The Ukrainian embroidery tradition has its roots in pagan beliefs of protection and ritual. Ukrainian embroidery can decorate ceremonial towels, table linens, vyshyvankas (embroidered shirts) and rushnyks (embroidered towels), Ukrainian traditional garments and bags.
Like many other folk art practices throughout Ukraine and Eastern Europe, the Ukrainian embroidery tradition is one that is passed down through families, and regional variants in symbols and color combinations are part of what make this tradition so rich.
Over 200 different stitching techniques and patterns have been identified throughout Ukrainian embroidery. Each stitch impacts the full design. The various symbols and pictures embroidered with the stitches imbue each piece with particular meaning. For example, the Tree of Life motif symbolizes longevity. It also represents a connection between three realms – heaven, earth, and the underworld. Past, present, and future are also included in the symbolism of the Tree of Life design. Bees symbolize spiritual purity, roses stand for love, a cherry tree represents beauty, and sunflowers recall the sun. There are endless variations and combinations of stiches and patterns with many different meanings.
- Wikipedia page about Ukrainian embroidery
- The symbolism behind the patterns (Russian text)
- Examples and more examples