Flower Pots and Rosebuds

My first project for 2017 is now complete. At least the stitching part is. It is another composition using traditional Palestinian embroidery motifs. I am calling it Flower Pots and Rosebuds as these two motifs feature in the piece.img_4596

There are two other motifs as well. The central section in gold and yellow is the Olive Branch. The Flower Pots are in greens with a bright red for the flower itself. On either side of the Flower Pots are Rosebuds in pink and purple. To complete the composition I used the Crowns motif in two shades of blue.

All the threads are Anchor pearl cotton No 5. The fabric is a 14ct Aida in grey. The composition is my own design and while the motifs are traditional Palestinian, the colours used are not traditional at all. A Scottish-Palestinian original!

I will iron on a backing and then propose to turn the piece into a simple wall hanging. I am going to try this approach to finishing my work off with some other pieces.

My next project will be another foray into Blackwork. Though not in black! The subject is the Scottish crossbill. I already have the outline shape on the fabric and stitching will commence soon.

Happy stitching everyone!


Spirals in Silk

Before going on our holiday in Switzerland, I managed to complete a couple of projects. The first was the one with the luxurious silk knitting threads. This was another abstract design with overlapping curved lines and spirals.  Everything was stitched in a very simple vertical stitch – a sort of Free Form Bargello.  The gold thread was used as the base and the red and purple for the lines and spirals. It was lovely to work with these threads and I still have plenty of them left for other projects. The final piece is quite vivid, and as usual I have nothing particular in mind as to what to do with the piece. Here it is.P1070894

The other embroidery piece was a bookmark. For this I used an pattern from my collection of traditional Palestinian embroidery designs – chickpeas and raisins. I have used this design before, but wanted to repeat it on a bright red canvas.P1070899


Embroidery in Nablus

While I was in Nablus recently, one of my great hopes was to meet some embroiderers and see some examples of their work.  Luckily I was able to do this at least in part.  As we had a very tight schedule and we were only there for a very short time, I didn’t alas get the opportunity to have a good chat with any of the embroiderers.  However I did manage to see lots of embroidery.  It was pleasing to see that embroidery could be found adorning the walls and rooms of many of the places we visited.  Embroidery in Palestine is not simply a decorative art, the finished pieces are nearly always used for a practical purpose- in dishes, trays, cushions, belts, hats, purses, bags, even clocks and of course in dresses.

Though this post is primarily about Nablus, we first encountered traditional embroidery in our hotel in Jerusalem, and the first photo below is an example of a little dish.  This is followed by two embroidery pieces from the office of the Mayor of Nablus.  First a clock and then one of the very few decorative pieces we came across.

My first and only chance to meet embroiderers was when we visited the Women’s Centre in the Balata Refugee Camp.  There we met a group of women of all ages stitching away at a variety of pieces.  From what we could gather there were no charts or books of designs to follow.  Each woman seemed to stitch from memory, or if working on a new pattern, Allah provided the guidance.  As you can see from one of the photos, nobody used any kind of frame.  Quite amazing to see.

Our next chance to meet an embroiderer came when Shaden our guide and leader for our stay, invited us for lunch at her grandmother’s home.  This lovely lady, not only provided us with a delicious meal, but showed us some of her collection of embroidery pieces.  Again, most served a practical purpose, lots of cushions and dishes and trays.  We also had the good fortune to see some of the beautifully embroidered dresses that she had made, and you can see the bodice of one of them in the third photo.

Dresses are the high point of Palestinian embroidery, and in the past mothers would lovingly create dresses and other items for their daughters and to a lesser extent jackets or headwear for their sons.  The damage to Palestinian society caused by the expulsions and occupations since 1948 has meant that this tradition has to a large extent disappeared.  Much effort has now gone into reviving traditional embroidery, especially in the refugee camps and in some schools.  Let us hope that more and more Palestinians of today continue with this art.  We had the chance to see some of the embroidery work of earlier times when we visited An-Najah university.  The Art Department there has a small collection of all kinds of items from the past, including dresses and other embroidered pieces.  Three of them are shown below.

It is a shame that there does not seem to be a place in Nablus where some of these wonderful embroidery pieces can be put on public display.  The university collection is probably only for students and guests.   Most embroidery is to found in people’s homes or in some offices.  I end with three more examples which we saw while visiting homes or private centres.  The first seems to be a very old cushion of some kind which was just lying around in the treasure trove of the backroom in the wonderful spice shop in the Old City.  Then a more recent hanging which is, if I am correct, in the Al Hayat Centre.  The last piece we found while visiting the home of one of the Samaritan’s in their hilltop village.  It is a bag and is most unusual in that it was the only piece I came across which is not stitched in the traditional Palestinian style, which only uses the cross stitch.  This bag was stitched using simple horizontal or vertical stitches, much as in Bargello designs.  The pattern too seems to come from Pakistan or India, rather than Palestine.  My thanks to all the people of Nablus who let us see their beautiful embroidery work.


Flags, a new Biscornu and More

I have now finished the Palestinian composition I was working on.  The design comes from Palestinian Embroidery Motifs, by Margarita Skinner and Widad Kamel Kawar, where it is titled Flags and comes from the Jerusalem area.  Only the four multi-coloured octagonal shaped pieces are flags.  The rest of the composition is made up of other motifs.  The horizontal motif is known as wide open eye and comes from Ramleh, while the vertical motif has two names, true tree or ears of corn and is found all over Palestine.  The  book does not give a name to the other motifs in the piece.  To finish the work off, I have attached the piece to some dark blue fabric which I picked up in Rüschlikon, while on holiday in Switzerland.  I think the blue provides a nice contrast to the white aida fabric of the composition.  However centring the stitching on the blue fabric proved beyond my competence, so the final piece is a bit off centre.  All adds to the charm of the work, at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I am now working on another biscornu, from the apparently inexhaustible treasure trove of Louison and her world of biscornus.  For this piece I am working five colours, all shades of either mauve or cranberry.  I have already completed one side of the biscornu, which you can see here.

Some time in the not too distant future I will be embarking on a new stitching adventure.  I am now one quarter of a group of Dundee stitchers who will stitch one of the panels for the Great Tapestry of Scotland project.  I am due to meet my new colleagues, all women, this Thursday, when I will get my first glimpse of the panel and the threads.  All I know at the moment is that the panel is about one metre by 0.5 metres in size and that the fabric is linen.  As I have never used this fabric before, this could turn out to be quite a challenge for me.  More in a later post.

Flags – New Palestinian Embroidery Composition

Now that I am back from my visit to Nablus in Palestine it is not surprising that my latest stitching project is another Palestinian design.  Though in this case I had started the stitching before leaving for Nablus.  The composition is called Flags and comes from the the Jerusalem area, which we did visit on our trip.  As usual the design comes that great treasure, Palestinian Embroidery Motifs by Margarita Skinner and Widad Kamel Kawar.  This time I have used a white fabric, this time in 16ct Aida.  This a particularly bright composition and I am using two different shades of blue, green, yellow and red, plus a dark pewter grey for the outline of the flags.  I have now completed the lower left quadrant which gives a good idea of the overall design.

The bit in the centre are the flags, while the surrounding pieces are different motifs.

While in Nablus I managed to come across some wonderful examples of traditional embroidery and I hope to show some of these pieces in a later post.

Stitched Bookmarks

I continued with my practical projects by stitching four bookmarks.  For this I use a 14ct Aida band which is the perfect width for a bookmark. It also has a lovely edge which adds a bit of class to the finished work.  The top and bottom can fray a bit, but some glue usually does the trick.   On this occasion I used traditional Palestinian designs, all as usual from Palestinian Embroidery Motifs by Margarita Skinner and Widad Kamel Kawar.  The designs are all stitched in cross stitch with two strands of DMC cotton.  Each bookmark is stitched in the same colour combination – blue, green, yellow and red, and each is about 20cm in length.  The designs are Palm Tree from Beersheba, Crown from Lydda, Moon of Bethlehem from (surprise) Bethlehem and finally Chick peas and Raisins which is common to all areas of Palestine.  Here they are in the same order.  To finish the bookmark off I glue a piece of ribbon to the back to provide a bit of consistency and to cover the reverse stitching.  Good stitching everyone.

Three Palestinian Designs – No3 and finished

I have now completed the triptych of Palestinian motifs.  The third and final paned was finished yesterday.  This consists of three love trees in the centre with hearts both above and below the trees.  The border is once again the snail, which is a pattern from Nablus.  I like this as Nablus is our twin city here in Dundee.  Here is the third panel.

Once I had completed the stitching I assembled the three panels on a backing board.  The size of the panels was chosen to fit into a frame from IKEA.  Very difficult to get each panel to fit in with the same square edge.  Impossible in fact. However I’m happy with the finished piece, which you can see below.  Will return to these Palestinian designs later in the year.  But now for something completely different.  Good stitching everyone.