Krista's Projects

Greek Embroidery

On my trips to Greece, one of my favorite delights is to visit the "ergoxerio", or handwork shops. This is where Greek women go to purchase knitting wool, sewing supplies, and traditional Greek embroidery designs as well as the specialty fabrics for working these textiles and they are a treasure-trove of historical Byzantine embroidery designs.

greek embroidery

I was surprised to find out that the embroidery floss of choice is DMC 6-strand cotton. I had expected that they would use only silk flosses or something similarly luxurious, but 2 strands of DMC it is. Some of the pieces are beautifully highlighted by outlining stitches with fine-grade metallic threads which are sold in about 12 shades of various metals-several shades of gold, copper, silver, etc. But what really elevates these designs to something sublime and beautiful is that they are worked on traditional linen or a special hand-woven cotton produced only in Greece, not the typical "Aida cloth" used here in the US. The use of these high-quality fabrics that are beautiful in their own right and are then further adorned with embroidery create textile masterpieces.

greek embroidery

At the handwork shops, there are huge three-ring binders filled with traditional embroidery designs in a variety of colors. Some are worked as counted cross-stitch embroidery and others are free-hand embroidery using stitches like Roumanian couching, satin stitch, and other classic embroidery stitches. I've learned to take my suitcase half-full so that I can bring home my finds and have been working these embroidery designs for several years now. My first piece was a "beginning" basketweave pattern, one that is often given to young girls to work for their "prika", or dowry (like a hope chest filled with hand-made textiles). I took the pattern from a friend's embroidery and so I reproduce it here if you would like to use it (the other designs are copyrighted to various companies and I cannot provide free copies of those; if you are interested in purchasing embroidery designs, please email me).

greek embroidery

The second design I worked was a bit more complicated, especially since the pattern was simply a photo of the design (not a counted-stitch chart). But, once I got the hang of it, it was very easy to work. Since these designs, I've worked various all-over designs, several "runner" styles in which an elaborate border is worked at each end of an 18-inch by 30-inch piece of cloth as well as a 36-inch by 36-inch traditional Byzantine design complete with hexagons, roses, scrollwork, and birds.