Palestinian Motifs and Designs

There are traditional Palestinian designs of embroidery which have been used over the years and appear on embroidered dresses, pillows, tablecloths and other such articles.

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Palestinian embroidery did not, with rare exceptions, include patterns with any religious symbols.  While the majority of Palestinians are Moslems, there has been no obvious Islamic representations in embroidery as there has been in other forms of art such as calligraphy.  Because Christian minorities in Palestine have enjoyed essentially full societal partnership with the Moslem majority, Christian minorities did not find it necessary nor desirable to separate themselves from their Moslem brothers as did Christians in some other Arab countries, nor deliberately make themselves stand out as non-Moslems. 
Nonetheless, Christian minorities have made embroidered articles with Christian representations for use exclusively in their homes or for the exclusive use in their churches for religious rituals and ceremonial purposes.


The origin of each of these motifs is not well known and may have evolved with influences from the numerous neighbors of Palestinians as well as various transient conquerors.


The stitches and colors used depended on the area. The cross-stitch was most commonly used in Central and Southern Palestine. Couching, the special technique used in Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and the Jerusalem area, was made by twisting the gold, silver or gold cord into circular and floral patterns.

In Upper Galilee geometric designs were embroidered in the running stitch, satin stitch and a little cross-stitch, often combined with patch work.

Traditional Patterns

The following six pattern plates are from "A study of Palestinian Embroidery" written in 1935 by Grace M.Crowfoot and Phyllis W.Sutton. These plates are a fairly complete collection of the traditional patterns which have been in use throughout the years, passed on from mothers to their daughters with their wedding dresses. The local names add interest and attest to the imagination and senses of humor of the women.


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