Ukrainian Embroidery

The Ukrainian embroidery tradition has its roots in pagan beliefs of protection and ritual. Ukrainian embroidery can decorate ceremonial towels, table linens, vyshyvankas (embroidered shirts) and rushnyks (embroidered towels), Ukrainian traditional garments and bags.

Like many other folk art practices throughout Ukraine and Eastern Europe, the Ukrainian embroidery tradition is one that is passed down through families, and regional variants in symbols and color combinations are part of what make this tradition so rich.

Over 200 different stitching techniques and patterns have been identified throughout Ukrainian embroidery. Each stitch impacts the full design. The various symbols and pictures embroidered with the stitches imbue each piece with particular meaning. For example, the Tree of Life motif symbolizes longevity. It also represents a connection between three realms – heaven, earth, and the underworld. Past, present, and future are also included in the symbolism of the Tree of Life design. Bees symbolize spiritual purity, roses stand for love, a cherry tree represents beauty, and sunflowers recall the sun. There are endless variations and combinations of stitches and patterns with many different meanings.


Rushnyk, Rushnik (Ukrainian: рушник, Russian: рушник, ручник), the handmade embroidered towel, is a ritual cloth embroidered with symbols and cryptograms of the ancient world. They have been used in sacred Eastern Slavic rituals, religious services and ceremonial events. Each region has its own designs and patterns with hidden meaning, passed down from generation to generation
The rectangular shape of the fabric indicates a life’s journey and the ornamentation captures the cultural ancestral memory of the region. A rushnyk is given to a baby at birth, it is a very important attribute durig a wedding, it follows the person throughout life, and used in the funeral service after death.
Ukrainians often use geometric and floral ornaments and elements depicting people, birds and animals. Read more at

The embroidered shirt, vyshyvanka, is national Ukrainian clothing, it has a thousand-year history. Embroidered shirts were given from one generation to another along with the secrets of embroidering. Girls from an early age were taught the art of embroidery.
Since olden times embroidered shirts were not simply clothing but some kind of talismans. They were gifted at birth, to defend newborns from evil spirits; at weddings for newlyweds to have a happy life; and at many other important events in life. The symbols depicted in the embroidered patterns protect their owners from evil, from any troubles and diseases.
Vyshyvanka has lately become popular all over the world. It is understandable – the ethnic clothes filled with the magic and charm. The embroidered shirt is worth wearing at any age: young girl in embroidered blouse will look trendy and provocative. A lady will look very interesting, intriguing and gives room for imagination …
The embroideries were created for happy people. After all, who can be sad in a shirt with scarlet poppies and golden sunflowers, with sun symbols or red roosters?

You can buy red, blue and yellow rooster Ukrainian embroidery t-shirts, as well and totes at

Wikipedia page about Ukrainian embroidery
The symbolism behind the patterns
Brannitsa (a type of embroidered shirt)
Rushniks and their ornamental symbolism

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