Cross-stitch - part I

As I am soon to be married, I felt the need to know about how this is celebrated in Palestinian Folklore.

What I've learned from the older generation is that it is an old tradition for a Palestinian woman to have a collection of costumes completed before her wedding. This tradition is still followed around the Arab world but does not necessarily involve traditional embroidery anymore. Originally, in villages, preparations for the bride kept all the people busy. As a social activity, all the women would sit around to work on embroidered pieces to dress the bride.

Jealous of how lovely that sounds, I thought I'd make this experience more personal. As a huge fan of Palestinian embroidered dresses, I thought I would get a couple of them hand made for myself by the women who have been working in the art of embroidery for years and are rarely found in Amman. Original embroidery can be a real treasure; the older it gets, the more precious it becomes. It is like gold. It is amazing to think that I could have such pieces. Some of those have been passed on to me by my grandmother and mother. It would be fascinating to do the same with my daughters and granddaughters!

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.


  1. معلومات جديدة ومشاعر صادقة .. أشكرك عليها

  2. Thank you for your feedback!

  3. Bonjour Lina,

    merci de ce reportage.
    J'aime beaucoup la broderie de point de croix, moi aussi, je brode becaucoup.

    Pour le moment je fais un portrait de mon petit chat Chou-Chou en point de croix.

    Je veux l'encadrer et suspendre, comme une toile.

    J'espère de bientot voire les belles robes de la mariée en broderie Palestinienne sur votre blog.


  4. Bonjour Olivia,

    Vous avez un chat aussi?! Alors "a cat person" comme nous! On a deux..

    La broderie est tres tres belle, c'est vraiment super que vous brodez. J'espere voir le portrait de Chou Chou quand c'est termine!

    Les robes ne sont pas encore pretes, mais je vais bientot mettre quelques photos.

    Merci, ca me fais plaisir vous voir sur mon blog!

  5. Je suis contente d'avoir trouvé votre blog, Lina.

    Passez une belle fin de semaine !
    Ici il pleut. Mon chat est malheureux parce que il ne peut pas sortir.