Addressing needs with needlework

When the order for wearing masks in Pennsylvania was issued, Bustleton resident Gulnoz Hujamuradova used her skills in uzani needlework to create masks for friends and neighbors in need.

Gulnoz Hujamuradova creates products with suzani, a traditional form of needlework from central Asia. When Gov. Tom Wolf issued a mandatory order to wear masks, she created more than 200 to distribute to friends and neighbors. Image via Gulnoz Hujamuradova

As soon as the recommendation to wear masks when going out in public was issued by Gov. Tom Wolf, Gulnoz Hujamuradova knew she could put her needlework talents to good use.

The Bustleton resident moved here from the Urgut District of Samarkand, Uzbekistan six years ago to learn English and start her own business for her suzani embroidery work. Suzani is an ancient form of making decorative textiles often used in central Asian countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Hujamuradova has been practicing uzani since she was in fourth grade and she would help her grandma weave decorations. Since then, she’s learning to make clothes, blankets, shoes, bags, purses, jewelry and more. She’s studying business at the American Advanced Institute of Technology in Feasterville with the intention of opening her own uzani business.

“I went to Urgut Professional College in Uzbekistan for three years and started creating my own patterns,” which spurred her to pursue opening her own business, she said.

When the shutdown first happened, she recalled driving to several stores with friends to track down masks and hand sanitizer. But finding a mask was like finding a needle in a haystack –  when they couldn’t find the supplies, she came up with another solution.

“I said let’s go home and I’ll make one,” she said.

Hujamuradova gives out masks she created. Image via Gulnoz Hujamuradova

She created masks for a few friends with a surplus of materials she had for different projects. When those friends wore them, they received questions about where the masks came from, and were directed back to Mujamuradova. Soon demand started piling up, and she made masks for family and friends, and ultimately neighbors.

In the end Mujamuradova estimates she made more than 200 masks, mailing them to friends in other cities and distributing them to neighbors at her apartment complex. She’s not making them anymore since they’ve become easier to access in stores, but said people who used hers expressed gratitude for providing them with masks.

“As a single mom and international student, being able to be useful to others means a lot,” she said.

Traditional uzani consists of a limited amount of patterns, most incorporating flowers. Mujamuradova describes her style as a fusion of modern and traditional, incorporating a wider variety of patterns and product types she creates.

When she was growing up in Uzbekistan, she helped her sisters with their needlework and helped decorate the school with her creations. After graduating from Urgut Professional College, she used her knowledge to instruct young girls about the craft, just as her grandmother had taught her.

View her work and learn more at SuzaniUZ.com. ••