Rose buds

My first completed project for 2021 is this composition using the traditional Palestinian motif of the Rose Bud.

On this occasion though I used only one motif, I compensated by using various colours. Four colours in fact and each one with two shades. The main colours are seagreen, turquoise and electric blue. These were all from the DMC stranded cotton range. The yellows are so old that they no longer have any identifIcation re. origin. The yellows were only used for some of the buds. They do stand out though. Perhaps there are too many in yellow?

The embroidery is all done with two strands of the thread. The fabric is a very bright Christmas red in 18ct Aida. I find Palestinian embroidery quite slow work and this project took me just over 30 hours of stitching time. Worth it though. The finished piece measures 15cm x 15cm. I now need to smooth it out and add a backing.

Syrian Inhabited Scroll

My latest embroidery project features a motif I have longed wanted to stitch. This is the Syrian Inhabited Scroll. The name itself is somewhat exotic and otherworldly to me. This particular motif comes from the wonderful book, The Art of Palestinian Embroidery by Leila El Khalidi. She lists no less than eight versions of this motif. The one I chose was number seven. To complement this motif I added some lilies. Here is the finished piece.


The fabric is a 16ct Aida in black. Not an easy colour to work with! For the colour scheme wanted a limited range and went for a yellow and a blue. With a little green for the lilies. The threads are all from the DMC pearl cotton No 8 range.

I originally thought of filling the hoop with just the Syrian Inhabited Scroll motif. But after completing two rows I decided against this idea, and went for the lilies. Stuck to the same colours though.

The finished piece is now in a 16cm Nurge hoop. Altogether the stitching took up 22 hours work. Overall I am quite pleased with the result.

I am though none the wiser as to what exactly this motif is meant to represent. According to El Khalidi, inhabited scrolls are of Hellenistic and christian origin. The scroll was filled/inhabited with some design, often of a floral nature. Bit of a mystery as to why it is a ‘Syrian’ scroll.

In the motif on this piece I guess the blue line is the scroll and the yellow sections are the “inhabited” part. But cannot figure out what it is meant to represent. A mystery.

Palestinian design by Jordan Nassar

I have just finished this beautiful design by Jordan Nassar, an American born Palestinian embroiderer. The design was commissioned by the London based The Mosaic Rooms for a project called Let’s Tatreez. The design is available as a free download and is aimed at encouraging people to experiment with traditional Palestinian embroidery. I needed no encouragement as I love this embroidery. Here is the finished work.

For this project I worked on a 14ct Aida in pewter, a fine neutral colour which allowed the embroidery to stand out. As recommended by Jordan Nassar I used a perlé cotton from the DMC range, size No 8. I chose to do this work in just two colours – a very dark violet and a bright green.

This is the first time I have worked with the No 8 size. Previously I have used No 5 perlé. This is a bit harder to work with due to its greater thickness. Though it does make the work really stand out. Anyway I think I will work with No 8 for my future Palestinian embroidery work.

I love the design and way the various motifs work together. The piece features a few of my favourite motifs – damask rose and chick peas and raisins in particular. I also recognised feathers, which form the outside panels of the upper section.

The other motifs were new to me, which was another bonus from stitching this piece. I reckon these included carnation branch, wide open eye and two versions of chain. Some of the design may not be traditional motifs, but just little patterns to complete the overall composition. It all worked and I am sure any Palestinian woman would be delighted to have this design as part of her dress.

Not sure what will happen to my version. Needs a bit stretching and then we’ll see. My thanks to The Mosaic Room for creating this project and to Jordan Nassar for creating this wonderful design.

Six Palestinian motifs

For something completely different I decided to stitch some very small pieces which can be used as patches to put on items of clothing. I chose a selection of traditional Palestinian motifs for this challenge. Here they are in the hoop I used for stitching. IMG_0234

The top motif is Damask Rose. In the middle from left to right the motifs are; Stars, Rose buds and Beads. The bottom ones, from left to right are; Olive branch and Love tree.

The fabric is an 18 count Aida in pale green. Cross stitches were used throughout with two strands. The threads are all cotton from the Anchor range. I limited myself to a couple of colour schemes. Green and violet and turquoise and red. Though for a couple of the motifs I mixed up the colours a bit.

The idea behind this is to use the motifs as patches to attach to items of clothing. I plan to use Bondaweb for this. Still figure out which bits of clothing to attach them to. More decisions!

Four Stars in a field of Lilies

This is my first new project for 2019. The inspiration came from the beautiful works of Jordan Nassar, a Palestinian American embroiderer. His work was featured in the current issue of the Embroidery magazine.  Jordan Nassar uses the traditional Palestinian embroidery motifs in a very unusual and innovative way. Often just one motif is used, but in different colours to give the impression of a landscape for example.

As a lover of traditional Palestinian embroidery I was very taken by his work and could not resist trying something similar myself.  This is what I have ended up with.IMG_8545In my case I have used two motifs – stars and lilies. The fabric is an 18ct yellowy green Aida cotton. The four stars are in dark coral with a very dark blue centre. For the lilies I used a range of turquoise and acquamarine colours to provide a gentle contrast with the red stars. Though I did include a very light yellow green for the lilies by the centre. The first time I have deliberately used a thread that is almost identical in colouring to the fabric itself.

The threads are from the DMC cotton range and two strands were used for the cross stitches. The frame is 21cm in diameter and it was quite difficult stitching full cross stitches close to the edges. Another slow piece, this one took me just over 46 hours of stitching alone.

It was a bit strange to work with just one motif for almost all of the piece. At times I longed for a bit of variety. But in the end it was worth it. I rather like the finished article, and I definitely plan to do more pieces in this vein.



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.