Maria is intently looking at the piece of cloth she has placed on a cushion and tucked in place using pins. She starts to count its total threads while her neighbour Anna tells her what she has cooked for lunch. Without looking up, Maria nods. She can’t afford to look away from the cloth as she is curating a difficult design called da Vinci.
After removing the threads to form large triangles all over the cloth, she proceeds to remove individual threads within each triangle to make smaller triangles. A test of accuracy and patience ensues as a single extra thread will ruin the entire piece. Each small triangle is then stitched together using hemstitch.
Legend says that in the 16th century, Lefkara was visited by Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance man who bought an altar cloth of Lefkaritiko or the traditional lace of the island of Cyprus. Later, the cathedral of Milan received this altar cloth as donation. da Vinci design remains the unaltered design of this altar cloth.
A common sight in the village is seeing women sitting outside shops on wooden stools making Lefkaritiko. Locals mention that ladies made this lace as part of the dowry to be given to their daughters. It was in the 19th century that women realized that this lace could also supplement their income. As demand for the lace from across Europe grew, so did the economic independence of the women. Even today, girls as young as 10 are taught how to make lace though there are frequent complaints that the grandchildren are not interested enough to learn.
The linen that is bought from Ireland is carefully cut to pattern depending on what is to be made. It could be tablecloths, bedspreads, purses, handbags, coasters or even parasols.
The thread inside the cloth is removed depending on the design and the rest of the cloth is embroidered with satin stitch. Some of the traditional designs include margarita which is a flower design, spider web where the design resembles a spider’s web and a shining sun which is locally known as elios design. Hemstitch is used to stitch the internal threads together. The motifs include margarita, spider web and sunshine which is locally known as the elios design. The time taken to make these lace beauties varies depending on the design. A side tablecloth may take six months while an entire year may go making a a big tablecloth.
While the women make lace, the men of Lefkara make handicrafts from threads of silver, including filigree jewellery, cutlery and icons. The filigree jewellery gets a stamp of authentication from the government. Small pieces are welded together to make an individual larger piece like a pendant, earring or brooch.
Earlier the silver mines around the village made access to silver easy. But now the mines are depleted and silver is imported from Africa and Germany. Silver filigree baskets line shelves in many shops and are filled with silver cutlery, another popular and traditional gifts to daughters. Very often the box in which a wedding ring is placed is a handmade filigree box.
Timios Stavros Church
Walking around the beautiful village of Lefkara is quite an experience. A 14th century church dedicated to the Holy Cross is located at the village centre. The icon stand dates back to the 18th century and depicts the Deposition of Christ. Frescoes and embossed ornamentation abound inside. Outside, cobbled pathways go past white stone homes with terracotta roofs. Pots of flowers outside each house adds a burst of colour to the view. Lefkara gets its name from the white colour of the rocks which surround it.