Tag Archives: embroidery

Stitches and Loops: Suzani Embroidery in Central Asia

Vintage Kazakh Suzani

It all started a long, long time ago. Sewing is the oldest of the textile arts, beginning in the Palaeolithic era. Before spinning yarn and weaving fabric were even imagined, Stone Age people across Europe and Asia sewed fur and skin clothing using bone, antler or ivory needles, and thread made of various animal body parts such as sinew, catgut, and veins.

Very inventive and resourceful! Here’s another example of sartorial ingenuity: in ancient Japan, traditional clothing was often sewn together with loose chain stitches that were removed so that the clothing could be taken apart and the assorted pieces laundered separately.

From being a necessity, sewing eventually evolved into an art form, in the shape of decorative embroidery for homes and garments. Over millennia, decorative embroidery came to be valued in various cultures worldwide. Stitching methods originating in different cultures are known throughout the world today. Some examples are …

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Unique Appliqué Craft – Threadwork on Glass from Azerbaijan

The finished product

Last November I travelled to the Caucasus in search of carpets, but also other handcrafted items that might enrich Arastan’s offering. What I found was a lot of skill, not just in carpet weaving, but also in metalwork, stone masonry and wood carving. But skill is not enough to turn creativity and manual dexterity into a viable business. The artisan also needs some market savvy, so as to understand what customers are willing to buy; and especially some innovation in order to achieve a modicum of differentiation and attract the buyer’s attention. In Azerbaijan I came across the work of one artisan who seems to have achieved this, entirely of her own accord.

Simuzer, 36, lives in Qobu, a small town not to be confused with Quba, or with Qobustan, which is known for its petroglyphs and mud volcanoes. She comes from a family of carpet weavers, so she learned the …

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Day 9: Three Show Stoppers, ‘I am a Disco Dancer’ in Shakhrisabz, Rip-off in Bukhara

Lakai panel (red) - Nisha's favourite

The best thing about travel is that, every once in a while, you stumble upon a gem that was nowhere in your to-do list (in Nisha’s case, her to-buy list). We had a really good break when we literally bumped into a display of captivating ceremonial hangings from the Lakai tribe. As we looked at them we were quiet for a while (a rare feat for the both of us); they were so beautiful. The Lakai tribe has played a historic role as horsemen, fighters and brigands in Inner Asia for centuries. Women of the Uzebk Lakai tribes embroider hangings that are exceptional, bold and extremely hard to get. The Arastan collection now has three of these prized pieces (though Nisha says she is not parting with the red one).

Giddy after the day’s find, we decided to cancel our train tickets to Bukhara and take the road instead. We …

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  • Welcome to Arastan

    Arastan was an online store that curated rare and handpicked treasures from exotic bazaars along the ancient silk route. Unfortunately we ceased trading in early 2014.

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