Konavle is a region steeped in tradition; things don’t tend to change much over the centuries, which is part of the charm of the most southern tip of Croatia. Cultures and customs aren’t forgotten here, far from it, they are treasured passed down through families. Each new generation are taught the skills and, more importantly, to respect the knowledge of their ancestors. This reverence of their past is one of the values that holds this rural community together. One of these very traditions is Konavle embroidery or “Konavoski vez.”
The history of this decorative embroidery began with the decorative adornment to ladies dresses. The sleeves and breasts of women’s costumes were enhanced with bright embroidered patterns. The finished article looks impressive but the work that goes into these creations is even more so. Each family in Konavle had their own nest of silk worms from which they would extract silk thread. These threads were then colored, using naturals dyes, over a period of weeks. The main colors were, and still are today, red, black, dark green and gold. With the silk threads ready the long and arduous process of embroidery would begin, designs can take weeks and months to complete. Symmetrical geometric motifs are the trademark of Konavle embroidery. Studying a piece of embroidery is like looking at a complex puzzle, each line and square perfectly mirrored throughout, it is clear that a look of thought and work has gone into every piece.
Even though the Konavle embroidery is still used today on decorative costumes it has passed over into other parts of life. Tablecloths, pillows, handkerchiefs, coasters and dresses all bear the marks of this traditional custom. And if you are looking for the perfect souvenir why not try Konavle embroidery as piece of art. Framed pictures of embroidery from the region show off the intricate designs and would grace any home and remind you of your time in this Mediterranean heaven. It’s possible to find this traditional form of embroidery in the shops in the Old City of Dubrovnik. But why not take a trip to Konavle and see for yourself. Every Sunday in front of the main church in Cilipi in the heart of Konavle there is a performance of folklore dancing at which you will see the dancers wearing this embroidery. And you’ll also have the opportunity to purchase some at the market stands.
Photo credit: Tourist Board Čilipi / Photograph: Karmen Diklić Zorović