The art of embroidery of Sheky
The art of embroidery began to spread in Azerbaijan since very ancient times. The simplest ornamental elements similar to those used in embroidery - straight and broken lines, zigzags, dots, circles, triangles and lozenges - are found on pottery of the early Bronze Age (dated in Azerbaijan as 3,000 B.C.).
Embroideries always were made on locally produced canaus, darai or velvet. The art prospered in Shamakhi, Baskal, Ganja, Shaki, Shusha and other Azerbaijan towns. Silk and woolen threads and also stamped plaques were used and all were locally produced. The threads always were dyed with colours of plant origin, thus the embroideries could preserve their visual appearance for centuries.
The more popular and widespread types of embroidery in Azerbaijan were gold stitch "gulabatyn", satin-stitch, chain-stitch, "bird's eye" technique (embroidery in white or colour silk), the use of spangles, glass beads and stamped plaques, quilting, applique, spiral and fillet work. As to embroidery in colour silk threads, the chain-stitch technique was especially popular. The town of Shaki traditionally is famous as the main producer of chain-stitch embroideries.
The base of chain stitch was locally manufactured or imported fine velvet or broadcloth of red, black and dark blue colours. An intricate design was picked out in bright silk threads over a dark ground. Chain-stitching was not an exclusively woman's occupation. Many men demonstrated an extraordinary skill in this type of needlework. First of all, the embroider brought out the contours of the design on a piece of cloth stretched on a tambour and then proceeded to fill the inner space. The needle for chain-stitching was called garmach.
Chain-stitch embellished female garments, large
pillow cases, mutaki, bath rugs and counterpanes. Satin-stitch was also
in favour. For this technique silk or woolen threads of soft pastel
shades were commonly used, often in combination with gold threads. There
were two types of satin-stitch - bilateral and unilateral.
Satin-stitch embellished garments, wall trappings, rubyands
(face covers), curtains, etc.
Among the favorite floral motifs were roses, daffodils, carnations, poppies, lilies, the blossoms of fruit trees - pomegranate, quince and wild plum, as well as spikes and leaves of various shapes.
Geometrical ornament consisted of straight and
broken lines, zigzags, triangles, rectangles, hexagonal and octagonal
rosettes, lozenges, stars and figures symbolizing the sun. Birds were
among the favorite motifs of Azerbaijan embroiders - nightingales,
peacocks, doves, parrots, hoopoes, sparrows, pheasants, quails,
partridges and others. The frequently occurring presentation of pairs of
birds is the oldest and most favored motif in applied decorative art.
Birds are usually shown either loving each other or angry with each
other. These two motifs, people say, symbolize love and parting. As to
other representatives of the animal kingdom, fallow-deer, turtle,
dragon-snake and horses are most common.