Palestinian Embroidery

I have recently been preparing for a charity workshop on Palestinian Embroidery . It is a fascinating area of study. and here I share a little of what I have learnt.

The design on the right is one of my samples with the popular cypress trees on  indigo dyed fabric

Palestinian embroidery is very beautiful and unique. It is recognisable with its rich colours and distinctive patterns, influenced over time by ideas from the east travelling along the ancient trade routes. Contact with Europe also inspired new patterns for example from the church convent schools and pattern books from DMC arriving with new threads in the 1930’s.

The geometric and later the floral patterns were embroidered onto cotton and linen cloth. These were popular on the clothes and household linen. Girls would learn at an early age to embroider and growing up they would work on their wedding trousseau, which would include some intricate dress wear. The dresses may have an embroidered chest panel, side panels and sleeve panels, the patterns and style depending on the region.

 Bright colours were often used on natural undyed cloth or indigo dyed cloth. Red was a predominant thread colour, each village having a slightly different shade Pink, green, orange, violet, and yellow thread would pick out parts of the patterns to give the design vibrancy. The random placing of accent colours adds interest and as an imperfect finish gave protection from the evil eye.

This card  is one of the designs  for use at the workshop.

Although a lot of cross stitch is used for the designs, couching, chain stitch, split stitch and satin stitch are also used. Applique was also a feature and often sewn down using a zig zag back stitch. As the hand woven cloth would be quite limited in width it had to be joined so the joining stitches became part of the garments pattern embroidered in bright colours

Geometric designs create the base of Palestinian patterns but flora and birds add interest. One popular motif is the cypress tree, each region would embroiderer it slightly differently. This symbol is said to represent longevity.

Palestinian embroidery is now on the UNESCO cultural heritage list to “protect Palestinian identity, heritage and narrative”.

This photo is of some purses from a co-operative of ladies stitching Palestine embroidery for sale. To see further designs have a look at their website . https://crosstitch4palestine.wordpress.com/

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