Decorative embroidery - stitches

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The basic structure of Romanian folk costume remained simple, which meant that the number of layers of garments worn was less than in the surrounding countries. This meant that the beauty of the costume was based on the finesse of the decoration of each garment. The actual decoration was influenced by fashion over time, the most elaborate garments being made around the end of 19th century and first years of 20th century. Patterns were either woven into the fabric on the loom or were hand embroidered. Lace, braid, beads; sequins or tassels were often also added.

Embroidered Decoration - Cusătură - seam,  broderie - embroidery

Embroidered motifs are used to decorate costume items made from hemp, linen, cotton, silk or woollen cloth cloth. The embroidered decoration could be functional or merely ornamental, with the combination of types used varying  from district to district. The oldest embroidery designs were thought to be based on the geometric patterns used in weaving for many centuries and were geometric counted thread designs (including floral and animal patterns adjusted to fit cross-stitch). This type of embroidery was characteristic of older patterns used throughout south Eastern Europe and Slovakia. In the  latter half of 19th century freestyle non-geometric floral motifs were introduced. These are more commonly found in the north and western part of central and Eastern Europe. Over the centuries there was frequent borrowing and sharing of motifs between regions and zones, and between urban and rural areas.  In general the decoration became more elaborate reaching its zenith around 1900, with many different techniques often being used on a single garment, or household textile.

Decorative motifs and Embroidery Stitches - Punct de Cusătură

Many different embroidery stitches are used to decorate costume pieces. Stitches may be used alone or in combination with other stitches to form decorative motifs. 

These motifs can be divided into:
A) Geometric  - counted thread embroidery worked on fabrics with distinct weave
B) Non geometric (free style)  - Curvilinear open designs often worked on cloth with indistinct threads such as cloth, felt and velvet, often in gold or silver thread. This type of embroidery was of Oriental origin.
C) Mixed

Geometric motifs are worked onto to the cloth using 3 techniques:
a. Stitches sewn on face of cloth
b. Stitches sewn after pulling woven threads from cloth (drawn thread work)

Geometric floral motifs were found throughout areas of Ottoman occupation i.e. south Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina. These can be recognised as an adaptation of the Turkish forms of carnation, tulip and rose, especially the Turkish motive of a rose spray curled into a curved leaf. These were used on dress borders, or the ends of scarves or towels.

Embroidery Stitches - Puncte de Cusătură

Romanian name
(English name)
Description (area found)
Punct 'înainte acului'
Running Stitch
The simplest and most important stitch. It forms the basis of many other functional and decorative stitches.
Cusătura înapoi acului
Back Stitch
Used for joining 2 piece of cloth, and as an ornamental stitch to outline motifs,. It is worked in ahorizontal line form left to right.
Hem stitch
This stitch can be used either as a functional or a  decorative stitch or as the basis for making other stitches. Tiv is a small stitch used to neaten hems on the on the lower ends of sleeves, or  poale. It also can be used with drawn thread work along the edge of the 'gap' after the threads have been removed. It is only worked in white thread.

Found throughout Romania.

Straight stitch
Basic stitch used for outlining or edging certain embroidered motifs. Tighel is a double running stitch which can be used to make straight lines, zigzags or wavy lines.  It is worked by making a row of running stitch from left to right, then returning from right to left filling in the gaps.
Punctul oblic
Oblique stitch
Stitch used to delimit rows of the altiţă, on the sleeve and on the edge of the collar. It is worked form left to right by passing the thread diagonally on the front surface of the fabric and straight on the rear.
Over sewing
Oblique stitch which crosses 4-5 threads vertically and one thread to the right. Used for neatening edges or for gathering and for some types of men's cămăşi.
Blanket stitch

Functional stitch used to neaten the edge of the cloth. It is worked by making a row of vertical straight stitches and passing the needle through the loop of thread on the raw edge as each stitch is made.

Crucea or Punct în cruce or punct în muşte
Cross stitch
Cross stitch (crucea) is made with 2 straight stitches (tighel) crossing obliquely. It is usually worked over 2,3,or 4 threads. Cross stitch is the most widespread embroidery stitch found in Romania. It is used to decorate both costume pieces, especially cămăşă,  and household textiles.

Found throughout Romania.

Lanţul or Lănţişorul (little chain)
Chain stitch
Chain stitch is made by forming a loop of thread and passing the needle through the top of the loop. It is used mainly as filling between other stitches as it can follow a curved design. It is often used gold and silver threads.

Found throughout Romania.

Little star
This is made using straight stitches radiating from a centre

Found mainly in Ţara Oaşlui.

Punctul urzit la un  fir (Stitch warped on the thread)
Florentine work
This stitch is used to decorate collars and cămăşi from Transylvania. It is a small and dense stitch, worked from left to right comprising many horizontal straight stitches used to produce numerous geometric patterns, the most common being a diamond shaped pattern imitating woven patterns.

Found in Marginimea Sibiu, Târnave, and Orãstie in southern Transylvania.

Cusătura sau Punctul peste fire (“over thread stitch”)

Line of vertical stitches worked line by line, from left to right, separated by one thread, making up a set of horizontal or vertical lines, either in a straight line, or diamond or half diamond shape. This is a popular stitch used for decorating the necks of mens and womens cămăşi, in all country and in certain zones for altiţă, on elbows and on cuffs.

Found throughout Romania, with a specific version Punctul 'Ciocănele' used in Sibiu

Punct bătrânesc or Românesc (old-style stitch) This geometric motive is unique to Romania. It is worked in 2 stages, first 2 parallel horizontal running stitches are made then these are joined into a square with 2 parallel vertical stitches, forming a  square. so the back is the same as the front. It is worked in a single colour, using thick thread, so it gives the impression of relief, or loops.  This technique is especially used for blouses (iie) and has many regional variants. 

Found in Muntenian, Oltenia, and Moldavia, especially mountainous areas, also blouses from Muscel, Hunedoara, Buzău.

Gura Păpuşii   (“doll’s mouth”) or Guriţa Păpuşii   Circle or square of chain stitches radiating from a single centre – like a rosette

Embroidery stitch used for edging  on the altiţă, the lower ends of the sleeves, or shirt necks. It comprises 2 parallel horizontal lines between which a row of straight and oblique lines  is sewn forming a border (chenar)

Punct Bănăţean sau Nemţoanele (Banat stitch Over thread stitch,

The basis of this stitch is Punct bătrânesc. It is worked in 2 stages. A series of horizontal lines in white thread are worked over 4 threads (the technique is called dusuri, then a black thread is looped between these stitches without the needle going into the cloth.  This stitch was introduced from the early  19th century to decorate shirts and underskirts.

Found in Banat, zona Buciumilor, Apuseni Mts. and Valea Ampoiliu

Punctul pe dos (“reversed”) stitch, This stitch is based on the 'alesătură' type of woven pattern. It is worked from the back, with thread being taken from one side to the other using running stitches over a fixed number of threads in a series of parallel lines. In certain zones these motifs are called “gulereşte” as they are used to decorate the collars of mens and womens cămăşi in Bistriţa-Năsăud, Târnave, Banat, Apuseni Mts, Moldavia, Oltenia, and on the “obada” of cloth on ceapse from Banat.

Found throughout Romania.

Punctul oriental cu fir metallic This stitch is similar to the over thread stitch, but 'in relief'. It is worked with 2 threads, one gold and one silver which appear on front, and one white thread, which is sewn on back. This is very often found on cămăşi in Banat. It is also called Turkish stitch.

Found in the Banat.

  Punct în buşteni This stitch is made of diagonal lines to which half a cross is added.

Found in the zones of Olt, Argeş, Ţara Vrancei, Ţara Bârsei, and Muscel.


© Eliznik2005, First issue 2002, Last updated Aug-05