Since ancient times Karakalpak women crossstitched and embroidered the homespun cot ton cloth following the geometric patterns of the natural weave. They used a needle and silk thread. This technique was called a shiris-nagis. A variety of ornate embellishments were achieved through chain stitch embroidery on factory-made cloth. The product edges were processed manually using a woven ribbon floss braid and twisted silk fringe.
Generally, embroidery decorated women’s costumes, including a headdress, a gown, a chest band with “hood” and a cape robe. Amazingly rich embroidery adorned a bride’s costume – a long tunic (kok koylek), headdress with chest band (kizil-kiymeshek) and “helmet” neck flap (saukele). The costume was created over a number of years by the bride herself.
For a wedding the bride embroidered sleeves for a robe and coat, and collars for a dress and cape, small household items (kettle holders, yurta amulets), as well as gifts for her mother-in-law (cape robe ak-zhegde) and the groom (amulets for robe and sheepskin coat, tea waist bag).
Old Karakalpak embroidery combined small ornamental elements from contrasting strands with predominant crimson colour. Palette harmony was attained through halftone patches of red, brown, pistachio green and golden yellow colours.
Karakalpak ornaments were made of cosmic symbols: cross and vortical outlet (solstice, cardinal points), zigzag (heavenly water) and diamond (fertility). Particular welfare importance was endowed to the patterns of horns, frogs, goosenecks, scorpion tails, crow claws, bird tongues, dog tracks, sprouts and flowers. Jewellery, tools and hunting depictions were also very popular in Karakalpak embroidery.