Stories and Traditions
Embroidery has evolved over the centuries in a craft of unparalleled beauty and skill. In the cobbled streets of the villages in the afternoon, skillful hands are redesigning on linen fabric, intricate patterns inspired by the decorations on ancient vases. Other embroiderers get their inspiration from colorful designs on Regina’s (i.e Cypriot Queen) dresses. The traditions, stories and soul of the island are expressed in traditional embroidery and you get the feeling that you can actually read them on a piece of cloth!
Nowadays, however, embroidery has acquired a mainly decorative character and is not considered a necessary item in our daily lives.
In the old days every girl began from a young age to prepare her dowries, to which she paid special attention. Undoubtedly, Byzantine and Venetian embroidery influenced local embroidery. The Cypriot embroiderer, however, assimilated the old patterns and created new designs, adapted to her own rich imagination and tradition. Traditional embroidery is preserved unchanged thanks to the talent of the few that continue this tradition reminding us that history, our environment and the world we live in must be appreciated and celebrated.
Arachne, was a maiden from Lydia, daughter of Idmon of Colophon, who was a famous dyer in purple. Arachne was a very good weaver and spinner. She invented linen cloth and nets while her son Closter introduced the use of spindle in the manufacture of wool. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and crafts, was also a good spinner and weaver. Arachne began telling people she was better at spinning and weaving than Athena. The goddess was deeply offended and challenged Arachne to a weaving contest. They set up their looms in the same room and started weaving. Athena had woven a beautiful cloth showing the gods sitting on Mount Olympus and doing good deeds for people. Arachne, on the other hand, wove a cloth making fun of the gods, showing them getting drunk and making a mess of things. Arachne’s cloth was so beautiful that even Athena couldn’t find any flaws in her tapestry. Enraged and not wanting to concede to a mortal, Athena struck Arachne with her shuttle. Arachne started suddenly to shrink and was transformed into a spider (Arachne means spider in Greek).
Embroidery in Cyprus is one of the most important contributions to our intangible heritage. Many women weaved, embroidered or did exquisite needle work, either on a professional basis or as social and recreational activity. The materials which were used were cotton, silk and flax. We recommend 6 of the most picturesque and quaint villages of the Heartland of Legends you can visit to enjoy a day trip and find out more about Cyprus embroidery. Stroll around the winding streets of the villages and maybe you will come across women embroidering under the shade of the grapevine arbor. Greet them and will let you come into their home showing you the Cyprus hospitality by treating you with local traditional desserts and a glass of a cold water.
Lefkara Lace (Lefkaritika) were made by using the white cotton local handmade woven fabric of Cyprus. It is a combination of ascent (anevaton) and cut (kopton) embroidery. Lefkara lace is made by hand in designs combining four basic elements: the hemstitch, cut work, satin stitch fillings and needlepoint edgings. “Tayiades” the large cut is the most typical addition to lace designs called “Venice” and other designs called pittota, gyroulota and liminota. “Tayiades” comes from the Italian name “punto tajliato” a kind of cut embroidery that was made in Italy the 16th century. The patterns that can be combined to create the Lefkara embroidery are more than 650 designs.
The idiomatic expression “Marikkou from Lefkara” has become an integral part of the Cyprus local dialect. Marikkou was a legendary woman from Lefkara. There are no photos of this woman, but she is believed to have lived in the village at the beginning of the 20th century. According to folklore, she was a beautiful woman, with a boisterous personality. She was a masterful “Lefkaritiko” embroiderer and a clever businesswoman. She was the first woman who dared to venture into the merchants’ world. She decided to make the most of her skill and hard work and toured villages on the back of her donkey, selling her artful embroidery. She returned to Lefkara with many pounds in her pockets. Marikkou was a daring pioneer woman that took matters into her own hands. Nowadays Marikkou is mentioned when somebody neglects to do something that needs to be done: “If you don’t do it, who will? Marikkou from Lefkara?”
It is the crown jewel of Larnaka mountainous area. Wandering the beautiful alleys of the tiny village reveals the area’s architecture; houses built with horizontal layers of local white stone interspersed with pebbles, which contrasts beautifully with the terra cotta roofs. Groups of women are sitting in the narrow village streets working on their fine embroidery, the famous “lefkaritika”, as they have for centuries. Enter a workshop and learn the secrets and many techniques of silversmithing as this is another craft that flourishes in Lefkara.
More to see
- Museum of Folk Art, Embroidery and Silversmithing: It is housed in the restored Patsalos residence. Exhibits include examples of traditional Lefkara lace
- The Handicraft Center of Lefkara: It was founded with the aim of preserving, developing and continuing the tradition of Lefkara embroidery and silversmithing
- Church of Holy Cross: The church is situated in the center of the village. It has a beautiful 18th century icon-stand and a unique 13th century silver cross
Dali or Idalion is a lively small town. In the 11th century BC, Idalion was one of the 11 city-kingdoms of Cyprus. According to mythology, it was founded by King Chalkanor, immediately after the Trojan War, who received an oracle to build a city where the sun would rise. Moving with his army, one of his solders began to shout “Idou Alion”, which means, “I saw the sun”, hence the name of Idalion. Two hills overlook the modern town of Idalion. On the eastern hill stands the temple of Aphrodite and on the west the temple of Apollo.
More to see
- Archeological Museum and Archeological Site of the ancient Idalion: The archaeological museum functions as a visitors’ center and entrance to the archaeological site. The museum exhibits represent all the phases of the history of ancient kingdom. One of the most important excavations findings is the “Tablet of Idalion” or “Inscription of Idalion” which bears the longest and best-preserved Cypriot syllabic text sample. The tablet is now exhibited at the National Library of France in Paris. Tel: +357 22444818 – Working hours: Monday – Friday: 8:30-16:00
Save the date
- Mid September: Take part at the Milk Festival, taste local dairy products, food and drinks and enjoy performances by popular Greek singers
According to a legend, Adonis, the mortal lover of the goddess Aphrodite, died in Dali area, killed by Ares the god of war who was also Aphrodite’s lover. According to the myth, a wild boar, sent by Ares, gored Adonis while he was hunting in this area. Fatally wounded he died in Aphrodite’s arms as she wept inconsolably. His blood mingled with her tears and transformed into an anemone flower. During spring, anemone flowers grow abundantly in the fields near Dali!
The “Pittota” or “Venice” embroidery needle lace from Athienou, an Italian «reticella» type of lace, is hand-embroidered using cotton threads on a special pillow, which acts as a base. The lacework is embroidered onto an underlying linen fabric, in freestyle motifs with geometric patterns: square, triangular, circular and given characteristic names depending on the resulting designs, whilst the lace-maker follows no particular pattern. A characteristic lace design made only in Athienou was the freestyle lacework made on the special working pillow without using any fabric but simply based on the lace maker’s inspiration. The motifs in geometrical forms are known as “pittes” and were made from memory. The non-geometrical lacework is known as “oloploumes” (full of embellishments) is fully embroidered lace made on a special pillow.
Athienou has been inhabited since the Neolithic period and is the continuation of the ancient city-kingdom of Golgoi, which got its name from Golgos, son of Aphrodite and Adonis. Golgoi became nationwide known due to their cult to Aphrodite who was worshipped there. The modern town is located south of the city-kingdom and its rapid growth and development are due to various economic sectors such as agriculture, stockbreeding, crafts and trade. The village is famous for its delicious traditional bread – known locally as ‘Athienitiko’ – pastries (Athienitiko loukoumi), dairy products and crafts (pittota embroidery and icon painting).
More to see
- Kallinikeio Municipal Museum: The museum consists of archaeological, ethnographic and religious art collections. It is housed in the Kallinikeio Municipal Hall. Tel: +357 24524002 / +357 24811370 https://athienoumuseum.org.cy/
- The Khan of Mestanas (Mestanas Inn): Built in 1880 it served as an inn for travelers and animals. The building is turned into a multi-functional cultural center and it houses a large collection of Athienou Pittota embroidery.
- Family house of Monk Kallinikos Stavrovouniotis and the old dairy factory: The house consists of a basement with the sunlit space, an office, dining room and kitchen and the upper floor with two bedrooms and the living room. The house has an interior courtyard and a barn. In the courtyard, there is a water pump and dairy factory, which is used by the Municipality of Athienou within the framework of Larnaka Winter Experiences to revive the traditional way of producing cheese and yoghurt. Tel: +357 24 524 002
The art of “pipilla” needle lace making is carried on by the Kilani and Omodos lace makers. “Pipilla” is made with a common needle which can be either sharp-pointed or blunt-pointed, with a smooth and very well and evenly twisted thread in white or beige colour. The stitch used to make this specific lace is the knot-stitch also known as “velonokombos” or the double-knot-stitch “diplovelonokombos”. The “pipilla” lace always starts from the centre of the design, except when patterns are in stripes. If there is no raised work, in other words three-dimensional relief work in the “pipilla” lace, then both sides are exactly the same.
The charming village of Koilani is one of the island’s main vineyard area and is famous for its wines and grape-products, as well as its aromatic crunchy rusks ‘arkatena’ and sweet pastries ‘glitzista’. The village retains its traditional architectural character with houses built from the local limestone, with tiled or flat roofs, picturesque lofts, arches and decorated frames.
More to see
- Interesting sights include the various churches, such as the church of Monogenis, and the chapel of Agia Mavri, which is located under a one of the biggest plane trees on the island, and has interesting and unusual architecture and is decorated with frescos. The Viticulture and the Ecclesiastical museums, the Olive mill and Wineries are also major attractions.
Save the date
- Afamia Grape Festival twice a year – on the first Sunday of October and in mid-November
The beautiful picturesque village of Omodos belongs to the “Krassochoria” area (wine producing villages area). Founded at the end of the Byzantine era is said to have been the place where the Byzantine despot of Cyprus, Isaac Comnenos, took refuge after his defeat by the English King Richard the Lionheart in 1191. Famous for its wine, Zivania spirit, handmade narrow-knit lace and ‘arkatena’ buns. Visitor can join the locals and relax in the serene atmosphere of the cobbled square located in the center of the village.
More to see
- Centre for The Preservation of Narrow – Knit Lacing (Pipilla): The museum is housed within the premises of Omodos Monastery. This little museum has a remarkable collection of lace specimens and aims to preserve Omodos’ tradition in “Pipilla” making.
Tel: +357 25 422453
- Omodos has many interesting sights. Located within close proximity of one another are the cobbled square, old stone-built houses, local wineries and a medieval wine press. Linos tou Charilaou is a medieval wine press, which was converted into a museum. It is situated at the centre of Omodos and is open to visitors.
Fythkiotika took their name after the village of Fyti, the primary centre of the weaving craft in the Pafos rural area. These beautiful fabrics are one of the most important embroidery of the loom in Cyprus. Fythiotika stand out for their variety in design and embossed geometrical and coloured patterns. Each design tells the story of everyday life and events. The names of the designs reflect this; “Mavromatoudes” (Blackeyes), “Tesserakarido” (Four walnuts), “Koroues” (Little girls) or “to papoutsi tou daskalou” (the shoe of the teacher). These rows of designs are called “Xoplia” and are separated by other rows called “Mostres”, which have their own names such as “Kamaroua” (little arch), “Psarokokkaloudi” (fishbone) and “Stavrouthkia” (little crosses). The edges of Fyti weaves are finished off in “Klosia” (fringes with the flocs) either white or coloured, which are tied by hand, of course.
Fyti is the primary centre of the weaving craft in the Pafos rural area. It stands on the top of a plateau, at an average altitude of 680 meters. Fyti preserves its traditional folkloric architecture and the few inhabitants still doing traditional works such as ploughing the fields with animals or sitting at the loom weaving the famous “Fythkiotika”.
More to see
Museum of Weaving and Folkloric Art: housed in a refurbished building, the museum exhibits examples of the village’s famous woven textiles, and demonstrates how the craft has been practiced in the village since Medieval Times using the old-style loom.
Tel: +357 99372966
Links to businesses offering the experience along the route
Route affiliated experiences
Weaving of dreams rediscovered
Traditional embroidery has become mainly a decorative element of our daily life. Some young women though, wanting to revive the interest of the younger generation and bring back to fashion the traditional embroidery, have used this fine and delicate needlework as foundation and added new techniques and fresh ideas. The uniqueness and beauty of Lefkaritika lace patterns and the geometrical and colorful designs of Fythkiotika are combined together to create new fashionable items.All new trendy crafts are handmade, some of them woven on the loom and some other embroidered with needlework. Induct yourself into this new fashion by visiting any workshop or boutique and admire their collections of bags, dresses, lengths, cushions, throws and many other accessories.