Ukrainian embroidered ceremonial towels from different parts of the country look alike; there are certain rules as to how they should be made, what embroidery patterns should be used, and so on. But there is a small region in Ukraine that is famous for its absolutely special and unique ceremonial towels. Just look at these embroidery designs! They are so childish, so cheerful and bright, so unlike any other in the world, they catch your eye immediately and brighten up your mood. In modern life, such art pieces could be used to kill depression.
The embroidered towels are exhibited in the Ukrainian national center of folk culture “Ivan Honchar Museum” in Kyiv. Before becoming a part of the museum collection, they belonged to a private collection.
In Ukrainian folk culture, a ceremonial embroidered towel called “rushnyk” played a very important role. They weren’t used to wipe hands or body – rather they were used as symbolic items at weddings, religious ceremonies, family celebrations. Such towels were hung in the house as protective amulets, religious icons were decorated with them, etc. So, in the past, every young girl started to weave and embroider hundreds of towels for her future life. Of course, all of these pieces were handmade. When she got married, she already had numerous towels, along with embroidered shirts, outerwear, headdresses, and other clothing articles, in-store.
Usually, Ukrainian ceremonial towels are not very bright. They are adorned with floral or geometric patterns in red & black colors (not many shades were available because people used natural dyes). In the 20th century, the color palette became a bit more diverse and multicolored due to the industrially-made dyes. But still, these towels from various areas of the country look similar. Except for the ceremonial towels from the Eastern Podillia region, particularly Vinnytsia region.
Ordinary Ukrainian bridal towels
They are different. A lot different. They are much more colorful, cheerful, more densely embroidered, and the patterns differ. These towels are really unique.
You can see that these embroidery patterns are so very bright, colorful, and often include rather childish and schematic depictions of people, animals, birds, mythical creatures, flowers, the Tree of Life, geometric figures (rhombuses, spirals, triangles, etc.), and many other shapes. But despite looking simple and childish, these designs are archaic, symbolic, and meaningful – every stitch, every figure or shape has a purpose. Such embroidery designs were passed down several generations to preserve them and they still are used in ceremonial towels of this region of Ukraine (Vinnytsia region, Central Ukraine).
These ceremonial towels are from a few villages in Vinnytsia region (Central Ukraine), the late 19th – early 20th century.