Ukrainian cross-stitch

One of the most common and best-loved method of Ukrainian embroidery is cross-stitch. It was used from ancient times and is used nowadays to embellish traditional clothes (vyshyvanky) and fabric everyday and festive items (rushnyk, tablecloth etc.)


In Ukraine cross-stitch embroidery has an ancient history. The cross has always been regarded by Ukrainians as a talisman, which is able to protect against evil spirits, evil eyes and other misfortunes. For example, a towel embroidered during one light day was considered the most powerful amulet, capable to cure even deadly diseases.

The origin time of cross-stitch embroidery on the territory of Ukraine is unknown, but the canvases found in the territory of the ancient state, dating from the 9th-12th centuries, indicate that this type of needlework was not simply developed, but was at the highest level at that time.

In 988, Kievan Rus made a huge step forward by overthrowing paganism and adopting Christianity, which main symbol was the cross. Thanks to this, the history of cross-stitch embroidery has been further developed, and the works made in this technique have become attributes of the Orthodox life, having occupied their honorable places on the iconostases and altars.

Until the 18th century only noble and rich girls were engaged in cross-stitch embroidery. The reason for this was the high cost of materials. Over time, the art of embroidery became accessible for poor village girls. Naturally, the materials and threads they used were much cheaper.

The handiworks of the XIX century were best preserved. In those days, cross-stitch embroidery was divided into peasant (folk) and urban. Folk embroidery was associated with the customs of the Ukrainian peasantry, and the urban cross-stitch was influenced by Western fashion and did not have strong traditions.

Patterns for cross-stitching had not just a special, sacral meaning. It was also popular to depict the everyday scenes, flowers, animals and various landscapes.

Despite the fact that the embroidery has lost its original meaning, it still remains one of the most popular types of needlework in Ukraine.

Materials and tools

It is easy to learn the ropes of traditional cross-stitch technique without even having the initial skills. Very simple tools are needed:

  • Needle. For cross-stitching handywomen usually use tapestry needles with rounded needle point and large needle eye.
  • Threads. Nowadays, there is a huge variety of threads in Ukraine: iris,mouline, staple, silk, woolen, threads with lurex and even hand-painted embroidery floss. Quality thread should be smooth, have a bright, clean color, do not shed and do not burn in the sun.
  • Textile for cross stitching is divided into ordinary and specific. Ukrainians usually choose canvas for the cross stitch, it is a specific fabric with a large chess board pattern. One cross stitch must completely fill one small square of canvas. By the way, there are several varieties of canvas: rug canvas (for carpets, tapestries, pillows), cotton canvas (for paintings or usual embroideries) and plastic canvas (for handicrafts, postcards, accessories).
  • Thimble. It is necessary to work with a thimble. This tool is necessary for pushing the needle through several layers of fabric, it protects the finger from pricking with a needle.
  • The embroidery borders or frame is necessary for keeping the fabric in a stretched condition and preventing embroidered pattern from the tightening. Borders can be rectangular and round.


There is a wide variety of stitch types when it comes to the cross pattern. Here are the most popular among Ukrainian handywomen stitches:

  • Simple cross. First, the stitches are held in one direction from left to right, while the thread goes from the bottom left diagonally to the top right. Then, in the reverse order (from right to left) it goes from the bottom right cornerwise to the top left. Embroidery is done line by line, not by one cross.

simple ukrainian cross stitch

  • Extended cross – technique is similar to a simple cross, but this cross fills two or three cells, located vertically instead of one cell.

extended cross stitch

  • Semi-cross. A stitch that makes up half of the simple cross, in other words – a row of stitches goes one way and doesn’t go back.

semi cross stitch

  • Double cross consists of two crosses, looks like an asterisk, it is a combination of a simple cross and a vertical cross.

double cross stitch

Cross-stitch paintings in interior design

At present, Ukrainian people began to put more attention to interior design, the commitment to individualism became fashionable. To make their home maximally «personal», Ukrainians began to remember or learn how to make household accessories with their own hands. And cross stitch paintings are one of those elements of the interior decor, which will never go out of fashion.

In every specialized shop, modern needlewomen can find cross-stitch kits. The set includes a scheme, a canvas, threads which match the color of the pattern, needles.

Thanks to modern technologies, it is possible to develop an individual cross-stitch embroidery scheme for any image or photo you like. A rich choice of threads, ribbons and textiles for embroidery make the process of creating pictures even more interesting, and the result can be much more beautiful.

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