters worse, the cloth was worn at the wedding for all to see. However, the groom’s family also sent a cloth that the bride was to wear as part of her headdress. Talk about actually airing your dirty laundry in public!

Two symbols a woman might wear included red hot peppers, which tells your husband you are not happy in the marriage and he needs to work harder. A wheel of fortune motif warns your spouse you were thinking about leaving him. If that doesn’t get his attention, I don’t know what will! Not all the motifs had malevolent meanings. If your husband or son was in the military you trimmed your scarves with the “soldier” design and people treated you better. The patterns are numerous; in fact, the Turk Oyalari Katalogu lists over 3,000 designs and includes their names and origins. Wouldn’t it be great if there were references like this for every needleart?

Work Basket

There are different names for the technique depending on what tool is used. Today we are looking at tig oyasi which is the crocheted version. If a shuttle is used, it is mekik oyalar and igne oyasi uses a needle and silk thread.

First, you need a small crochet hook. The Beaded Edge books use Size 10 (7304) for a majority of the designs.

You want a collection of threads of various weights. A good place to start is DMC Cebelia. Don’t be afraid to try out other threads like Sulky and Londonderry Linen.

Your stash of beads comes in handy. You can use bugle beads and seed beads from Mill Hill. Pearls, wooden beads, and other beads will add charm to your designs as well.

A long beading needle is needed to string the beads onto your base thread. Since the needle isn’t used for stitching, a great choice would be the Big Eye Beading Needle (7098A).


You just need to know a couple of crochet stitches. The chain stitch is the most commonly used stitch. Slip knots are used to close loops and finish ends. A few of the motifs use double crochet stitches. These stitches are explained in the books.

The Beaded Edge has 18 edgings including Fluttering Butterflies, Lace Flowers, Sparkling Fringe, and Tiny Hot Peppers. The Beaded Edge 2 (1701) has 26 designs, 7 of which are traditional Turkish patterns. In Book 2 create Fanciful Butterflies, Grapes, Heart, and Red Hot Peppers.

One of the traditional patterns is Dancing Fans used on the purse edges shown on the cover of The Beaded Edge 2. This is the one I decided to take a shot at.

I used DMC Size #8 Pearl Cotton in color 208 (DM008-0208), Mill Hill seed beads #0252 (MH0252), and Size 4 Crochet Hook (7301). It has been a while since I crocheted something so small so I used a size 4. Once I got back into practice, I should use a size 10 crochet hook which will make the motifs match the size they should be. This is hot off my hook, so I haven’t had a chance to block it and make all the beads go the right way. However, I think you can get the idea. It took me an hour from the time I loaded the beads on my thread and finished the last stitch.

An excellent article on line talks about the pieces found in the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. At the end of the article is a great bibliography plus vides of Oya markets and makers.

This edging is now commercially produced as a cottage industry. I was amazed at the number of pieces you can purchase on eBay or Etsy. However, many of the edgings are no longer individually knotted, but tatted or crochet in order to shorten production time.

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit www.nordicneedle.com. A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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