As rich in history as it is in beauty, suzani is a traditional form of needlework from Central Asia. If you would like to add a distinctive, artistic touch to your home decor, it is the perfect choice.
The word "suzani" is derived from the Persian word for needle (suzan) and the Iranian word (suzandozi) for needlework. Textile collectors use “suzani” to represent the beautiful embroideries from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and other countries.
Suzanis usually have a cotton or silk fabric base that is embroidered with silk or cotton thread most commonly with the use of chain, satin and buttonhole stitches. Traditional suzanis also include couching, a delicate process in which a second decorative thread line is stitched in place over the design. They often are made in two or more pieces that are stitched together, typically include representations of the sun, the moon, flowers, leaves, vines and fruits. Occasionally fish and birds are also part of the design.
Central Asian brides often made suzanis as part of their dowries with the bride presenting her handiwork to her groom on her wedding day. When times became hard, the married couple might trade the suzanis to traveling gypsies for food or other goods. Otherwise, they became part of the family’s cherished possessions.
We know that suzanis trace back to at least the early 15th century, since the Castilian ambassador to the court of Timur, Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, wrote detailed descriptions of embroideries at the time. The oldest surviving suzanis date to the late 18th century.
The art of suzani reached a peak in the 19th century, as Uzbek women created intricately detailed embroidered bed and table linens and prayer mats for their homes and for their daughters' dowries. These pieces are highly prized by textile collectors today.
Working on the textile panels was an important way for Central Asian women to express themselves. Tradition tells us that a mother would begin working on a suzani as soon as her baby daughter was born. As the girl grew, she would work with her mother on the craft until it was completed for her dowry.
Today, contemporary homeowners across the world are appreciating the beauty and artistry that is part of suzani, and the textile art is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Suzanis come in a dazzling array of color combinations and are a great choice to give a fresh look to your home that is both traditional and contemporary at the same time.