Embroidery Now

Embroidery Now

Although cross-stitch embroidery has been in decline in recent decades, Palestinian women have continued to embroider. Older women embroider because it's part of their life. Younger women embroider for women's cooperatives which were set up to preserve embroidery traditions and provide rural and refugee women with an income.

Embroidery styles changed, however, reflecting a blending together of varied traditions. Colors and patterns which, for centuries, were tied to regions - even specific villages - became mixed together. Embroidery survived, but it was transformed from a village handicraft into an artistic expression of identity.

With contemporary women preferring the "jilbab", an unadorned long dress, to the traditional embroidered thoub, Palestinian embroidery today finds different expression: in modern apparel, such as shawls, and in house decoration. Embroidered pillows, tablecloths, wall hangings and other home decorations - sold through women's cooperatives - today are very popular.

A Palestinian Embroidery Tale
Palestinian embroidery now is a hidden form of resistance to Israeli attempts at economic, social and political subjugation. Women's embroidery is one of few means of economic independence, neither dependent on Israeli contractors or its market. Embroidery is also a powerful means of expressing identity and making a connection with the Palestinian past prior to expulsion.

Echoing the words of a young woman at a UNRWA embroidery cooperative in Gaza:
« We no longer embroider as our grandmothers did. That's true. Instead, we embroider for our homes - and for work... But no one can stop it. Embroidery is our heritage. We love it... and we are proud of it. »

Contemporary Embroidery
At the beginning of the 20th century regional costume (mainly Palestinian) could be classified by specific region, tribe or community. Of the three major historical classifications of nomadic bedouin costume, fellahin village dress and urban dress, very little definition remains.

Embroidery still appeared in the set areas of qabbeh, cuffs, shinyar and in vertical rows, called branches, that ran from waist to hem. The qabbeh was often enlarged and embroidery on the dress was either in cross stitch or machine stitched in a manner to imitate couching, usually in cotton thread rather than silk. The type of fabric and thread and the sparseness of embroidery reflect the economic hardship of the time.

Extracted from http://palestinecostumearchive.com/