The “lefkaritiko” (lace embroidery of Lefkara) is the finest specimen that the needlecraft and the folklore tradition of Cyprus have to show.
It is embroidery of great value that reflects the dynamism, the sensitivity, and the power of observation of the woman of Cyprus. The skilful hands of the needlewoman manage to create perfect and artistically delivered designs upon the fabric, which not even the hand of the most skilful designer would have been able to deliver in such detail, grace, rhythm, and harmony.

All the designs of the lace embroideries from Lefkara are inspired by nature and the environment, receiving a characteristic form as the stitches are combined. Today’s lace embroideries of Lefkara have evolved to a great extend, other -more recent -elements having been added to the stereotyped, old decorative, geometrical motifs. So, a huge variety of embroideries with characteristic names such as «athasi» (“almond”), «margarita», «makoukoudi» (refers to a small weaving row), «mi me lismonei» (“forget me not”), «tagiada» (a basic pattern in weaving), «potamos» (“river”), «arvalotos» (latticed / riddled pattern), «klonotos» (“branched”), «ammatotosò» (with eye-shaped patterns), «arachnotos» (“spider-web”), «aplos» (“simple”), «diplos» (“double”), «karouli» (“bobbin”), «miloudi» (“small apple”), and many more swarm the local and foreign market and become the main source of income for the skilful female weaver of Lefkara -the «kentitria» -and the male embroideries’ merchant of Lefkara –the «kentitaris».

For the past century Lefkara have become world famous as the homeland of embroideries. Indeed, the peculiarities and the technique of the embroideries that are manufactured in Lefkara have contributed to shaping a form of needlecraft with a special style that has now been established and named as «Lefkaritiko Kentima» (Embroidery of Lefkara) or simply «Lefkaritiko». Unfortunately, many of the old designs have stopped being produced -because of the difficulty in execution and of the time necessary for their manufacture -at the risk of a complete disappearance of the traditional needlecraft’s technique.
Today’s ambition is to train and create perfect needlewomen by conveying in a simple manner the wealth of tradition, which was left as a legacy from generation to generation, and through everyone’s contribution to its continuance.

The first embroideries of Lefkara

Through the embroideries of Lefkara that are extant, the continuation and the evolution of the “asproploumia” (white, embroidered ornaments with cotton-thread) is made clearly visible.
The first embroideries of Lefkara are made with the same manufacture ingredients as the asproploumia, that is, they are made entirely of cotton coming from local, hand-made, woven, thick fabric.

Later on the “kampri” (or “hases”) was used -a thin, imported fabric –as well as the “bakaris”, (cotton-thread - bobbin). Around 1913 they begin using the local, linen fabric from Zodia and Astromeritis and the linen threads, which they span and whitened for that purpose, when making the embroideries of Lefkara. Along with the use of linen, people in Lapithos and Karavas begin weaving ‘Lefkaritika’ using local, silk fabrics and with silk threads.
There is a diversification of the “Lefkaritiko” style in these designs. The silk embroideries are done with more “anevata”, “gemota” designs (kind of satin-stitch embroidery that is more raveled) and are most suited for cutting and removing a small number of threads. In their final form the designs resemble the results of the “Lefkaritiko” style but present differences in the manner of their constitution. In the case of “straogazo” (kind of stitch without ravels), apart from the difference in technique, there is also a difference in the final result.
In all the types of embroideries there is a uniformity of fabric and thread that creates a perfect joining of the materials with the embroidery
The first, old embroideries of Lefkara preserve the following elements that come from the asproploumia:

a. The various types of “gazia” -plural, “silk back-stitches” -(“Venetian”, “paragazi” {side-stitch}, “donti tou kattou” {cat’s tooth}, and others), which are used only for the boundary setting and completion of the “ploumia” (ornaments).
b. The geometrical shapes that evolve and find a continuation through the more composite and complex designs, the “potamoi” (“rivers”).
c. The “kopta” (basic embroidery designs) that are enriched through new shapes in different sizes.
d. The stitches that are completed by new ones(“gemoti”, ”trypyti”, “deti”).

The various types of “gazia” done in the “asproploumia“ and the lace embroideries of Lefkara are created by raveling threads in the woof or the warp of the fabric.
Depending on the design, the threads are separated into pairs, tied together or plaited. Their width ranges from 3 millimeters to two centimeters.

From “asproploumia” to “lefkaritika”

The “lefkaritiko” lace embroidery has its roots in the local, white embroideries or “asproploumia done with the needle”, embroideries manufactured throughout Cyprus –from Pafos to Karpasia.

Today the asproploumia are no longer produced and the old ones that are still extant are made of local, thick, cotton fabric that is hand-made and cotton threads, which they span for this purpose.

The designs of the asproploumia are simple, usually geometric, without any details. They are limited and the same ones are repeated throughout the whole range of the embroidery. Their main characteristic is the cutting and removal of threads from the fabric, the use of a limited number of stitches, and the making of “gazia” in a number of variations. The “gazia” usually end, complete, and set the boundaries of the designs in the asproploumia.

All these characteristics are transferred to the lace-embroideries of Lefkara, which start taking their own, particular form.
In Lefkara the technique of the asproploumia, which is improved and diversified according to the skillfulness of each needlewoman, is preserved.

At the same time, the lace-embroidery of Lefkara is also enriched by the technique of the «Venise» lace, which becomes known in Cyprus during the era of the Venetian Domination (1489-1571). Through this lace-technique the needlewomen of Lefkara create designs upon the cut fabric and change them – so as to adapt them to the area upon which they will weave, in accordance with their imagination, their artistry, and their skillfulness. In this manner, designs are created that are unique. These designs are named “pittota“ and they include the “gyroulota” (“circular”), the “liminota” (“striped”), and the “kappoudes” ().
Of course, apart from creating the lace inside the “kopta” openings (openings for ornaments made in a special way) on the fabric, they also placed laces upon the fabric that they stitched separately.
With the rich experience acquired through the “asproploumia”, the emergence of lace, its application onto the fabric, and the addition of new “gemota” design elements –taken from nature and the environment –the “lefkaritiko” lace embroidery comes to life.
Starting from Lefkara, the small village of the Larnaca district from which the lace embroideries took their name, they become known in a number of countries.
According to tradition, the renowned painter of the Renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci, visited Cyprus during this era and took with him a lace embroidery when he left, which he gave as a gift for the High Altar of the «Duomo» Cathedral of Milan.
This tradition was kept until today and came to life again on the 19th of October 1986. On this day of the main altar’s consecration in the «Duomo» Cathedral in Milan, the Community of Lefkara donated an embroidered tablecloth that was made in Lefkara, in memory and as a continuation of this tradition. Through this event, tradition is linked to the present reality.
By the end of the previous century the inhabitants of Lefkara visit the cities of neighboring countries, wherever the Greek element was present -Alexandria, Cairo, Smyrna (Izmir), Constantinople –and make the lave embroideries of Lefkara known. Through Greece they are transferred throughout Europe, in the Scandinavian countries, and in America. The merchants of Lefkara –“kentitarides”- traveled to or stayed in Europe and roamed from house to house, selling and making their embroideries known, while the needlewomen of Lefkara –“ploumarisses” –remained in the village, organizing the production.

In this way their name becomes well known and the lace embroideries of Lefkara reach –in the beginning of the century, from 1900 until 1930 –a point of perfection in terms of the combination of technique and the end result.