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Drawn thread work

Merezhka bellpull

Ukrainian Merezhka Poltavska

Merezhka Poltavska with a geometric design and satin stitching
Merezhka Poltavska with a geometric design and satin stitching, designed by Yvette Stanton
Merezhka Poltavska is a beautiful form of traditional Ukrainian embroidery. While there are many types of coloured Ukrainian embroidery such as nyzynka and nastyluvannia, it is the fact that merezhka is essentially whitework (white thread on white fabric) that makes it so attractive.

Yvette Stanton has written a step-by-step book for learning how to create this type of drawn thread work, called Ukrainian Drawn Thread Embroidery: Merezhka Poltavska.

What is merezhka?

Merezhka is the Ukrainian word for drawn thread work. It is a general term that includes many drawn thread techniques from different regions. Merezhka Poltavska is from the Ukrainian city of Poltava. It uses a unique stitching technique called "layerings", combined with hemstitching.

merezhka lettering is how the word merezhka is written in Cyrillic characters. It is also sometimes transliterated as "myreshka" or "myreschka".

"How do you pronounce it?" is a question that many people ask, so you're not alone in wondering! Mer - ezh (as in pleasure) - ka.

Merezkha Poltavska designs

As merezhka is drawn thread work, some of the threads are cut and drawn out. New threads are worked into the spaces using layerings and hemstitching, creating patterns of openwork. Older merezhka patterns were generally geometric, while contemporary patterns often include more representative motifs. Motifs that are commonly used include:

  • diamonds
  • triangles
  • crosses
  • keys (as in Greek keys)
  • rose flowers and leaves
  • other plant forms

How was Merezhka Poltavska traditionally used?

Merezhka Poltavska was traditionally used on Poltava's regional folk dress and on the ceremonial cloths called rushnyky (plural of rushnyk), which were associated with religious practices.

When used on the shirts that went under skirts and bodices, it often was found:

  • in a band at the tops of sleeves, where it could easily be seen.
  • combined with other styles of embroidery, such as other sorts of cutwork, or cross stitched bands.
  • across the bottom of body length shirts, peeking out from under skirts and aprons.

Rushnyky (pronounced roosh - nick - ee) are long narrow strips of fabric that can often be found draped over the household icon, in homes of those who follow the traditions of Orthodox Christianity. Rushnyky are also used for other Orthodox religious practices.

When featured on rushnyky, Merezhka Poltavska was used in straight bands of stitching across the narrow width of the cloth. Often there were also bands of other styles of embroidery, such as cross stitch.

If you would like to see historical examples of Ukrainian embroidery, the Ukrainian Museum of New York has an excellent collection. To see Ukrainian embroidery it is best to make an appointment well in advance with the Folk Art Curator.

The Ukrainian Museum, New York
222 East 6th Street (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) New York, NY 10003
Ph: (212) 228-0110

How can I use Merezhka Poltavska in my embroidery?

Contemporary stitchers use this beautiful form of drawn thread work on many items. Because traditional Merezhka Poltavska was only ever used in straight bands across fabric, ways of working corners did not develop, as they were not needed. So that contemporary stitchers can use it for other applications, more recently corner treatments have been created.

This means that with even-weave fabric, contemporary embroiderers can now employ Merezhka Poltavska to decorate almost anything. It can look gorgeous on household linens such as:

  • long table runners
  • cushions
  • curtains
  • hand towels
  • tray mats
  • table cloths

On smaller personal items, there can be a band of drawn thread work on:

  • bags
  • scissors cases
  • needlebooks
  • bookmarks

On clothing, Merezhka Poltavska can be featured:

  • across aprons
  • around skirt hems
  • on shirt sleeves
  • near shirt hems
  • down the front of blouses
  • on shirt pockets

As you can see, the possibilities are almost endless! With only a small amount of imagination, you will be decorating your latest creation with Merezhka Poltavska.

Learning Merezhka Poltavska

Yvette Stanton provides the following methods for learning Merezhka Poltavska.


For more information on Merezhka Poltavska, purchase Yvette Stanton's step-by-step instruction manual "Ukrainian Drawn Thread Embroidery: Merezhka Poltavska"

Ukrainian Drawn Thread Embroidery: Merezhka Poltavska

Purchase your copy today!

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