Taras Shevchenko Museum of Canada
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Taras H. Shevchenko
Museum & Memorial
Park Foundation

1614 Bloor St. West
Toronto Ontario
M6P 1A7
Tel: 416-534-8662
Fax: 416-535-1063


One room on the main floor of the Museum displays a small portion of the Museum's extensive collection of Ukrainian handicrafts and folk art, including many fine examples of costumes, embroidery, ceramics, wood carving and weaving. These exhibits of traditinal Ukrainian art have been created both in Ukraine and in Canada. The collection in constantly expanding.

Decorative  Wooden Plate, Western Ukraine

Decorative Wooden Plate, Western Ukraine

Traditional Ukrainian Dress

Traditional Ukrainian Dress

Folk costume is a basic element of a country's culture and craft, closely tied with its whole history.

Vasyl Boiko, a fellow at the Institute of Art, Folklore and Ethnography of the Academy of Arts and Science of Ukraine, writes that folk costume "distinguishes itself through its originality and the wealth of regional variations... The Ukrainian costume is a genuine encyclopedia of the people's creativity. In it are synthesized the folk arts of weaving, style, sewing, adornment (embroidery, applique, trimming, etc.)."

Traditional dress in Ukraine shows a high degree of sophistication, elegance, and artistry. For centuries scholars of ethnography (descriptive anthropology) and folklore have collected and studied Ukrainian folk costumes. Art historians have paid much attention to the highly artistic embroidery that is a fundamental element of folk costume.

The earliest-known dress worn in the territory of Ukraine dates back to the Scythian and Sarmatian tribes. Men wore cloth or fur trousers, jackets, pointed caps, and boots. Women wore wide shirts that dropped to the knees, a coat with armhole slits, and a cap like a man's hat but covered with a wrap. Embroidery was a Scythian art as far back as the 5th century BC, according to archaeological finds.

But it was during the Kyivan-Rus era, according to Kateryna Mateiko, a scholar with the Ukrainian State Museum of Ethnography and Crafts in Lviv, that the prototypes of the basic elements of the Ukrainian costume developed. The main elements of dress were the shirt, trousers, cloak, sheepskin vest, overcoat, cap, footcloths, stockings, and boots. Princes and boyars (the upper ruling class) wore clothes influenced by Byzantine fabrics and ornaments.

During the Kozak(Cossak) period, the nobility dressed in Renaissance styles prevalent in Europe, with the addition of long overcoats and sheepskin jackets to protect against the climate. Kozak(Cossak) officers adapted this dress to military needs, with short caftan or zhupan, wide trousers or sharovary, and cloak or kyreia. Townspeople imitated the fashions of the nobility to some extent, while the Kozak(Cossak) style influenced the dress of the peasants. The features of dress that evolved during the Kozak(Cossak) period among the townspeople and peasants were preserved with some changes, while the nobility adopted European baroque fashions.

The golden age of Ukrainian folk costume was the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century when regional variations reached their peak. Availability of factory-made fabrics in the second half of the 19th century changed the fabric used in the fashions, but the general features of folk dress persisted in small towns and villages until the First World War. After the First World War, folk dress began to disappear in the countryside because of the low price of urban clothing and the peasant's desire to dress like townsfolk.

Scholars of Ukrainian folk costume usually classify it by regional differences. The Encyclopedia of Ukraine recognizes five regional groups: that of the Middle Dnieper Region, originating in the Hetman period; Polisia; Podilia; central Galicia and Volhynia; and the Carpathian Mountains and Subcarpathia, including Pokutia, Bukovyna, Hutsul, Boiko, and Lemko.

Traditional Ukrainian Dress

Classifying costumes by region is a broad tool, since variations occur from village to village. Costume differs according to sex, with woman's dress more elaborate than men's. Social, economic, and marital status influence dress and there are special ways of dressing according to the season and for festive occasions.

Ukrainian Eggs

The Slavic peoples have been decorating eggs since prehistoric times, originally in the belief that their magic would assure the coming of spring. Later, under Christianity, the decorated egg became a symbol of the Resurrection and its message of renewal. The Ukrainian community in Canada has developed this traditional craft into a vivid cultural symbol and a source of ethnic pride. Their rich decorative heritage gives Ukrainian egg-painters enormous scope for originality. Among the myriad ornamental motifs that can be recognized in the Museum's egg collection are symbols drawn from solar, plant, animal and ecclesiastical sources. Ukrainians call these eggs pysanky, from the verb pysaty, "to write". The design is "written" on the shell in molten wax, using a stylus, before the dyes are applied. As in batik, the wax protects the areas not to be dyed.

Ukrainian Easter Eggs



When Ukrainian settlers first came to the Canada over one hundred years ago, they brought with them the rich and varied art and culture of their homeland. One such art form is Ukrainian embroidery, an art which is present in both the secular and sacred aspects of life. Our exhibit displays artifacts which stem from both of these aspects.

Ukrainian artistic embroidery is one of the ancient and widespread genres of folk art, a favorite way of decorating clothes and household objects. Traditional Ukrainian embroidery plays an important role in public events, celebrations and special occasions of the communities. For festive events women wear embroidered blouses and men wear embroided shirts. It also appeares on pillows, table linens, clothes and placed near household religious icons, covers the easter baskets.

Cross is one of most widespread technique in Ukrainian embroidery. It is simple and convenient technique to implement patterns. The beauty of work made by this technique depends from exact counting threads on fabric and direction the top stitches (the top stitches suppose to lie on the same direction).

Taistra (Carrying Bag), Western Ukraine
Taistra (Carrying Bag), Western Ukraine
Traditional Homespun Ceremonial Towels
Traditional Homespun Ceremonial Towels

Wood Carving


Wood carving is an important and highly developed branch of the Ukrainian folk art. It has been refined for generations and has brought luxury items into every day life. Household articles, farm implements, transportation vehicles, as well as religious architecture were made out of wood, and most of these items were decorated with woodcarved designs. The ornamentation was applied to functional and decorative wooden items consisted of mostly geometric patterns. As with all Ukrainian folk art, the decorative patterns used had a deep symbolic meaning.

Wood carving was popular throughout Ukraine, but some regions were especially noted for the beauty and sophistication of their wood work. The ancient art of wood carving increased greatly and became an essential part of daily life. These wooden masterpices never fail to touch the heart of folk art lovers.

Musical Instruments


The bandura is a unique Ukrainian musical instrument that dates back to the 7-th century. Originally it was used for accompaniment of epic folk ballads and occasional folk dances. It became immensely popular between the 15th and 18th centuries when traveling musicians, called Kobzars, entertained in towns and villages of Ukraine, while singing about the exploits of the Kozaks(Cossak, Ukrainian warriors). Over the years, the bandura acquired more and more strings and became a fully chromatic instrument with switches for changing tonalities. The Bandura is taught as a solo and ensemble instrument in music schools and conservatories in Ukraine.

   Tsymbaly (Hammer Dulcimer)

The hammer dulcimer is an instrument that is well known in many countries. It's origins can be traced to the Middle East where it was known as the santur and it is thought that the instrument was first brought to Ukraine during the Crusades. It spread to Ukraine through Hungary and Rumania, where it is known as a cymbalom and was probably introduced into Ukraine by wandering Gypsy and Jewish musicians. The earliest mention of the Ukrainian term tsymbaly dates back only to the 17th century. In Moldova earlier mentions dating to 1546 can be found. The hammer dulcimer is similar in construction to the husli, consisting of a large wooden box with a soundboard on which strings are strung across in courses of three to five strings. Two bridges are placed on the soundboard over which the strings are stretched. These divide the strings so that each course of strings can produce two different notes. The strings are struck with wooden hammers. Usually the instrument is played in a seated position - placed on the knees of the performer - or in a standing position, with the aid of a long belt that goes around the neck of the performer.


The trembita,woodwind instrument, is the Ukrainian version of the alpine horn. It is usually made of spruce that has been split, a central bore dug out and then glued together and bound with birch bark. It is usually some three meters (10 feet) long, being 2.3 to 5 cm (1-2 in.) wide at the mouthpiece and 6cm (3 1/2 in) wide at the bell. Shorter trembitas of half to one meter in length can be found. This shorter instruments are often called "vivcharska dudka" (shepherds pipe) or "syhnal'na truba." The mouthpiece is often made from a separate piece. The range is approximately three octaves, encompassing the natural harmonic series such as in the french horn. The trembita was primarily used in signaling events such as the coming of visitors, enemies or death in the mountain regions of Ukraine and thus a system of elaborate signals was devised. Carol motifs were also played on the instrument at Christmas. Like many of the instruments of Western Ukraine, the trembita is not unique to the Ukrainian people. Instruments such as the trombita, trabita, trebita can be found in Poland and the bucium in Romania.

Musical Instruments

Musical Instruments

Musical Instruments

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Prints of Taras Shevchenko's watercolours are available at the Shevchenko Museum. These quality prints would be an excellent gift for Shevchenko art lovers. more...

Collection of Ukrainian handicrafts and folk art
First Ukrainian Immigration to Canada
Shevchenko Stamp Collection
Quick Facts on Shevchenko Biography
Become a Donor

The son of a serf, Shevchenko became not only an artist and academician of Saint-Petersburg Academy of Art, but one of the most versatile people of 19th century. His paintings and graphics reflect a refined world that did not resemble his own life...(more)


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Since Feb 25th 2005