This project is a collection of 35 repeating patterns dedicated to discovering Bulgaria and building a better understanding of its culture in a playful and compelling way. The generated imagery is based on a survey that collected qualitative information received by 129 Bulgarian participants. They were asked to fill in a questionnaire and highlight the most prominent features that represent Bulgaria. The two significant objectives were to find answers of the following questions:
1. What are those things that Bulgarians connect and identify their country with?
2. What is the future version of Bulgaria through their perspective?

The answers were later analysed and classified in 4 big categories:
// Nature, Places, Sightseeings & Monuments
// Food & Drinks
// Objects, Unique Features & Traditions
// National Characteristics, People & Inventions, Periods & Tendencies
For each category there is an overview of the received answers, a title and a short explanation of the pattern and the symbols selected for it. In addition, there is an overview of the most common answers received in this category. Some of the patterns merge subjects from other categories. For example: Buzludja Monument is a symbol of Communism period in Bulgaria.
The patterns can find applications in different ways. Interior design: wallpaper, curtains, posters. Fabrics: T-shirts, scarfs, hats, skirts. All kinds of merchandise or be laser cutted on different surfaces or 3D printed. The possibilities are endless.
One of the biggest inspirations for the pattern formations was Bulgarian embroidery. The style is monochromatic with the intention to keep the objects simplified, unified and reduced of the unnecessary visual noise. Adobe Illustrator program helped with the creation of a special set of 30 digital stitch textures which were used to fill in the objects. They are a digital version of the traditional embroidery stitches. Depending on their type, they colour the shapes in a lighter or darker tone. Line art was the preferred method for shaping the objects and all of them were created with the Pen tool. In addition, line art reminds of the outline stitch used widely in embroidery art. Many of the patterns are seamless, some used linear symmetry, others - planar symmetry. The final two patterns were influenced by Escher type repeats.

Using digital embroidery stitches and line art as a visual language

The Set of 30 textures 

Bulgaria has diverse and mesmerizing nature: lowlands, mountain ranges, sea, lakes, mineral water springs (second in Europe), rivers, valleys and fields, wild forests. This offers the opportunity for active tourism in the winter and summer resorts and many of the participants named at least one of them.
Very popular answers were some of the biggest cities in Bulgaria - Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Veliko Turnovo, Stara Zagora. Some answers that weren’t turned into patterns were: Aleksandar Nevski cathedral and Varna Cathedral; Rila Monestry and Bachkovo Monestry; caves - Devil’s throat, Yаgodinska, The eyes of God cave; regions - Irakli, Balchik, Svishtov, Smolyan, Koprivshtica; Kardzhali Dam. Very interesting response was - an old tree at the beach in Kranevo.
Below are the answers turned into patterns.
Rhozhen observatory
Bulgarian National Astronomical Observatory is located in the Smolyan Province. 
Winter resorts 
Bulgaria has 3 big winter resorts - Bansko, Pamporovo and Borovets. The symbols used in the pattern are typical for each resort. The television tower Snejanka (Pamporovo), the Gondola lift “Yastrebec”(Borovets), the hourse (Bansko). 
Summer resorts 
This pattern contains the windmill of Nessebar, an umbrella (there is an ongoing issue about the overpriced sunbed service at the beach), a sun symbol and seagulls. 

Bulgarian capitals 

Each city was represented with its iconic place, symbol or person. Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, with the National Palace of Culture. Varna, the sea capital, with the sea anchor. Veliko Turnovo, the old capital, with the fortress from its coat of arm. Plovdiv, the cultural capital - with the iconic sculpture of Milyo the Crazy by Danko Dankov.


Dobrudzha is a region with lavender, sunflowers and wheat fields. A lot of Bulgarian agriculture is produced there. The pattern includes a motif from Cape Kaliakra, situated in its southern part. 

Buzludzha monument 

The monument House of the Bulgarian Communist Party. This pattern speaks about the communism period in Bulgaria. 

Black Sea 

The whole east boarder of Bulgaria is taken by the Black sea. 

Diverse nature  

Lakes, mountains, lowlands, waterfalls, forests, rivers, valleys, mineral springs, caves, natural wonders - the diversity of Bulgaria’s nature is endless. 

Wild forests 

The brown bear and the wild boar are symbols of the wild nature of Bulgarian forests. 

Four seasons 

Some of the Bulgarians love the fact that there are four seasons, others not. 

Bulgaria has delicious cuisine, authentic and ecologically clean food. Among the given answers were: tarator (cold cucumber soup), lyutenitsa (a vegetable spread), patatnik (potato dish typical for the Rhodope Mountains), moussaka (a potato-based dish with ground meat), mekitsa (fried dough food), tripe chorba (traditional soup  widely considered to be a hangover remedy), Smilyan beans, patatos, shopska salad, mixed colourful salt (шарена сол), feta cheese and etc.
Below are the answers turned into patterns.
Banitsa with bosa 

Typical combination especially for breakfast is banitsa (cheese pastry) with bosa bevarage. It is a malt drink made by fermenting wheat or millet grains.

Bulgarian style

Bulgarians love combining European sprat fish (found in The Black Sea) with beer. Rakia is Bulgarian national drink and is usually served with salad or kebabche - a dish of grilled minced meat with spices. Rakia making in Bulgaria date from 11th century. Its content is normally 40% but homemade rakia can be stroger. Normally 50% ABV. 

Watermelon and cherry trees 

Many kids connect their childhood with eating cherries from the trees or taking a fresh bite of watermelon at the beach. One person specifically noted that the best watermelons in Bulgaria can be found in Haskovo and Dobrich region. 

Vegetables & Corn 

The selected elements for this pattern were: tomatos, cucumber, pepper, corn. 

Sugar rooster & Mint 

This pattern was inspired by the childhood memories of one of the participants. He never went to the playground without a suger rooster lollipop in his pocket. 

Lactobacillus bulgaricus 

Lactobacillus bulgaricus bacteria serves for yogurt fermentation and can be found only in the natural environment of Bulgaria. The yougurt is served with raspberries in a typically ornamented Bulgarian clay pot called gyuvech (гювеч). 

It was a hard process to select which answers to be created into patterns. Bulgaria has a rich variety of unique features that should make Bulgarians proud with the heritage their ancestors left them. Varna golden treasure is the oldest golden treasure, about 6,000 years old. Bulgaria hasn’t changed its name since its foundation in 681, which makes it one of the oldest countries in Europe. The Mystery of Bulgarian voices. Bulgarian flag has never been captured by enemy in a battle. Salvation of the Bulgarian jews during the Holocaust (1939-1945).
Below are the answers turned into patterns.
Carpets from Chiprovtsi  

Chiprovtsi carpets, called kilims, are handmade flatwoven rugs with two identical sides, part of Bulgarian national heritage, traditions, arts and crafts. 

Nestinari and horo

Nestinarstvo is the traditional ritual to dance barefoot on fire. Nestinari is the Bulgarian word for the people who walk barefoot on burning embers. Bulgarian horo folklore dance is a line dance with asymmetrical rhythm and complex repetitive step patterns. It is an integral part of the Bulgarian culture. Many times it is danced in a circle shape. 


Kukeri festival is mummers play. Kukeri are elaborately costumed Bulgarian men, and sometimes women, who perform traditional rituals intended to scare away evil spirits. Closely related traditions are found throughout the Balkans and Greece.

Shevica - Bulgarian embroidery

The graphic side of Bulgaria’s culture. The used symbol for this pattern is elbetica. You can read more about Bulgarian embroidery symbols in the section of Traditional Bulgarian Embroidery. 

Rosa Damascena 

Bulgarian rose valleys produce the highest quality of rose oil in the world, providing 85% for the perfume industry. 

Pizho and Penda 

Pizho and Penda are two small wool dolls that make the typical martenitsa, a wrist band Bulgarian exchange on the 1st of March - Grandma Marta day. The martenitsa  is worn until a stork or a swallow is seen, symbolizing the coming of spring, warmer weather, and well being.

Revival Houses 

Bulgarian Revival is a period when the Bulgarian architecture developed between 1770 to 1900. Plovdiv’s Old Town is a living museum of typical revival houses and that style of architecture. 

The responses in this category were very diverse and gave a lot of food for thought.
The national characteristics were divided into two main groups - positive and negative. Among the negative features were: envy, greed, stupidity, illiteracy, arrogance, snobbery, negligence, servitude, vulgarity, limited worldview, bad mentality, moral decay, lies, betrayal, robbery, negativity and complaining people. However, positive features prevailed. Among them were: warm-hearted people, hospitality,  kindness, faith, hope, love, patience, innate intelligence, joy, happiness, passionate people, strength, fighting spirit, endurance, bravery, hardworking, modesty, selfishness, self-sacrifice, spirituality, flexibility, adaptiveness.
The subcategory of people and inventions was very interesting. What Bulgarians gave to the world? And why should we be proud to call ourselves Bulgarians? Among the most prominent names were: musicians and singers - Vasko Vasilev (violin), Raina Kabaivanska (opera singer), Valya Balkanska (folklore singer); novelists - Ivan Vazov, Elin Pelin, Dimcho Debelyanov; sportsmen - Grigor Dimitrov (tennis player), Stefka Kostadinova (high jump athlete), The Golden girls (Златните момичета) National rhythmic gymnastics team, Hristo Stoichkov and Dimitar Berbatov (football players), Dan Kolov (wrestler); philosopher Petar Dunov; actor Djoko Rorsich; inventors - Ivan Nochev (engines of the Moon Lander “Eagle”, part of Apollo 11 space station); John Atanasov (first computer); Petar Petrov (first electronic wristwatch); Yul Brown (water engine).
Even though Bulgaria is one of the poorest and most corrupted nations in Europe, with depopulated villages and overpopulated capital, better future can be built by innovative and creative people.
Below are the answers turned into patterns.
Shipka Monument   

Shipka Monument is known as the Monument of The Liberty. The memorial complex was erected in memory of the fallen Bulgarian volunteers and Russian soldiers during the Shipka battles in the summer of 1877. Shipka battle plays a crucial role in the Russo-Turkish War and for the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule. 


Hristo Botev and Vasil Levski are symbolic historical figures and national heros who lost their lifes fighting for Bulgaria’s Liberation and Independence. 

Fighting spirit 

The boxing gloves is the symbol of the fighting spirit of Bulgarians. 


The one feature that can best describe Bulgarians is their innate capacity to adapt to different situations. Therefore, a chameleon was the selected symbol for this pattern. 

The Three Fools 

The Three Fools are fictional animation characters created by the Bulgarian cartoonist Donyo Donev. They give a satiric look at Bulgarian society. 

Beautiful women 

If you ask a male foreigner about what are his first impression about Bulgaria, many times you can hear this answer: Bulgaria has very beautiful women. This pattern offers a humorous perspective to this topic. The croissant with the legs is actually a kifla (кифла- a typical sweet pastry with jam). Bulgarians often call that a girl who lost her natural beauty because of plastic surgery interventions. 

Mafia and Corruption 

Bulgaria is one of the most corrupted countries in Europe. The symbol of the pig, surrounded by money, is a great way to represent that problem. The pig never has enough, it just gets bigger and bigger. 


Immigration has a great influence for the depopulation of Bulgaria. Many Bulgarians go to Terminal 1 Sofia Airport and return back to their homeland just for the holidays. They miss their country but they believe Bulgaria doesn’t offer enough opportunities. 


Shlokavica is the latin way of writing cyrillic  words. It doesn’t have strict rules and it uses an unsystematized combination of Latin letters, numbers and other symbols. For example: the letter “ч” can be written with the number “4” or “ch” (rarely with: h, c, 5, q, c~, c^, c#). 

Innovation and Smart People 

For the last few decades, Bulgaria started to turn into an IT hub center. Many people see possibilities for career growth and find inspiration in innovation and technology. 

Hope I & II 

Those two patterns are dedicated to hope. Hope for a better future. The majority of the participants had a positive attitude towards the future of Bulgaria. The Bulgarian novelist Yordan Yovkov has a story for the search of pure white swallow , which is the symbolism of hope. That’s why this pattern has two birds - one dark and one white. And it depends from the person on which one will focus. Will it be the white one? Or the dark one? The choice is yours to make. 

- the main inspiration behind this project - 

Embroidery is one of the most distinctive features of Bulgarian folklore and is regarded as one of the greatest treasures in Bulgarian cultural heritage (Bulgarian embroidery patterns can be traced back to at least 3500 years, the Bronze age of Thrace), a proof of the rich spirituality of Bulgarian ancestors and their pursuit for beauty. Apart from its decorative purpose to ornament folk costumes, it has protective, curative/healing, identification and communication functions.
The symbols and motifs used in the pattern encode information and tell fascinating stories if they are interpreted correctly. The embroidered motifs are geometric, plant/floral, rarely animal, there are also skillfully ornamented human figures, tools, vessels, etc. The most commonly used symbols are: kanatica, mother goddess giving birth, tree of life, rhombus, elbetica, swastika, roosters. 
The leading characteristic of the Bulgarian embroidery varies considerably from region to region due to its geographical diversity with mountains and valleys, highlands and lowlands. Designs are imparted as much by certain obvious differences in pattern and stitches employed as by the choice of colouring. 
The most used stitches by the Bulgarian embroideress are cross, stroke, straight, slanting slav, square, plaited, star. The simplest execution and design is in Vidin, Vratza and Grahovo. Sofia is distinguished by the use of geometrical patterns in rich and vibrant colours. The finest embroideries are obtained from Doupnitza. In general, Bulgarians show a pronounced taste for polychromatic decoration. Red and red-browns predominate, one of the rarest colours is golden.
Bulgarian embroideress was following strict symmetry rules for the composition of the patterns. She was well acquainted with linear, reflectional and rotational 90° symmetry. Predominantly motifs were symmetrically arranged but sometimes asymmetrical compositions can be seen. 

There is a huge amount of symbolism cross stitched to Bulgarian embroidery. It is an incredible interpretation of life from conception to death. Dimitar Marinov, the founder of the National Ethnographic Museum, noted: “In these patterns joy or sorrow are expressed, these patterns show what is being asked for: fertility, strength, prosperity, life, health, fun, love. They are prayers written with symbolic signs.”
Each color used in Bulgarian embroidery has a particular meaning attached to it. White is associated with purity, innocence, truth, wisdom and knowledge. Yellow represents the Sun and the light, God and the holy. Red represents the blood and life, masculine power and courage. It protects from the bad spirits and spells. Therefore it was a common practice until 1920 for the bride to wear a red veil on her wedding day. Green is the expression of eternal life and connects with the Tree of life, nature, youth, and health. And blue - the sky, water, truth, calmness and contemplation.
Kanatica is the symbol of the family, eternal life and infinity. Associated with the union between male and female, it gives strength, harmony and balance. Depending on how many triangles are added, the meaning of the symbol changes (engagement, wedding, family, kinship, nation).
Mother goddess giving birth is associated with fertility and is represented in an abstract way. In complicated compositions the symbol always stays in the middle.
Tree of life presents the idea of the connection between material and spiritual world. The composition can be symmetric or asymmetric. It stands for a three-level vertical representation of our world. The crown symbolises the Upper World or the Heavens, the trunk embodies the Earth and the roots stand for the Underworld, the home of demonic forces.
The roosters is associated with fertility and life expectancy. It is usually cross-stitched on women’s skirts and sometimes in their armpits.
The geometric figure rhombus is the symbol of feminine fertility and is one of the most important parts of Bulgarian apron. 
Elbetica is easily recognizable by the two crosses placed on top of each other. It generally symbolises harmony. The two crosses represent the four main and the four additional directions of the world, uniting in a common centre that keeps them in together. It can be interpreted as the four seasons as well. It is depicted on the sleeves and collars of the clothes, as well as at the bottom of the women’s skirts. These are the finishing places of the clothes and it was believed that the person was most vulnerable there.
Swastika is associated with the cult of the Slavic god of the sun and the fire of Svaroh. For thousands of years this symbol represented people’s hopes for prosperity, success and good luck. After it was adopted by the Nazi Party to symbolise German nationalist pride, this symbol has negative connotations attached to it.
I’m motif comes from the Thracian historical and geographical area. It is commonly used in the region of Samokov. The Self is the dominant symbol, stating “I’m”, “I am responsible.” Associations can be made with the first letter of the Glagolitic script, the oldest known Slavic alphabet. “I” - A, which itself encodes the message for all human beings and knowledge.
Below are my creations of some of the most famous Bulgarian embroidery symbols.


Tree of Life 





- possible visual solutions - 

You may also like

Back to Top