Ukrainian Towel- Rushnyk

The folk art of Ukraine is distinguished by its outstanding originality. You can feel the archaic in numerous embroidered towels, as well as the harmony of beauty and utility because these household items played an important role not only in ritual actions but also on a daily basis. This art contains ancient patterns that are almost unaffected by fashion. The traditions have been well preserved, including in folk embroidery. The material, performance technique, composition, and actual ornaments are of particular importance therein. Our ancestors were engaged in embroidery everywhere. Each region, district, and even village still has its own features. The girls from childhood tried to make themselves more shirts and towels, because Ukrainian women of that time could get married quite early.

The classic Ukrainian towel was 40-50 cm wide and 2-3 m long; the work on it did not seem easy, since the canvas could not consist of several parts, only a single piece of fabric was allowed. On both woven and embroidered towels, the ornament is placed at the ends and moves to the centre in a light pattern consisting of freely scattered elements. The most popular epithet for the word towel has long been the word "clean", which, according to the researchers, indicates the great aesthetic ideals of the people.

Towels, like folk clothing, should be divided into two types: woven and embroidered. Weaving is considered an older technique, because it was used primarily to create carpets and affected the quality of life of the Ukrainians. As for the towels, the red, white, and black threads were consistently added to the main fabric in the process. Thus, a linear ornament was formed from threads of classic colours, collected in narrow and wider stripes. But embroidery, as a type of folk decorative art, was also known in our localities back in the time of the Scythians, who often embroidered on leather.

In the central regions of Ukraine (in the Poltava region, Kyiv, Chernihiv regions), the ornamentation of plant forms has become widespread: branches with flowers folded in a bouquet, a tree-flower, a flowerpot-flower, the forms of which are often different. They are embroidered most often with white threads, occasionally with red and grey threads, for contrast and expressiveness, the pattern is outlined along the contour with black or red stripes.

Often, various types of equipment were used to make ornaments. Here the flooring, excision, cutting, and double-sided damask stitch were combined. The combination of the damask stitch with lace is one of the best types of folk embroidery. These products were used for especially solemn events, most often weddings, families, christenings. It is Poltava towels and embroidery that are considered one of the most difficult (since pastel colours prevailed there) and really only skilled craftswomen managed to embroider white on white or ash threads.

The name of many embroidery techniques comes from what the seam looks like or what it resembles: chicken trail, nightingale eyes, buckwheat, oatmeal, bouquets, roses, clover, oaks, pine, dogs, carnation – this is not the whole list of original folk names of seams.

Embroidery technique of Kharkiv and Luhansk regions has multi-coloured ornaments, which were made mainly with a cross, but always with a rough thread, which creates the impression of relief, sometimes the threads of different structures were combined for this effect. Almost every product contains a rosette, the most ancient embroidery motif. On Donetsk region the red colour prevailed on the towels over the black one, and it was always the sleeves of the shirts that were generously embroidered.

The embroideries of Polesie are simple and clear in composition. Local embroidery tends to be monochrome, but the red colour dominates. There are also inclusions of blue and black threads, but red ones still predominate. Over time, the geometric ornaments were supplemented with plant and zoomorphic ones. The viburnum and grapes are often seen on towels embroidered by Polish craftsmen. The viburnum is a symbol of an adult girl, a real woman. Therefore, such a motif is not uncommon for wedding towels. In addition, viburnum is a symbol of blood and an immortal ancestry.

In southern regions of Ukraine where the population has been heterogeneous for a long time due to socio-political circumstances, a combination of motifs and embroidery techniques of different localities is typical, which is why the most common geometric shapes with different combinations are present on towels. Zaporizhzhia region did not have significant features in the towel embroidery but was well known for the so-called minimalistic chumatsky embroidery, where only the collar was decorated with embroidery.

For Podillia region, the colourfulness and variety of seams are typical, and the central motif of the pattern is most often a rhombus. The rhombus motif was typical not only for embroidery but also for carving, weaving, egg decorating, and pottery. Sometimes the rhombus replaces the square placed at the corner. An obliquely placed square, divided into 4 parts, symbolizes a sown field. Also, you can often see the straight, jagged polylines, wave lines, triangles and stars on towels.


On Prykarpattia and in the mountains themselves, the beauty of the local nature contributed to the popularization of geometric ornaments, but to the contrasting one. This was achieved by the masters thanks to the combination of classic black and red with bright yellow and green. A special feature of the creative style of Western craftswomen is the conscious increase in individual elements. Often, they focused on the centre of the composition. Solar signs are often found on embroidery, the most commonly used was the eight-petaled rosette, which was popularly called the octagon. According to the researchers, it is marked with the signs of water and fire – these two forces were associated with a man and a woman in the majority of mythologies. The cross has long been a symbol of water and fire, where the horizontal line meant the passive feminine principle, and the vertical line meant the masculine one. The red colour, which is common in all regions, has the same symbolism. The towels and household amulets were woven and embroidered with red threads.

One of the most popular motifs for the Ukrainian towel is a bird, which is transmitted quite generically. A typical profile picture of two birds with the tree of life in the centre. Sometimes birds are depicted on branches with flowers and berries. The birds are symbols of human souls. In many patterns, you can recognize pigeons, ducks, swans, peacocks, eagles.

For embroidery, Ukrainians used both linen and hemp homespun fabrics. Linen fabrics are soft, greyish, and finely intertwined in their structure, while hemp fabrics are coarser, and in addition to the grey hue, they are slightly greenish.

The thickness of the spun thread strongly affects the structure of the canvas, and, accordingly, the quality of the embroidered product. Before being embroidered, thin canvases were carefully bleached by various available methods: in summer - in water and in the sun, in winter - in the cold. This gave the fabric a shine, it seemed to shimmer silvery.

The depth of the craftswoman's artistic imagination was manifested in various recipes for colouring threads with natural dyes. Ukrainians were well aware of the chemical properties of natural materials. This made it possible to get different shades. Linen, hemp, wool, bleached or dyed threads are the main material used for embroidery. Since the middle of the XIX century, silk threads have also been used on the territory of Ukraine. They say that they are the most valuable, because the thread is as long as 2 meters consists of individual thin cobwebs of a silkworm cocoon. This means that the filament fibres are whole along their entire length. But this pleasure is not cheap, so not every girl could afford such a luxury.

Today, in addition to silk, other threads are also used, for example, mouline, wool, and acrylic. So you don't have to travel through time to get the towel or embroidery of your dreams. Our company has been manufacturing embroidered products for over 10 years and will be happy to realize all your wildest wishes regarding embroidery, towels, or even bed linen.