The art of making Konavle embroidery

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Konavle is located in the very south of Croatia. Here, in a small area, different landscapes mix, from gentle to dramatic, from flat to rugged, from mountainous to coastal. Due to its position, as a border area, it has always been exposed to wars and enemy invasions, so it is not surprising that Konavle was extremely important for the protection of the Republic of Dubrovnik, its borders and culture. In addition, it was of great economic importance to the Republic. Konavle served as an inspiration for many literary texts. The people of Konavle were famous farmers, but also craftsmen. The people of Konavle have preserved their history through a specific way of life, customs and traditions, as evidenced by the unique costumes, decorated with rich embroidery, that they still wear for special occasions.

Konavle embroidery is included in the Republic of Croatia’s cultural heritage. Lejla

Until about the middle of the 20th century, all women in Konavle wore exclusively traditional costumes. Konavle was recognized as the "Valley of Beautiful Women". The embroidery was applied to the front and cuffs of the traditional long, white, linen shirt. Embroidery is done with thin, red, silk thread on fine linen cloth, forming traditional geometric patterns, known by different names (skadarica, eagles, dugarele, fingers, kjučice, cat's paws, etc.). The embroidered red base is filled with green and blue silk threads (and later with black), shaping its final look. As with the patterns, the colours of the embroidery are strictly prescribed, but they vary in shade, from very light to very dark, depending on the age of the woman who will be wearing it, the occasion (celebration, mourning, etc.) as well as personal preference. To meet the need for the thread, residents raised their own silkworms, feeding them on mulberry leaves, to produce silk. From the pupae in which the silkworms would be wrapped during metamorphosis, raw silk was extracted into threads, then wound, spun, and dyed with natural (later industrial) dyes, to create the silk thread. Every girl made her own embroidered garments as part of her dowry. Girls would start to learn how to embroider at the age of about six and were expected to be able to make and decorate a wide range of such garments. It took time and practice to perfect the technique and to achieve the required level of precision and craftsmanship. By the time of the marriage, at least 10 embroidered items would have been perfectly made, and often over 20. The embroidery was to serve the girl for the rest of her life, especially the garments to be worn on important occasions and festivities such as for Mass and for mourning, plus everyday wear, but also the garment in which the woman would be buried. Once married, girls would no longer make these embroidered items. In addition to the primary purpose of embroidery as a basic decorative element on folk costumes, its production has expanded to items of wide use, such as tablecloths, tabletops, pillowcases, bags, souvenirs and similar. Finding a new purpose for embroidery is very important for its survival. With the cessation of the use of traditional costumes in everyday life, the making of embroidery was slowly dying out and it would eventually have been completely lost if it had not found a new purpose in modern life, to which tourism in particular contributes. Today, numerous workshops are held to bring sewing and embroidery closer to the younger generation.

Konavle embroidery is a beautiful decoration and a unique souvenir that will remind you of the Dubrovnik area.

I want to recommend to you one true gem amongst the numerous souvenir shops - the award-winning arts and crafts shop Kokula. Kokula is a real treasure chest - in the Dubrovnik dialect, the word Kokula actually means treasure chest! It is a place where you can find valuable pieces of Konavle embroidery, authentic jewelry, and various handicrafts.The owner of the shop, Mrs. Marija, will be happy to tell you all about Konavle embroidery. She, herself learned this skill from her mother. In her family, the love for embroidery was passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter. To keep the tradition and pass it on, Marija decided to start a small family business in 2012. Not only can you find original souvenirs but, by buying them here, you support the preservation of tradition and the development of small, local entrepreneurship. This shop sells products made exclusively in Croatia. The efforts of the store owner have been recognized by the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and they recommend them as a store with original products. Kokula Art and Craft Shop is in Djordjiceva 6, Dubrovnik 20000 Croatia.

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