Just as with many other cultures, embroidery was learned by young girls who used it to embellish their clothes and linens. The detail and workmanship on these items let a prospective spouse know that she was skilled and could take care of a future family. The Ukrainian culture used both whitework and colored threads in their stitching.
Ukrainian drawn thread embroidery is called merezhka. The style of merezhka varied among different regions. One common practice was to incorporate it with other styles of needlework such as cross stitch and cutwork. An interesting note about merezhka is there was a large scale and a small scale version. The small scale version would have been used on finer fabrics such as the fine linen of a shirt to keep the garment more modest. A coarser linen such as a petticoat would be a good place for the large scale stitches.
An evenweave linen is required for this technique. A 25-count piece of fabric is a great piece to start with. You can use much higher counts, such as 40-count, as you progress in your skill level. Traditionally, the fabric would have been unbleached or white. For a 32-count fabric, it is suggested to use a size 20 coton a broder, size 16 coton a broder thread for a 28-count fabric, and a size 12 coton a broder thread for a 25-count fabric.
A linen or cotton thread was the traditional thread, also in a natural or unbleached color. DMC’s coton a broder thread is the suggested thread. When researching another whitework technique, German Schwalm, a conversion to pearl cotton was found as follows:
- Coton a broder #12: Use a size #8 pearl cotton
- Coton a broder #16 and #20: Use a size #12 pearl cotton
- Coton a broder #25 and #30: Use 2 plies of floss
As with other whitework techniques, you will use a tapestry needle. Your needle should be about the same width as a two threads. This allows your threaded needle to pass through pulling the thread with limited stress, yet does not create a large hole in the fabric.
The use of a hoop is a personal choice. It is important to stitch with an even tension to avoid pulling your design out of shape. Some people prefer to use a hoop or stretcher bars, while others prefer to stitch in hand.
Here are two projects that Terri Bay designed and taught at the 2010 Stitcher’s Retreat (bellpull) and 2011 Stitcher’s Retreat (ornament). Many people say it looks like lace net darning. Yes, there is a resemblance in looks, but certainly not in technique.
As shown in the bellpull, the ends are secured with satin stitching. Next a fabric thread on the left side of the satin stitches is cut and pulled out so that a hemstitch (prutyk) can be done along that left side. The bundle of threads are called "chysnytsia".
The inner rows of the bellpull are created one at a time with a layering technique. For the large scale technique two rows of fabric threads are cut and removed according to the pattern. For this row, hemstitching is done for several bundles which creates a double prutyk. The solid part of the row is created with a weaving-like stitch around three chysnytsia bundles. This "weaving" technique is called a Roman stitch.
For the next rows, instead of using a hemstitch, a whip stitch is used to travel along the row length. Roman stitches are used to create the solid parts of this row. This process of layering continues for the additional rows according to the pattern. The right edge is finished with a hemstitch the entire length. Additional stitches are used to create the designs along the edges of the bell pull.
The small scale technique is similar but with only one row of fabric threads being removed. The wrapping only uses two chysnytsia groups. These differences make the stitching finer which works better on items of clothing.
What I found really interesting with this technique is that you can create the design without using the satin stitches to stop the cut thread. Instead, the thread is cut at the center of the design and carefully pulled out from the center to where the edge of the design will begin. The thread is NOT cut off. Instead, it is pinned out of the way and as the rows are stitched, the threads are moved so they face the center of the project. Then when the rows are finished, the fabric threads are taken to the back of the design and they are secured by going under several of the chysnytsia bundles. This is perhaps how the ornament was created without a satin stitch border.
We carry a fabulous book, Ukrainian Drawn Thread Embroidery by Yvette Stanton, that is much more involved and contains many pictures and examples if you want to learn more.
We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!
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