Palestinian Embroidery: Cross Stitch Embroidery Techniques & Patterns

Once a traditional craft practiced by village women, Palestinian cross stitch embroidery has become an important symbol of Palestinian culture. Embroidered pieces can be found in the homes of most Palestinian families in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel and the Diaspora beyond, adorning the walls of houses in Jerusalem, villas in the Gulf, suburban homes in the United States, and cement block houses in refugee camps. In addition, Palestinian hand embroidery is given as gifts and worn by Palestinians worldwide on festive occasions. 

The popularity of Palestinian embroidery springs from both its beauty and its association with the Palestine of the past. Common patterns and motifs reflect the millennia-long history of the land. The designs are derived from sources as diverse as ancient mythology and foreign occupations and date as far back as the Canaanites, who lived in the area over three thousand years ago. 

Cross stitch embroidery also symbolizes the traditional rural lifestyle of Palestine, much of which was lost after the 1948 creation of the state of Israel. Embroidery was the principal decoration of rural women's clothing. It was part of a village women's daily routine and a means of showing off her personal skills and social identity. The cross stitch embroidery patterns, colors, and quality of the dress reflected a woman's social standing, marital status and wealth. 

Although the Palestinian cultural landscape has changed dramatically in the last fifty years, cross stitch embroidery has remained a vibrant handicraft because, for many Palestinians, it is a familiar reminder of Palestine in the days of their grandparents or great grandparents. [Excerpts from “Embroidering A Life: Palestinian Women and Embroidery”  by Elizabeth Price]