I am back from a lovely holiday to beautiful Crete! Apart from incredibly hospitable people, fascinating archaeological sites, good food and wild landscapes, Crete is an island full of embroidery. You'll encounter beautifully embroidered household linens in homes, hotels, restaurants and churches. It consists mainly of whitework, cross stitch and bright folklore embroidery. Goldwork embroidery is the almost exclusive domain of the Greek Orthodox Church. Apart from seeing beautiful embroidery, I love meeting fellow embroidery enthusiasts and buying local embroidery supplies. So this first blog post on Crete is on embroidery shops.
Where does one buy embroidery supplies? At the local mini-market for instance. We stayed in Enagron ecovillage near Axos and the mini-market in Axos sported a decent supply of DMC stranded cotton, perle and crochet yarns. As I did not see any fabric, I enquired at our accommodation to find out about any other shops in the vicinity. Our hosts turned out to be avid embroiderers themselves, so we had a pleasant conversation on embroidery. I even taught them how to do a bullion knot as they were mesmerized by the bullion roses on my needlecase.
Armed with an embroidery shop address in Perama, me and my husband hunted it down. Not so easy. Shops have a very different look on Crete compared to over-orderly Western Europe :)! The Cretan version of an embroidery shop is a long and narrow dark room stuffed with supplies. You can hardly walk in there. And it is interesting to see what other items are on sale: towels, bed linens, socks and nylons, etc. Explaining what you want is difficult too. The ladies in the shops are elderly and very helpful, but only speak Greek. As they also sell finished embroideries (watch out: not necessarily made in Greece!, more likely cheap and cheerful China and Tunisia), they assume you come for that. It helped that I carried some finished embroidery myself to show them.
The embroidery shops in Perama mainly sold DMC stranded cotton, perle and cotton a broder. Fabric-wise, they have aida, coarse linen, sparkly canvasses, pre-printed canvasses and simple embroidery kits. They also have books full of embroidery designs (cross stitch, richelieu and folklore) of which they can make a copy for you. You can also find needles, sewing thread, crochet yarn, wool, etc. It is best to carefully browse the heaps of supplies. I was lucky and found a piece of sand-coloured 100% fine linen from France. I also bought some perle yarn. After all, these ladies can really use the money as the consequences of the austerity measures are clearly visible. You can find one shop on the Palea EO Rethimnou Irakliou next to the National Bank and the other one almost opposite on Epar. Od. Peramatos-Exantis.
Apparently, beading and making jewellery is incredibly hot among young people in Greece! The shops where you can find beading supplies are bright and organised with a hip and urban feel. My favourite was Perla in Rethymno. I was especially taken with the wide selection of beads and cabochons made of semi-precious stones. The young woman running the store is a maker herself and speaks excellent English. She told me that she will soon open a webshop. If you'd like to stay in the loop on that, why not visit her facebook page?
I also located an embroidery shop on Eth. Antistaseos, also located in the old town centre. Two young women ran the store when I visited and they were very helpful. They had a heap of old DMC pattern leaflets in Greek. They weren't selling them, but I was allowed to take photographs. In return, I bought some #9 needles and some cotton a broder #30. They also sold linen fabric for richelieu embroidery. I saw the traced patterns behind the counter. Apparently, you buy the fabric and threads and have the pattern of your choice transferred onto the linen using blue carbon paper. The ladies told me that cotton a broder #30 is the finest thread they stock nowadays as this type of embroidery is not so popular anymore.
The last shop I visited was Gini in Heraklion on Kalokairinou Avenue. For me personally, this shop was a little too loud! The girls behind the counter where of the giggling type. Nevertheless, I managed to buy some more beads made of semi-precious stones and some fresh-water pearls. Gini has several shops throughout Greece and sells online too. They have a 50% sale going on...
If you know of any other embroidery shops on Crete, please leave your recommendation in a comment below. It would be lovely if this blog post becomes a reference for all who plan a holiday on Crete! Next week, we'll have a look at some of the beautiful embroideries I encountered.
Jessica M. Grimm
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