As I am soon to be married, I felt the need to know about how this is celebrated in Palestinian Folklore.
With much success, I have found a group of extraordinary women, highly experienced in embroidery but can barely make ends meet. I will be talking about them later on, and I will also talk about what they are currently making . I feel so lucky thinking it is for me.
In order to fully benefit from this rare and wonderful experience, I thought I'd research everything I can about Palestinian embroidery and feel like I know about the process. Here are my findings (in brief):
I was amazed to discover that the use of cross-stitch in embroidery first originated in China around 5000 BC. It then moved to India, Egypt, Greece and Rome finally arriving to the Middle East. Research is suggesting that the earliest Palestinian cross-stitch dates to around the eleventh century AD.
In the art of Palestinian embroidery, a woman uses a needle, a thread, a canvas and sometimes a charted sketch to cross-stitch the stories of life.
The cross-stitch is the most common type of stitching used in Palestinian embroidery. As the name suggests, it is achieved by sewing a cross on the canvas; several cross-stitches sewn in a certain way create a symbol.
Symbols are mere shapes inspired by Palestinian village life. Fruits, trees, flowers, animals and other shapes are sewn onto fabric using a series of color combinations. In Palestinian folklore, these symbols all have appellations,of which some are very humorous, for example: 'the man upside down'. One has to be very familiar with embroidery to be able to understand and differentiate the symbols used; one reason being the existence of different shapes for a symbol. For example, there are many different shapes in which a pine tree can be embroidered.
Palestinian embroidery is very symmetrical and planned out. One can improvise, but to a very large extent, there are rules to be followed. To ensure perfect results for a dress for example, certain motifs are used. Units are always used to fill up the fabric, either singly or alongside one another. The basic form is square (e.g. for moon or stars), round (e.g. for roses) or rectangular (e.g. for birds). Branches are also beautifully entwined and can be wide or narrow. Borders also vary from wide to narrow and usually these accompany, compliment and work around units and branches. Edgings are border motifs for sleeves or additional cross-stitch shoulder strips.
Wonderful color combinations, intricate detail, beautiful symbols and motifs are not the only things that make Palestinian embroidery so great. A dress embroidered a certain way has specific connotations as to the specific region in Palestine where it is made and can also indicate the status of the person owning or wearing the dress (status generally meaning single, married.. etc).
I find all of this mind- blowing. I can't even begin to think how amazing it is to actually know how to practice this exceptional art.
I will be visiting the women in the coming few days and will check in with the progress and details soon.