Romanian embroiderer picks up her needle – first episode


Florina Cismaru was born in Romania, a country well known for its beautiful embroidery. She decided to stitch one of the famous “Romanian blouses” and I wanted to follow her on her adventure to the sources of her culture.

Next episodes here: Second part ; Last part

Florina chose a blouse from the Tara Hategului region, located between Brasov and Timişoara, in the southwest of Transylvania. Traditionally embroidered on hemp or cotton, this blouse is locally known as “inia”.
Florina was inspired by a blouse from the “Gabriel Boriceanu Ethnographic Collection”.

Blouse from the Gabriel Boriceanu collection

What is your history with embroidery?
My great-grandmother was a needlework artist: tapestry, sewing, etc. Sadly she passed away when I was very young. After the communist period, my family did not keep much from her work: a blouse and a kilim (woven, unknotted carpet). So it was by myself that I learned my first embroidery techniques.

Then it was the articles by Martine Claessens that really introduced me to this art: she knows how to describe with talent the Romanian traditions and the richness of our heritage.
The article that caught my attention the most is “The Secret Language of Romania” (article translated in French on Le Temps de Broder). Before this article, I haven’t realized the importance of our costumes in the history and culture of our ancestors. I felt ashamed that a foreigner knew more about my country than I did. I also discovered the Semne Cusute Association (Sewn Signs), which brought me to a new level of commitment. I learn a lot with this group and regularly meet with many talented and passionate women.

Photo from the book by Romulus Vuia, “Portul popular din Tara Hategului”. Costumes from Tara Hategului.

The clothes here are very simple because life in the mountains, in the heart of the ancient Kingdom of Dacia, was very hard. This region retains many traces of Roman times and the Middle Ages. There are historical links between this region and that of Florina, which perhaps explains her choice.

What does embroidery do for you?
When I embroider I am very focused. I forget the place and the time. But what I love most is learning: it’s an infinite universe that offers me an exciting source to discover. I devote several hours a day to it!
I come from the Mehedinti region (South-East of Timisoara), which has a long and rich history. I always find very beautiful pieces in the villages around me. But the traditions are unfortunately no longer alive.

What are your sources ?
I use all available resources: books, the internet, museums. In my city I cannot find quality material for embroidery, so I have to order online. But sometimes I find pretty things in flea markets.

Florina stitching

Through social media I share my findings and try to keep this tradition alive. What used to be called “classic” no longer is. Many of our famous “Romanian blouses” are actually machine-made in China, Turkey or even Romania. There is no longer any connection with tradition, it is only a trade. The aesthetic sense has thus lost its identity. A few days ago, my neighbor showed me a “traditional Romanian blouse” that came from China and had no connection to my country. It made me sad: 100-200 years ago my ancestors created real works of art, and now …

Photo from a book by Dimitrie Comsa, “Din ornamentica romana”

Your project: why this pattern, this blouse?
I love its elegance and simplicity. Black attracts me too.
I will embroider my blouse with cotton on hemp. The stitch is called “cusut urzit pe fir” and looks like weaving. We embroider from left to right, then turn the fabric and start again in the other direction. We find this technique in the liturgical embroidery of the 14-15th centuries and in the decorations of the shirts worn in court between the 14th and the 17th century. Interestingly, the stitch used for koginsahsi kimonos is very similar. Then I hope I can wear it!

Photos from a book by Dimitrie Comsa, “Din ornamentica romana”

The content of this site is free and is not damaged by un-welcomed publicity. I do this work with love and passion but it requires a lot of time. I would like to continue to offer a wider market to our artists, to show how embroidery is a wonderful art. But I do need a little bit of help. If you feel like it, you can participate with a little donation to help me continue. I will be so grateful! Thank you! Claire