Sewn Signs (Semne Cusute) are a visual, universal language used by women to encode information, express their status and their vision of the world. Embroidery is communication in style. The needle & thread, and the embroidery techniques are something we all could learn, no matter of age, gender, religion or ethnic background – being so much related to math and geometry. So, where can this craft take us to?

Photo: Dan Borzan

A new must have

It started back in 2012, when Arh. Ioana Corduneanu, the Founder of Sewn Signs created the blog to archive in digital form Romanian patterns from all regions. Presenting  the traditional shirt (and other textiles) as a carrier of symbols and messages from the past, from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, it became a “must have” item for our audiences. Owning an authentic piece of this kind in our wardrobe became a driver that generated a factor of change in actions and reactions, and a market for this new need. The impact started to be felt both in society, and in economy.

As a result, the Awards bring local, national and European visibility and recognition to the winners. And not just to the award-winning projects themselves but also to their countries and local communities!

The treasure in our chests

People would search their family chests: have they kept a forgotten traditional blouse somewhere? Suddenly, Grandmothers became more important, they were “interrogated” about their blouses and how they made them, and wore them. When such blouses were found, they were suddenly treasured, even if they needed to be cleaned, repaired or modified to fit the grandchildren.

The power within us

The need to have and wear a traditional blouse was so strong that soon after Sewn Signs online community was created in 2014, hundreds, then thousands joined it, to learn how to make their own shirt. The share of collective knowledge and experiences soon led to thousands of newly sewn shirts, recovering old techniques and patterns, thus creating a future for the traditional blouse.


Teamwork and socialising are the keywords that define our online community. Each of us is participating in this melting pot gathering collective experience. Once you join us, you already get involved admiring what others did, rewarding them with “like” and “love” and “wow”. Then you start reading and asking for more information and thus, you start learning and you take your first steps, usually a mix of small failures and achievements meaning so much to you, then you share it, as you need confirmation. You gather know-how and hands-on experience, and at some point you realise that you are actually teaching and inspiring others. Meanwhile, you create connections and you become part of “us”. That’s how individual choices, motivation and results are multiplied and not insignificant anymore.

Share and care

Romanian traditional shirts were always about socialising, as it was all about expression. Our Grandmothers embroidered their stories on shirts knowing that an educated public will be able to appreciate it. However, the creative process was intimate, and secret, as their appearance was also meant to impress. Techniques, patterns, combinations – were kept in high secrecy, and in many cases scarcely shared afterwards. Sharing all the stages of the process, with all the explanations is the new start, and a big change of the 21st century. Our on-line community is a safe environment, defined by placing the collective interest in front of the individual. Sharing is caring, and we understand that only if we share and if we help others we will keep our tradition alive. And yes, there is enough room to impress others, too. You get your fair portion of respect and admiration, proportionate with the amount of support and guidance you offer. Our FaceBook community is based on public posts and you can get all the information you need even without a FaceBook account:

A model

Starting with a blog, Semne Cusute evolved into a community and a movement that became a model for others, too. In 2017 we created the Sewn Signs Association, and we soon set an example about how intangible heritage can be preserved and spread in the 21st century. Anticipating basic ‘needs’ and ‘wants’, we started by translating the tradition, adapting the communication to social media and using the newly available learning tools.
Building up a community was never so easy, when planning it with a solid foundation and 4 pillars of strong principles:

  • set high standards, aim high
  • cultivate the spirit of healthy competition
  • provide constructive critic, unconditional support and free information for all
  • celebrate error as an efficient method of learning

Based on this model, new crafts revived: women remembered they still have weaving looms, and started using it; others started to embroider sheepskin making traditional vests; others turned their passion for traditional beads and jewels into craft, and they started up small businesses.


On the path to the future

Our path is straightforward: Study – Share – Show – Aim higher
Our main activities evolve around education of the general public, using traditional embroidery as a hinge to change (especially women) from ‘victims’ of fashion and hyper consumerism into responsible creators and keepers of the traditional knowledge. Through partnerships with our National Museums, we study the old textiles, to get conclusions about cutting principles, sewing techniques, embroidery patterns and materials. We translate the information to make it appealing to the public and then, we share it via social media. To make sure everyone has support for learning, besides the interactive group with over 50.000 active members, whenever possible, we organised workshops for those who need them. Every year we display our best in exhibitions in Romanian Museums or abroad. They convince even more members to join us.

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