Sunday, August 29, 2010

Uzbek Suzani Needlework

I love the Internet for so many reasons, not least of which is stumbling across the cross-fertilization of quilting designs among so many different cultures.

Doesn't this Uzbek bed cover remind you somewhat of a 19th century 
American applique Sampler quilt?

The modern Uzbek population represents varying degrees of diversity derived from the high traffic invasion routes through Central Asia. Once populated by Iranian tribes and other Indo-European people, Central Asia experienced numerous invasions emanating out of Turks and Mongols that would drastically affect the region. It stands to reason that due to ancient trade routes and migration that Western Europe would become aware of Indo-European designs very early on.

Here is another Uzbek bedcover with a black velvet background. This one reminds me of the black background quilts that began to appear about 12-15 years ago. Who first began to make these popular among American quilters?

There is a photo of a quilt top with black background in Barbara Brackman's "Prairie Flower: A Year on the Plains" published in 2001. However I am certain I saw them even sooner than this in Quilters Unlimited of Northern Virginia's big annual show. Anyone want to chime in with a date and teacher who began to promote this kind of coloring for a quilt in the past 20 years?

(Click on a photo to see a larger image.)

From Asia to Europe to America?

So what is a suzani? Here is a link to additional information with photos.

Below is a sales plug on one site I found.

The term Suzani means "needlework"--specifically, the exquisite silk thread embroidery panels made by Uzbek women. Traditionally this embroidery work began at the birth of a daughter and continued, with the help of family and friends, until the bride's dowry was complete. As the Soviet era ended and Westerners discovered Central Asian folk arts, the price of antique suzanis skyrocketed. Now brings you recent and contemporary suzanis, affordably priced. Our suzanis are genuine folk art, stitched by hand in the traditional manner. Once used as coverlets for the bridal bed, these gorgeous textiles can bring color and texture to any environ. Suzani make delightful wall hangings, bedspreads, furniture throws, pillows, or even tablecloths. Browse our Embroidery department for Silk, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Afghan Suzanis. To learn more about Suzani ethnic textiles, see our Info Pages.

Design Inspirations are Endless!

More gorgeous appliqued textiles from Central Asia that could inspire you to create your own applique designs! These are contemporarily made!  Just click here to visit their website to learn more.

This last photo is, of course, an enlargement of an element from the textile above it. It brings to mind something in my collection plus elements from several other quilts I have captured photos of for study purposes. I'll have to write something separate on that and will put a link here when I do.

Have you made an applique quilt with a black background? Where did you get your design inspiration?!

Karen in the Islands

PS: See updates to this post by clicking here.

April 2014 - Here is an interesting article I stumbled across today about Uzbeck textiles. It is from a research paper presented at the Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America in September 2012  in Washington, D.C.

Mary Elizabeth Corrigan
University of Rhode Island,


  1. I've just become aware of how designs found in other forms of textiles, such as coverlets, have served as inspiration for quilt designs, and find your post very interesting.

  2. Quilting, and quilters, have always been amazing to me. I just cannot fathom the time and effort it takes to make these gorgeous pieces of art. The black velvet one is just stunning!! How I'd love to see that in person!
    Patricia :o)

  3. Several wrote me privately about quilts with black backgrounds once I psoted the question to the Quilt History List. I have added that additional info above. Thank you Audrey Waite, Janet White and Jane Hall.

  4. Really i am impressed from this post....the person who created this post is a generous and knows how to keep the readers connected..thanks for sharing this with us found it informative and interesting. Looking forward for more updates..suzani embroidery