Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)



Suzani, (also called Bukhara embroidery) is an embroidered piece of cloth made in the region of Central Asia. The word "suzan" comes from Farsi and means needle, and suzani means "of the needle." Suzanis, which differ in size, pattern, function and types of stitches, were embroidered exclusively by women, rvfuslim and Jewish, from all social backgrounds. They were an important part of a girl's dowry and were used for decorative purposes in Central Asian households.

Although suzanis have been produced since c.17501 they are still relatively unexamined by textile scholars. In the late 1980s, preceding the collapse of the Soviet Union, Jewish immigrants from Central Asia packed up their suzanis which they had used in their homes or bought for investment purposes, and brought them, with their other valuable possessions, to Israel and America. There are now hundred,; of excellent pieces in the homes of Central Asian immigrants in the Bukharian Jewish community in Queens, New York City. These pieces have never been catalogued nor examined, nor have the owners been interviewed.

People from the community have allowed me to study their suzanis and to share with me the traditions and heritage connected to these prized possessions. In the following paper I will briefly discuss the art of suzanis, and then describe two typical suzanis from the private collections in the Bukharian community.