One Turkish crocheter says to the other, “So you crochet, right?”

The friend replies, “O, ya!”

I’m sorry.  Terrible introductions aside, today’s topic is Turkish Oya.

The word “oya” generally refers to edging, but today we’re talking about the crocheted edging, or “tig oyasi.”  If you’re really interested in making edging for scarves, clothes, or linens, Turkish Oya also encompasses other methods using shuttles, needles, and hairpins, but be warned: using needles tends to mean thinner threads!  Learning the craft can be complicated, because it’s traditionally taught person-to-person, meaning there are very few books about how to achieve the delicate, beautiful borders of Turkish Oya.

Speaking of borders, claims to the origin of the technique cross regional borders; many different regions claim to be the birthplace of Oya, and the first references date back to the B.C.E. days.  Like the Gansey sweaters, Turkish Oya may have been influenced by the fishing cultures of the Mediterranean, specifically the netting used by the fishermen.

Oya is more than just pretty edging.  Its various motifs have different symbolic meanings that come into play in regional traditions.  In Konya, in the Central Anatolia area of Turkey, an engaged woman sends a piece of cloth edged with Oya to her soon-to-be mother-in-law.  The mother-in-law is supposed to wear the cloth as a scarf at the wedding ceremony, where everyone can “read” the scarf and get the scoop on the family dynamic.  Sending someone a cloth with the “meadows and grass” edging would indicate happiness and a good relationship, while sending a cloth edged with the “gravestone” design was – unsurprisingly – an indication of a bad relationship and a dislike that endures to the grave.  The groom’s family, in turn, sends over a cloth for the bride, with a couple of Oya flowers.  The cloth becomes the headdress for the bride.

Married women who wore red hot peppers were trying to tell their husbands that they were unhappy in their marriage, while wearing a scarf edged with the “soldier” design told people that you had a loved one in the military.  And this “Oya dictionary” keeps expanding.  The “Pasha star” motif is also known as the “Zeki Müren eyelash,” after a Turkish singer from the 70s and 80s.  Meanwhile, the “Türkan Soray eyelash” gets its name from a famous actress.

Fortunately for the GYI! crocheters, tig oyasi only requires knowing a few techniques: the chain stitch, double crochet stitches, and the slip knot.

Here are a few sites to get you started:

A whole compendium of blog posts about Oya

A free pattern for “sevens” Oya edging

An eHow video that shows you how to make a chain of flowers

These sites were major sources addressing the history of Turkish Oya:

Nordic Needle

Couch Crochet Crumbs