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Embroidery – intangible cultural heritage

Is embroidery part of the intangible cultural heritage of humankind?

I think it is, but historically understanding of embroidery as a woman's work placed it in a nice little pocket of inferiority. More about the feminist view of embroidery and historic circumstances framing today’s perception of embroidery in Roszika Parker’s book The Subversive Stitch, Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine.

Sonja Porenta med avbami in vezeninami na festivalu vezenja v Velenju
Sonja Porenta on 6th International Embroidery Festival in Velenje in 2022

Did you know that only 10 listings from 12 countries are found in the UNESCO Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Register of good safeguarding practices under the term embroidery?

On the list, there are elements of embroidery techniques, as well as embroidery-connected crafts, practices, traditions, and symbols. For me, the Ornek, Crimean Tatar ornament was fascinating, as each part of the ornament has its own meaning. For example, the rose represents a grown woman, the cypress a grown man, and the carnation represents an older person, wisdom, and life experiences. (Ornek, a Crimean Tatar ornament and knowledge about it, 2019)

Sadly, in the world list of Intangible Heritage, there is no Slovenian representative of embroidery, but there are three representatives of embroidery in Slovenian Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Two represent counted thread embroidery and one represents embroidery following a stencil.

In my opinion, this translation of the technique I not the best, it seems like the one doing the translating didn’t know how embroidery is done, although when one reads the description of the technique, the process is clearer. The Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage defines this kind of embroidery as:

Embroidery following a stencil is a method of decorating different materials (fabric, felt, leather) by hand using a needle and thread, where the embroiderer follows a pre-drawn outline, decorating the material with various kinds of threads and additions.

In short, this is embroidery that is made with a sketch drawn on fabric and then sewn following the lines as a guide.

The only Slovenian representative of this kind of embroidery is Sonja Porenta and she is a fantastic embroiderer. She explores Slovenian embroidery heritage, researches materials, recreates garments and headdresses, investigates embroidery techniques and collects old embroidery examples, examines them, and with the help of experts develops knowledge about Slovenian embroidery.

Sonja wrote a book Tončika v svečani preobleki, published in 2022 by KUD Jarem. Sadly, it's only in Slovenian. The book describes her journey through embroidery techniques and garments she made and kept for herself. The book mentions whitework, and goldwork on traditional Slovenian headdress avba, but especially fascinating is her work on black avba, embroidery black on black (black thread on black fabric).

What is intangible cultural heritage?

The term ‘cultural heritage’ has changed content considerably in recent decades, partially owing to the instruments developed by UNESCO. Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

(What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?, without date)

This post is not paid.


Dobrodošli na spletni strani Koordinatorja varstva nesnovne kulturne dediščine! (brez datuma). Pridobljeno 6. 3 2023 iz Koordinator varstva nesnovne kulturne dediščine:

Novi vpisi v Register nesnovne kulturne dediščine. (13. 5 2022). Pridobljeno 4. 3 2023 iz SEM Blog Nesnovna kulturna dediščina:

Ornek, a Crimean Tatar ornament and knowledge about it. (2019). Pridobljeno 6. 3 2023 iz UNESCO, Intangible Cultural Heritage:

Porenta, S. (2022). Tončika v svečani preobleki. (B. Knific, Ured.) Medvode: KUD Jarem.

What is Intangible Cultural Heritage? (brez datuma). Pridobljeno 6. 3 2023 iz UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage:

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