History of Palestinian Embroidery
Once a traditional craft practiced by village women, Palestinian embroidery has become an important symbol of Palestinian culture.
Palestinian 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 woman'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 50 years, Palestinian tatreez 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. These days, Palestinian hand embroidery is given as gifts and worn by Palestinians worldwide on festive occasions.
Palestinian Embroidery by Technique
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, and cement block houses in refugee camps. The richness and diversity in Palestinian embroidery is most revealed in the various embroidery techniques that are unique to specific villages and towns.
Cross-stitch, 'fallahi (farmers’)’ embroidery is the most renowned of Palestinian embroidery tecuniques. The embroidery took on its name because cross-stitch was the craft of village women, widely practiced from the south through the central region of Historic Palestine. Palestinian cross-stitch is known for its richenss of colors and texture, as well as a vast number of traditional motifs that vary from a region to another.
Tahriri was used to make the front panels of wedding dresses and also the side panels of the skirts and the cuffs of the long traditional dresses. The technique may have been inspired by ornate church ornaments, liturgical clothing or the braid and couching ornamentation on the uniforms of Ottoman and British officers. From evening bags to belts, check out our range of crafts in the beautiful Tahriri stitch.
Connecting & Trimming
Palestinian embroidery included a wide array of techniques like manajel (connecting stitch), tashreem (patchwork), and jadleh (hemming stitch). While less known than the popular cross-stitch, these stitches called for more complex skills and were essential in the making of traditional Palestinian costumes. More details on these unique techniques can be found in Sunbula’s publication on embroidery: Seventeen Embroidery Techniques from Palestine: An Instruction Manual.
Traditional Cross-stitch Motifs & Patterns
The popularity of Palestinian embroidery springs from both its beauty and its association with the Palestine of the past. Common cross-stitch 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. Each of hundreds of Palestinian villages developed their unique embroidery patterns that reflected their own worlds, and it was possible to recognize a woman’s hometown based solely on the embroidery motifs that adorned her clothing. Discover these unique traditional Palestinian embroidery crafts: