Samokov’s embroidery

The embroidery patterns of Samokov region are very important part of Bulgarian ethnographical life. They are truly beautiful and artistic, with many variety of forms and colors.

The town of Samokov, together with the villages around it, lies along the upper reaches of the River Isker, at the foot of the north-eastern section of the Rila Mountain. Stockbreeding was highly developed here, and provided high grade wool, the basic material used in working these embroideries. The women themselves span and dyed the threads. Silk and gold thread were also used in the older embroideries..   The fabric was hand-made weaved too, and used materials for that are linen,  hemp or both, rarely cotton. There are remarkable number  of stitches  – 24, and the most interesting is, they always worked on the wrong side of the canvas. I don’t imagine now how they did such wonderful things in this way. The designs for man’s and women’s clothes are different.

The place of the respective design was strictly established, one pattern was used around the hems of the chemises, another on the sleeves and others again on the slit and collar of a shirt and che­mise. In these patterns we find definite signs indicating sex, age, family status and place of origin. The motifs are formed by graphic elements — the dot, the line and figures.

They are united in a whole by forming compositions, observing the rules of symmetry, rhythm and proportion. In these designs the motifs are organized in such a way as to obtain an optical balance of the masses formed from contrasting sizes. In general in men’s shirts the ornament is con­centrated around the collar and the front open­ing, which balances well with the perpendicu­lar embroideries on the sleeves. The opposite is observed in women’s garments. The composi­tion is built up from the ends (the sleeves) to­wards the centre (the chemise slit down the front and the skirts of the chemise). The embroidery patterns contain large number and variety of figure; these figures are created and built up on the basis of an organic relationship between life and the material used in making them. The tech­niques and stitches used offer extensive possi­bilities for recreating natural forms (plants, animals, birds, human figures and parts of them).

The embroidery of Samokov is an art which has old traditions. At different stages in its develop­ment it was enriched by the positive influences of foreign artistic cultures (chiefly old Turkish embroideries). However, all influences were assimilated, creatively rationalized and subjected to national and local artistic principles.


A part of pictures, published in Pavlina Mitreva’s book “Samokov embroidery”


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Embroidery on woman’s top