The art of embroidery is a popular Palestinian folklore that has evolved over time into a craft. It has become a source of livelihood for a large group of women in Palestine, where it has characteristics that fit the social and economic environment of the Palestinian society. This development was accompanied by the creation of new styles with high aesthetic values inspired by the originality of this craft.
The Palestinian women, especially the rural ones, have mastered the art of embroidery; they used it in many areas of life; their homes, their dresses, and personal equipment were decorated with them; their drawings, decorations, and colors were inspired by the nature of their country and their local environment. And drawings; each geographical area has its own elements, components, and decorative formations derived from them and suitable for them.
It is difficult for the researcher to date the art of Palestinian embroidery, for various reasons. The most important is that the fabrics and threads are worn over time, therefore, it is rare to find samples of Palestinian embroidery dating back to the pre-nineteenth century.
The unique position of Palestine at the crossroads leading to Europe, Asia and Africa has played an important role in enriching this rich heritage, as well as the successive civilizations of the Canaanite, Ethiopian and Amorite civilizations; and the many invasions that have passed on this land.
In the nineteenth and first quarter of the 20th century, patterns and types were primarily geometrical; in the 1930s, new influences were introduced that changed the peculiarity of traditional embroidery, such as embroidery threads manufactured in Europe, which were accompanied by brochures of Western embroidery, all found their way to the Palestinian markets, and integrated Western drawings such as flowers, birds and animals to the traditional dresses of women. This was evident in the 1950s and continues to this day.
Variety & Identity
The women of the Palestinian villages were formerly known by their dresses; after the drawings and colors were noticed; the decorative units on the garment were an important indicator of the identity of the village or area; the women knew these drawings well and inherited this information from their mother and grandmother; At an early age, where she felt kind of obliged to transfer the drawings of her village to her dresses. As the woman was the custodian in the transfer of the heritage of her village was creative in the change in the embroidery and acquired the traditional drawings of their own taste, without changes to the infrastructure of the composition.
Although these changes were simple, they gave the dresses a new look. Another factor influencing the development of traditional drawings is the intermarriage of the various parts of Palestine. As women move with their husbands to other villages or regions, they transfer some of their original village drawings to their new villages or vice versa, and put them on their dresses.
The development of transportation, such as trains and buses, has also encouraged the people of Palestine to travel and visit; which made women see closely other aspects in other areas; which contributed to the exchange of graphic designs; Palestinian women, like other women, want to renew and create a beautiful things in her dress and adornment.
Although the renewal and change were always apparent, some drawings were limited to their specific geographic locations; the Ramallah area, for example, was known for its use of the Palm, the Hebron area, the tent of the Pasha, the Jaffa area, the cypress with a base; Or scissors; and Beer Sheva and its region, has been known to use the drawing mask. Although such drawings may distinguish one region from another, we also find them in various forms and combinations that are spread throughout Palestine.
Arrangement of Palestinian Embroidery on the dress
As for the arrangement of embroidery on the dress, it was not random; it is considered and covers four main parts of the dress:
- Dome: the closest piece to the face; and the origin of the language (collar), which is included in the pocket of the shirt in the patch; but it means in the Palestinian dialect (dress collar).
- Tail: which is the lower back of the dress; and it’s origin of the language (tail), which is dragged from the dress.
- Structure: the side of the dress.
- Sleeve: is the hand entrance of the dress.
Types of Cloth
Traditional embroidery was performed on hand-woven linen, called “Romanian” or “monastic” – or on a fabric that is a mixture of flax and cotton, sometimes called “villager”; or on cotton cloth woven with special knitting to facilitate thread count and show stitch clearly.
Threads used in embroidery are four varieties:
- Silk Thread: the most expensive yarns and heavier. The embroidered dress weighs eight kilograms and is worn only in celebrations and special occasions.
- Cotton Thread: embroidered on all kinds of clothes, it is cheap, but some cotton threads fade and the colors of some of them dissolve on the other colors.
- Cane Thread: used in the north of Palestine to embroider the jacket and skirts, and in the white Dajani dress used to embroider the top chest on the velvet cloth.
- Machine thread: embroidered on satin fabric only, by machine. This thread is also used to connect the parts of the garment to each other, and they embroider on top of the connections with a silk thread.
Distributions of Palestinian Embroidery and its main areas
There is no doubt that the Palestinian embroidery is widespread in all areas, villages and cities of Palestine; there are common features that combine all the Palestinian dresses in all regions, in terms of the use of colors or specific shapes; with each area retaining other features distinct from other regions ; Sometimes a village is distinguished from the other with its own symbols. We can say that there are six main areas in Palestine, which differ in terms of speciality in embroidery:
- Jerusalem area: Includes Ramallah and Bethlehem districts.
- Hebron area.
- The North: Includes Acre, Safad and Tiberias.
- Beersheba (Bir al-Sabi) area: branching north of Sinai.
- Jaffa area: branching out of Asdod – Sarafand – Beit Dajan – Safiriyah – Yazour – Yabneh.
- Gaza area: Magdal – Herbia – Beit Lahia – Deir Al Balah – Khan Younis.
Features of Palestinian Embroidery art
- Work clothes are less decorated than the clothes of seasons and occasions.
- Unmarried girls may not wear ornamental colors other than eyeliner; therefore, they are accustomed to compensate for this by decorating their clothes in bright colors.
- It is imperative that every girl embroideres her clothes on her own.
- The greater the thickness of the thread and area it covers on the dress, the greater dress aesthetic and materials.
- The decoration of older women is less ornate than that of girls. It must be of thick fabric, dark colors and often dark gray or dark purple or beige colors. The colors of its decorative units are dim and called “colors of decency”.
- Embroidery was limited to women’s clothing, starting from the Islamic conquest.
The Palestinian decorative units bear legendary, historical, astronomical, geopolitical, and related symbols of land, greenery and birds and have continued to date as a sign of historical identity and existence.
The stitch is known in the popular Palestinian dialect as “Qutbah”, which is the foundation that ultimately gives the general shape of embroidered decorative units. The most famous stitches used:
- The tide
- Machine Stitch
- Silk Cultivation Stitch