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A Study in Crimean Tatar Embroidery
The Asiye-Zeynep Collection

Definition of Terms

Counted-thread Embroidery. (Esab Ishleme in Crimean Tatar and Hesap ishi in Turkish). Patterns are created by counting the threads of fabric, both horizontally and vertically, without drawing the pattern on the fabric. Cross stitch and needlepoint are the best known examples. Counted-fabric embroidery on finely woven fabrics requires considerable skill and patience. A good example of Esab Ishleme is seen in Head Scarf 07.

Dival. See Myklama below.

Egri Dal. A term which means "bent stem" both in Crimean Tatar and Turkish. Flowers and leaves are placed symmetrically on each side of the stem, forming an S-shaped motif. A good example here is the Head Scarf 02. In another variation of Egri Dal motif, flowers and leaves are placed asymmetrically. A useful discussion, with examples, is presented at the Magic of Crimean Embroidery Web site (in Russian). I must also note that term Egri Dal is not used in Turkish literature on embroidery. I have seen, on several occasions, the term kivrik dal, which also means "bent stem" in Turkish. However, it usually referred to Flowing Water Motif, with angular turns.

Embroidery Stitches. Embroidered textiles studied here employed stitches commonly known and well defined in literature, such as stem stitch, satin stitch, double running stitch and chain stitch. They will not be defined here, as there exist many books, dictionaries or samplers covering these embroidery techniques. There are also many online sources, such as Embroiderers' Guild, Dictionary of Stitches for Hand Embroidery and Needlework and Arts and Designs—Glossary. Interested reader is referred to these sources. The several special stitches encountered in this study of Crimean Tatar embroidery, namely Counted-thread tecnique, Myklama, Mushambak and Turkic stitch, are explained here.

Evciyar (in Crimean Tatar). An embroidered, rectangular textile, used in special occasions such as weddings to decorate rooms or given as gifts. Both ends are embroidered. I have not seen a good definition of Evciyar in Crimean Tatar literature, but I am assuming that it is similar to Yaglik, a term used for a decorated towel in Turkish. See Yaglik below.

Flowing Water Motif. A basic design in Crimean Tatar and Turkish embroidery. It is a meandering or undulating stem, reminiscent of the path of flowing water. The stem may have flowers on each side or may be interrupted by flowers. It is widely used as a border design also. According to the Magic of Crimean Embroidery Web site (in Russian), this basic design is called Gulmarama, a term which is not used in Turkish. The meandering stem may not always have curvatures but angular turns, as seen in a number of embroidered pieces in this study.

Hatayi or Hatai. The term refers to a highly stylized floral motif in Turkish decorative arts. It evolved in central Asia, under the influence of Chinese art and was a popular motif in Ottoman decorative arts. It is characterized by stylized flowers with small, curving leaves around it. A good example here is Sash 04, with five flowers, worked in metallic thread.

Kise (in Crimean Tatar) and Kese (in Turkish). A pouch, embroidered on sides or at the bottom. Such pouches were common to carry coins (especially gold), tobacco, watches and other valuable items. See the two pouches included in this collection: Pouch 01 and Pouch 02.

Marama. A term used in Crimean Tatar, it is a head scarf or head shawl, traditionally worn over the fez or head covering by Crimean Tatar women. Made of light weight fabric such as muslin or organdy, such head scarves are usually quite large, the width being around 70-80 cm and the length around 150 cm.

Myklama (in Crimean Tatar) and Dival (in Turkish). This is a technique commonly employed in creating gold or silver embroidered dresses (gowns), jackets, book covers (for Koran), pillows and pouches. Gold or silver metallic thread (strip) is used on a dark colored, rich fabric such as satin or velvet, which is lined with another cloth. Patterns drawn on a stiff material area placed in between the two fabrics. The needle follows the lines of the stiff material, and the metallic thread is attached to the fabric with another thread from below by couching. Metallic thread stays on the surface and is not seen from the reverse side. A good example of Myklama technique is seen in Pouch 02.

Mushambak (in Crimean Tatar) and Mushabak (in Turkish). A variation of counted-thread stitch, it is worked in a series of flat stitches to produce diagonal rows, in vertical and horizontal steps, pulling threads of fabric to create a net work appearance. A good example is seen in Decorative Towel 04 (the vase).

Peshkir (in Crimean Tatar and Turkish). An embroidered hand towel, like Yaglik (below), but it has tassels at both ends. Designs could also be part of the woven material.

Tree of Life. An ancient motif in Eastern cultures, the tree originally represented a cypress tree, tall and graceful, reaching from the earth to the sky. The cypress or its representations appeared in many forms of decorative arts, including tiles, rugs, kilims and embroidery in Turkish culture. A good example in our study is Cover 03. There are many variations of the Tree of Life, usually including flowers and leaves. What characterizes the motif is a vertical stem, with one or more flowers, buds and leaves placed symmetrically on each side. Flowers could be rose, tulip or a stylized form of a flower, all stemming from one point such as a vase or another flower. Tree of Life motifs are usually found on sashes, and a good example here is Sash 04. In Crimean Tatar culture, Tree of Life motif was associated with weddings and a sash with the motif usually given to the groom.

Turkic Stitch. referred to as Tatar ishleme in Crimean Tatar or Turk ishi in Turkish. It is a variation of counted-thread stitch, used filling larger areas in a pattern and consists of flat stitches worked vertically, creating diagonal or zigzag lines within the pattern. This stitch is usually worked in gold or silver metallic thread. It is similar to what is called Byzantine stitch in European terminology. A good example of Turkic stitch is seen in Marama 02 (the large leaf). A variety of Turkic stitches (Tatar ishleme) can be seen in a color plate published at the Magic of Crimean Embroidery Web site (in Russian).

Uchkur. The same term, is used both in Crimean Tatar and Turkish. A long, narrow fabric used as a sash or waistband. Both men and women wore such sashes. The width of uchkur is about 25 cm and the length around 200 cm or more. Again both ends were embroidered and the height of embroidery could be up to 30 cm.

Yaglik. Originally, this term referred to a rectangular piece of cotton or linen fabric, embroidered at both ends and used as a napkin at dinner. Yaglik was not necessarily an individual napkin, but used to catch the bread crumbs and food particles in front of diners seated around large food trays. Such elaborately decorated textiles could be used in the Ottoman palace or at the homes of the rich, but it was not practical for the ordinary to use them at meal times. Eventually, yaglik became an embroidered textile to be used on special occasions to decorate homes and gained use as a gift item. It was also a treasured part of the trousseaus of young women. Normally, it is 45-50 cm wide and about 130-140 cm long. The height of the embroidered area at both ends is about 15-20 cm. In this study, yaglik is defined as a decorated towel (not terry cloth, but plain, woven textile).

Posted: 10 February 2010


| Introduction | Selected Publications | Acknowledgements |

| Head Scarves I | Head Scarves II | Sashes | Decorated Towels | Pouches and Covers | Comments? |

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