Cross Stitch Embroidery

Cross Stitch Embroidery

Cross stitch is a form of counted thread embroidery; it is dated back to the 6th or 7th century.


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It was used to decorate household items using floral and geometric patterns, usually worked in black and red cotton floss on linen fabric. Cross-stitch was found in a Coptic tomb in Upper Egypt, where it was preserved by the dry desert climate.

Traditionally embroidered on a “Thawb,” or women’s tunic, using cross-stitching and couching techniques, Levant cross-stitch patterns represent impressions of daily life and natural surroundings. They symbolize good health, hope, prosperity and protection among other attributes of positive beliefs in the Levant culture. Adorned with beautiful geometrics and abstract images, embroidering a single thawb could take several months to complete. To pass the time, the art of embroidery or “tatreez” is practiced socially by village women, or “Fellaheen,” who gather in groups to embroider and chat after completion of daily chores.

An integral part of the region's culture, the combination of embroidery patterns and colors on a women’s thawb, or tunic, were passed down from mother to daughter and traditionally held specific connotations: such as the region the woman was from, whether she was single, a new bride, pregnant or widowed, as well as her status in society. Each village featured indigenous patterns representing geometric and abstract images of daily life, food, nature, and animals. A village woman would individually select patterns to adorn her thawb depending on the story she wanted it to convey while giving testament to her level of creativity and skill.

While older or married woman embroidered thawbs as daily wear, or to sell as goods in order to provide for their families, girls began working on their thawbs in preparation for their weddings from an early age. Over time, these indigenous embroidery patterns would be fused with those of other villages, mainly due to political misfortune, and turmoil experienced after the exodus of Palestinians from their villages and homes, most notably in 1948 and again in 1967. 

Although today the girls and most women have kept pace with modern society and no longer wear thawbs, they still honor their heritage and practice the art of al-tatreez on modern textiles.


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