Saturday, September 12, 2009


Since I first saw their bright colors peeking out of piles of textiles in the booths of Hall 1 at M&O, I have been obsessed with Suzanis. Those of you who know me, know that I am a fabric-oholic. I decided right then that I needed to add one of those fabulous specimens to my small, but growing textile collection.
So I cut out suzani inspiration and posted it on my office wall, read about them; dreamed about them upholstered on my reproduction Louis balloon chair; designed window treatments with them. After all, if I could use it as a sample; then I could maybe justify the purchase. As I coveted my suzani they became more popular and I watched them ride the trend curve. First showing up in the design affluents , then moving into the mainstream and showing up as printed textile pattern inspiration. I continued to obsess.

I came close to owning my first one in January pouring over the abundance of suzanis on my visit to M&O, but when you are presented with too many options, the paradox of choice kicks in. I decided not to decide.
This month when Susan went to Paris for the design shows, she asked if I had a Paris shopping list- I said to myself- I deserve it- and put the suzani on my list. I sent her my inspiration photos, my budget and left it in her hands. She did fabulously! I got a sneak peek via email last week and I can now say I am the proud owner of a suzani.

My Suzani

What is a Suzani?
The Central Asian equivalent to an heirloom quilt. Handmade, hand stitched and handed down.
A lavishly embroidered cloth ( suzan means needle in Persian) produced for centuries by talented needle workers as folk art and adorning tables walls, beds and horses. After the iron curtain lifted, we rediscovered them.

Corner Detail

The Backstory
Traditionally made on silk or cotton backgrounds; Suzanis are first taken to a baster who stitches together the narrow widths and draws the design on the seamed cloth. Then it is taken apart and each female family member embroiders a separate strip; working finely stitched s stylized designs with a kind of small crochet hook. Colors are spectacularly created with dyes from granate skins, walnuts, and indigo.When finished, they are reassembled. Because they were heavily used, the earliest examples we have are from 18th century, but the designs- palmettes, botahs, tulips-suggest the Greek and Ottoman Empire. Older suzanis were on neutral grounds; unlike today’s colored backgrounds of red, gold, pink and sometimes violet.

What to look for
Antique Suzanis run $3000 - $5000.
Outstanding needlework- look for overstitching with subtle differences in shadings in different light s
Changing designs with no set pattern repeats are more exciting
Large medallion suzanis from mid 19th century

What to avoid
Worn pieces. Hold up to the light for holes and wear marks
Overly bright colors could be synthetic
Over faded examples. Keep yours out of direct sunlight
Fragments; unless you are piecing.

Look at the floral facing on the reverse side

No comments:

Post a Comment