LEFKARITIKA (LEFKARA)

Characteristics

Designs are geometric Cutwork and drawn thread areas of varying sizes Satin stitch motifs Decorative hem stitch, used to designate the boundaries of designs Edgings in needlelace White linen may be combined with dark ecru thread or cream imported linen with white thread.

History

 

 

Textiles, weaving, lacemaking and embroidery were practised in Cyprus more than 2000 years ago. During the Byzantine period, the art of weaving costly textiles for the European market, mainly for ecclesiastical use, was centred in Constantinople. After the Crusades, this tradition became centred in Cyprus.

The embroidery designs were influenced by Venetian lace work brought to Cyprus by Venetian ladies between 1489 and 1571. The work was called Lefkaritika, after the village of Lefkara high in the mountains, the summer resort of wealthy Venetians, where the finest work was done. Local women, in daily contact with household linens, copied and adapted old needlework of 16th C Italy. White drawn thread work was used to decorate household linen, the fronts of men’s shirts and the fronts, sleeves and side-openings of women’s dresses.

At the beginning of the 20th C, Lefkara men travelled all over Europe selling their wares and taking orders to be fulfilled by their women folk at home. The needlework reached its zenith of intricacy and beauty between 1900-1930.

Initially, materials were handspun pure cotton threads on thick handwoven Cypriot cotton cloth. Locally produced linen cloth was introduced around 1913. Later, silk threads were used on silk cloth.

References

Hadjiyiasemi, A. Lefkara Lace Embroidery 1987, published in Cyprus
www.cyculture.net/lefkara/htm/history.html
Article 'Lefkaritika, an embroidery of Cyprus', Joan Hardingham, Embroidery Spring 1983.

©Valerie Cavill 2008

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