Embroidery stitches and motifs

Many different embroidery stitches (punct de cusătură) are used to decorate costume pieces. Stitches may be used alone or in combination with other stitches to form decorative motifs.

These motifs can be divided into:

  • Geometric – counted thread embroidery worked on fabrics with distinct weave.
  • Non geometric (free style) – curvilinear open designs often worked on cloth with indistinct threads such as cloth, felt and velvet, often in gold or silver thread. This type of embroidery was of Oriental origin.
  • Mixed.

Geometric motifs are worked onto to the cloth using two techniques:

  1. Stitches sewn on face of cloth.
  2. Stitches sewn after pulling woven threads from cloth (drawn thread work)

Geometric floral motifs were found throughout areas of Ottoman occupation i.e. south Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina. These can be recognised as an adaptation of the Turkish forms of carnation, tulip and rose, especially the Turkish motive of a rose spray curled into a curved leaf. These were used on dress borders, or the ends of scarves or towels.

Punct înainte acului (running stitch)

The simplest and most important stitch. It forms the basis of many other functional and decorative stitches.

Cusătura înapoi acului  (back stitch)

Used for joining 2 piece of cloth, and as an ornamental stitch to outline motifs,. It is worked in a horizontal line form left to right.

Tivul (hem stitch)

This stitch can be used either as a functional or a decorative stitch or as the basis for making other stitches. Tiv is a small stitch used to neaten hems on the on the lower ends of sleeves, or poale. It also can be used with drawn thread work along the edge of the ‘gap’ after the threads have been removed. It is only worked in white thread. Found throughout Romania.

Tighel (straight stitch)

Basic stitch used for outlining or edging certain embroidered motifs. Tighel is a double running stitch which can be used to make straight lines, zigzags or wavy lines. It is worked by making a row of running stitch from left to right, then returning from right to left filling in the gaps.

Punctul oblic (oblique stitch)

Stitch used to delimit rows of the altiță, on the sleeve and on the edge of the collar. It is worked form left to right by passing the thread diagonally on the front surface of the fabric and straight on the rear.

Drugul (over sewing)

Oblique stitch which crosses 4-5 threads vertically and one thread to the right. Used for neatening edges or for gathering and for some types of men’s cămăși.

Festonul (blanket stitch)

Functional stitch used to neaten the edge of the cloth. It is worked by making a row of vertical straight stitches and passing the needle through the loop of thread on the raw edge as each stitch is made.

Crucea or Punct în cruce or punct în muște (cross stitch)

Cross stitch (crucea) is made with 2 straight stitches (tighel) crossing obliquely. It is usually worked over 2,3,or 4 threads. Cross stitch is the most widespread embroidery stitch found in Romania. It is used to decorate both costume pieces, especially cămășă, and household textiles. Found throughout Romania.

Lanțul or Lănțișorul little chain (chain stitch)

Chain stitch is made by forming a loop of thread and passing the needle through the top of the loop. It is used mainly as filling between other stitches as it can follow a curved design. It is often used gold and silver threads. Found throughout Romania.

Steluță little star

This is made using straight stitches radiating from a centre. Found mainly in Țara Oașlui.

Punctul urzit la un fir stitch warped on the thread (florentine work)

This stitch is used to decorate collars and cămăși from Transylvania. It is a small and dense stitch, worked from left to right comprising many horizontal straight stitches used to produce numerous geometric patterns, the most common being a diamond shaped pattern imitating woven patterns. Found in Marginimea Sibiu, Târnave, and Orãstie in southern Transylvania.

Cusătura or punctul peste fire (over thread stitch)

Line of vertical stitches worked line by line, from left to right, separated by one thread, making up a set of horizontal or vertical lines, either in a straight line, or diamond or half diamond shape. This is a popular stitch used for decorating the necks of mens and womens cămăși, in all country and in certain zones for altiță, on elbows and on cuffs. Found throughout Romania, with a specific version Punctul ‘Ciocănele’ used in Sibiu

Punct bătrânesc or Românesc old-style stitch

This geometric motive is unique to Romania. It is worked in 2 stages, first 2 parallel horizontal running stitches are made then these are joined into a square with 2 parallel vertical stitches, forming a square so the back is the same as the front. It is worked in a single colour, using thick thread, so it gives the impression of relief, or loops. This technique is especially used for blouses (iie) and has many regional variants. Found in Muntenian, Oltenia, and Moldavia, especially mountainous areas, also blouses from Muscel, Hunedoara, Buzău.

Gura Păpușii “doll’s mouth” or Gurița păpușii

Circle or square of chain stitches radiating from a single centre – like a rosette


Embroidery stitch used for edging on the altiță, the lower ends of the sleeves, or shirt necks. It comprises 2 parallel horizontal lines between which a row of straight and oblique lines is sewn forming a border (chenar)

Punct Bănățean or nemoanele Banat stitch (over thread stitch)

The basis of this stitch is Punct bătrânesc. It is worked in two stages. A series of horizontal lines in white thread are worked over 4 threads (the technique is called dusuri, then a black thread is looped between these stitches without the needle going into the cloth. This stitch was introduced from the early 19th century to decorate shirts and underskirts. Found in Banat, zona Buciumilor, Apuseni Mts. and Valea Ampoiliu

Punctul pe dos (“reversed” stitch)

This stitch is based on the alesătură type of woven pattern. It is worked from the back, with thread being taken from one side to the other using running stitches over a fixed number of threads in a series of parallel lines. In certain zones these motifs are called “gulerește” as they are used to decorate the collars of mens and womens cămăși in Bistrița-Năsăud, Târnave, Banat, Apuseni Mts, Moldavia, Oltenia, and on the “obada” of cloth on ceapse from Banat. Found throughout Romania.

Punctul oriental cu fir metallic

This stitch is similar to the over thread stitch, but ‘in relief’. It is worked with 2 threads, one gold and one silver which appear on front, and one white thread, which is sewn on back. This is very often found on cămăși in Banat. It is also called Turkish stitch. Found in the Banat.

Punct în bușteni

This stitch is made of diagonal lines to which half a cross is added. Found in the zones of Olt, Argeș, Țara Vrancei, Țara Bârsei, and Muscel.


Published on 18th February 2018, last modified on 25th February 2018