Osmanlı İşlemeleri

It is not possible to determine the exact appearance date of embroidery; it is possible to say that the history of this art is close to history of civilizations. Dressed sculptures, relieves and mural paintings found in archeological research are means of evidence indicating that the embroidering existed in Hittite, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Assyrian, Persian and Hellenistic Civilizations.

The first examples of Ebru were seen in Central Asia in the 13th century, and the Turks learned this art

Subsequently, the research undertaken in Central Asia introduced that Turks had embroidered on cloths. These were primitive examples of embroidery. More improved samples of embroidery in the Seljuk Empire could have been determined by miniatures.

During the period of Ottomans, art of embroidery had reached to a higher level as many kind of arts. Art of embroidery was fed by traditions and usage was also a determining factor of social status.

The political developments in the 19th century had accelerated the regression and decline of Ottoman Empire. These had a negative impact on many branches of arts, however, it is a remarkable point that the art of embroidery was slightly affected by these conditions.

Despite of the general thoughts, Ottoman Embroideries does not share the same roots with Anatolia’s local art of carpets, rugs and Needle Laces. The first embroideries were made around the 15th century in Istanbul at the Topkapı Palace. Regardless, they also have details in common with the tiles of the 15th and 16th centuries.

It is possible to see the same geometric patterns, tree of life and flowers in both groups. The reason is that both tiles and embroideries were firstly manufactured for the Ottoman palace.

In addition to his creativity, the designer was influenced by the ornamentation in the palace and also by the royal gifts given to the palace from the East or the West.

Embroidery was a tradition which was passed on from mothers to their daughters. Girls began to learn embroidery at very young ages. There were female teachers who gave private lessons to the rich families’ children. They were bringing design samples to make practice on and these are called Embroidery Samplers. These are very rarely found embroideries.

Embroiderers were able to design and execute their patterns by themselves, or they could simply go to the bazaar that one finds in every city, and ask professional artists to draw them.

The fabrics used in these embroideries were often handwoven linen, silk or cotton. The silk thread was the main material. The one which was used in the palace was on a higher quality. They were produced in Bursa which was the center of silk production of the Ottoman Empire.

Cotton or wool can also be found in pieces produced around Anatolia, but wool in particular was very rare.

An outstanding feature of this period is the use of gold and silver threads, known as SİM which is thin, and KIRMA which is thicker.

Apart from the use of silk, cotton, gold and silver threads in embroideries, the most seen materials are gold and silver sequins. These are used extensively after the 18th century. Aside from all of these materials, some semi-precious stones such as pearls, mother of pearl, silkworm cocoons, glass beads and agate stones are rarely used in Ottoman Embroideries.

There are different ways to understand the age of an Ottoman embroidery. Sometimes, there’s a date, but that’s quite rare. Older ones have large and extensive patterns, architectural representations and very big flowers and leaves. They were also executed using very few colors, three or four at the most, but included a large amount of gold. The older fabrics were quite heavy, but the newer ones are more delicate.

Most of the younger pieces have smaller patterns, as thread had gotten expensive, especially in the last years of the empire. After the 18th century, the European influence became pronounced.

Newer work is more colorful because of the abundance of imported thread, and more silver than gold was used because gold had gotten so costly.

Silk, cotton and wool thread were dyed with vegetable dyes, resulting in striking and longlasting colors. Various kinds of roots, flowers, vegetables, fruits, leaves, seeds, tree bark and even insects were used to obtain these dyes.

*To get the red color, the poplar tree sprout and alum were boiled together with the threads that were to be dyed.  

*The leaves of olive tree, grape leaves or turmeric were used to get the color yellow.

*Thyme leaves, walnut tree leaves and onion skin were used to get brown color.

*Pink was made from linden trees and green was got from walnut shells.

*Tea leaves were used for light brown and beige.

*Blue tones were created with quince seeds and acorns. Also indigo is used rarely for the dark blue color.

The most commonly used colors were red and green and their warious shades. There are some examples of embroidery combining these two colors with others. One other point about color is that it was not necessary for embroidered patterns to be true to nature. For example, you can find green clouds, red trees, blue pears and so on.

In addition to the creativity the designer inserts in the patterns, the influence of ornamentation in the palace as well as the influence of objects there were given to the palace from the east or the west can clearly be seen.

Some patterns did not originate from Anatolia. These were often copied from gifts that overseas rulers, from Europe or Asia, sent to the Ottoman sultan — a vase, a clock, a tile or a textile decorated with unusual patterns.

Chinese patterns abound in Ottoman embroidery, such as the lotus flowers, grapes, snakes or peacocks, which came from Chinese porcelain. The colors, of course, were different, as the embroiderer might imagine the thing in a totally different shade from the original. Or she might take only one element of a foreign pattern and incorporate it into her own work. These foreign patterns had a strong influence on Ottoman Embroidery and they were reproduced again and again in Anatolia, thus becoming an intrinsic part of Ottoman Embroidery art.

Ottoman embroidery expresses the feelings of Anatolian women, their joy, their sorrow, anything good or bad affecting their lives or those of their families. Also, the human figure was not forbidden by the Quran but was totally forbidden by the Sultan who was the delegate of the Islamic religion, so people expressed themselves not by pictures but with embroideries. However, it was very occasionally possible to come across embroideries with human figures.

The Ottoman Embroideries were not only made in Anatolia, but were made everywhere within the Ottoman Empire territory. Egypt, Israel, Greece, Armenia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Bulgaria and the other Balkan, North African  and Middle Eastern countries.

Aside from these, especially the Greek islands and the West Anatolian people, both were inspired from each other and unique pieces were created. The embroideries created in İzmir and neighboring regions in the 18th and 19th centuries, carried the classical Ottoman patterns but also serious effects of abstract Greek patterns can be recognized as well. Furthermore, some minorities living in Anatolia belonging to several religions, created unique pieces by combining the patterns of their own culture with traditional Turkish patterns.

There are many remarkable signs that differentiate Ottoman Embroideries from carpet and rug weaving and needle laces. All of these three branches of art have the common purpose of the desire to allow the Anatolian woman to explain with patterns. Since these ladies were under social influence, they could not express themselves by words easily. The patterns representing the feeling of anger or unhappiness are usually seen on the carpets, rugs and needle laces. On the other hand, the patterns expressing death of a beloved person is rarely found on embroideries. Another remarkable feature of the embroideries is that the patterns which evoke hope for the future, happiness, love and family togetherness had been used on the embroiders very commonly.

Loyalty to religion, the country and the ruler were some of the feelings which were frequently reflected on the embroideries. This played an important role in the spreading of this art from the palace to the folk.

People created embroideries to express their feelings and thoughts and also to explain their experiences to future generations.

The embroidered goods can be classified in two sections; the first one is the goods for daily use and decoration. And the other one is the clothing and accessories.

The goods for daily use and decoration:


*Qoran Cases,

*Prayer Rugs,

*Tray Covers which are used for dinner or coffee trays.


*Hand Towels,

*Bath Towels,

*Bride’s Sheets which are used only on the first night of the wedding.

*Cradle’s Covers and baby veils which are used to protect the baby against insects and flies.

*Coin Purses and Bags,

*Tobacco Bags.

*Comb Purses,

*Wrapping Cloths were some embroidered square cloths in which clothing, bedding, household items or gifts could be wrapped and stored.

*Decoratif Pillow Cases,

*Bed Covers,

*Wall Panels,

*Picture Frames,


*Book Skins

*Pistol Cases.

The clothings and accessories:


*Prayer Headscarves,

*Night Gown and Bridal Undergarment,


*Bride’s Handkerchiefs,

*Groom’s Handkerchiefs,

*Bridal Shirts,


*Circumsision Capes,


*Long Bridal Jackets,

*Short Bridal Jackets,

*Short Groom’s Jackets,

*Bridal Skirts,

*Bridal Pants,




*Embroidered leather shoes…

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