Suzani Pattern Definition and DesignBrittany Wittman McLaughlin
A Suzani is a form of embroidered textile native to Central Asia.
The term is derived from the Persian word for needlework, “suzanikari”. Suzani tells the enduring story of mothers’ love for their daughters and the beautiful handcrafted dowry pieces that they lovingly and laboriously created for their wedding day to bring happiness, protection, and prosperity into their married life. Suzanis were a symbol of a family’s wealth; the greater the ornamentation signified the societal status of the bride’s family.
Through the ages, these embroidered textiles were believed to have magic forces stitched in them. Their motifs carried talismanic, protective, and well-wishing messages. Each motif used is there to bring joy, fertility, long life, prosperity, fruitfulness, and good health to the newly married couple. Pomegranates are a very common motif of Suzanis as it is a traditional symbol of fertility.
Suzani textiles are made by an Uzbek ethnic and cultural group primarily living in Uzbekistan, but who are also found in Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries. Historically, these cultures were highly nomadic pastoralists and moved around constantly, generally following their herds. Because of their nomadic lifestyle, their artworks had to be portable, light, and functional. Textiles are amongst the most important forms of art as they used embroidery as a means of ornamentation on their clothes, tents, rugs, and other home items.
Suzanis have distinctive, intricately embroidered patterns in rich colors. The cloth is generally made and embroidered with cotton, although silk is sometimes used if it is available. Embroidery stitches consist of chain, satin, and buttonhole stitches that create the varied and intricate patterns of these textiles. The patterns reflect common motifs that have significance to the creators, including flowers like carnations, tulips, and irises, as well as animals, vines, and fruits. The Garden of Eden and Tree of Life motifs represents an ideal universe, where balance and harmony and the unity of magic and beauty in nature were illustrated.
During the industrial revolution and the advance of machine-made textiles, the ancient craft of Suzani textiles was nearly extinct. Since Uzbekistan’s independence in the 1990s, these textiles are making a very proud comeback, and young girls are again being taught to embroider.
With a long and colorful history, the beautiful Suzani patterns inspire textiles for interiors today.