“A house without a rushnyk is not a home.”

—Ukrainian proverb

The human impulse to embellish useful articles is old—archaeologists have found embroidered clothing dating from Cro-Magnon times—and the people who have lived in the area known now as Ukraine have an especially deep and rich tradition of decorative stitching. My ancestors are Eastern European, and I’ve always admired the bright colors and charming folk motifs used in textiles from this region. On a recent trip to New York City, I ventured to the Ukrainian Museum and discovered the rushnyk, a richly embroidered ceremonial cloth with a fascinating history.

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Woven Rushnyk Eastern Ukraine, 1900s. 112 x 16 in. Geometric motifs woven in red on gray homespun linen and placed horizontally across the entire width of the narrow ends ©The Ukrainian Museum, Permanent Collection.

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