On the way home from our second year in Taiwan (2009/10), we made a 3 night stop in Seoul, capital city of South Korea. Whilst we were there, I naturally took every opportunity of getting to know traditional Korean textiles and embroidery. Sadly, we didn't have a lot of time and the Korean Embroidery Museum we went to didn't allow any photography at all, but here are some of the shots I managed to get (some not very straight, or with the glare of artificial lighting - sorry!) at the Korean Knot Museum, the Korean Folk Museum and in various souvenir shops near to our hotel showing embroidery, patchwork and traditional costume.
At first glance, many of these pieces may seem to resemble both Chinese and Japanese work, but there are distinct differences, one of which is that, unlike much of traditional Japanese work, only twisted silks are used to work the pieces, no flat, gloss silk. Quite a bit of metallic outlining features as well.
Most of these patchwork pieces are worked using multi-coloured fabrics with a similar, self-coloured floral design, which you may be able to see in the white outer fabric of the cushion/pillow covers on the right. Some are, as seen on the left and in the two cushions/pillows below, translucent/sheer fabrics. Traditional Korean patchwork came about as a way to use up left over fabrics and even the tiniest pieces are used to make a pattern (see 3 photos above). Both economical and attractive! Who could ask for more?
I got a number of photos of traditional costume, including the wonderful embroidered panels that were made to be worn on the men's clothes. A future post will showcase many of these. In the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed this brief insight into the stitchcrafts of a nation often overlooked in favour of its more prominent neighbours, China and Japan. Whilst they still maintain a distinctly Oriental flavour, Korean embroidery has a style of it's own and is truly beautiful.
I do hope we can visit Korea again and that I can get to visit the larger Korean embroidery museum and learn much more! Have you been? What did you see/like? What other countries' traditional stitchcrafts most appeal to you?
Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2013