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.

Right of Return

My latest work is this piece which honours the struggle of the millions of Palestinian families who were forced to leave their homes during the Nakba in 1948/49. They and their descendants continue to demand their right to return to their homeland.

The work features three keys, all based on images of old Palestinian keys. The key has become a wonderful symbol of the Right of Return and the wider campaign for Justice for Palestine. Above and to the side of the keys are three sections with traditional Palestinian embroidery motifs.

The two rectangles are filled with the Mountains of Jerusalem motif. While the other square section features two motifs. The top and bottom of this section has a variation on the Cypress Tree motif, while in the middle is the Heart motif.

The heart motif is from the Art of Palestinian Embroidery by Leila El Khalidi. The other two motifs are from Palestinian Embroidery Motifs – A Treasury of Stitches 1850 – 1950 by Margarita Skinner in association with Widad Kamel Kawar.

The fabric for this piece is a 14 count Aida in white. All the threads bar two are pearl cotton, from the Anchor range, apart from one from DMC. A small amount of other threads were used in stitching the keys – a watercolour from Caron in Flame and a brown Paterna wool thread.

As with most traditional Palestinian embroidery the whole piece is stitched with cross stitches.

For this work I used a formal design of two squares and two rectangles. I first saw this particular composition as part of the exhibition: Images of the Heart – Japanese Ink Traces and Calligraphy, in Zurich way back in 2012. Unfortunately photos were forbidden, so I had to make do with a very rough sketch of the composition. In the original the two rectangles and one of the squares were simply filled in shades of grey. The lower square had some drawing in it, but I cannot remember what this was.

Suishû T. Klopfenstein-Arii was the main artist for the exhibition and you can visit her homepage here. This has a link to images of some of her work.


Chick peas and raisins with apples

This is another of my forays into traditional Palestinian embroidery.  As with some recent pieces I have limited myself to just two traditional motifs.IMG_0418My original idea was to cover the whole fabric, or at least the circle, with just the yellow threads. However, once I got started I felt that the chosen motif was so small that the resulting overall pattern would be just too yellow. So I decided to add in a little blue for a little contrast.

The main motif is a variation of the chick peas and raisins motif. At a distance it usually looks like there is only one colour. But on closer inspection you can clearly see that two shades of yellow have been used. A bright canary and topaz, both from the DMC cotton range.

The other motif is known as apples, though not sure if you get many blue apples, even in Palestine. This time I used an old Anchor cotton thread. For both motifs I used two strands of the cotton. Both motifs are usually used as a border. So not very traditional to use them in this was. As is traditional in Palestinian embroidery, cross stitch was used throughout.

When I started this project I had stitched a very light outline of a circle using just one strand of the blue thread. I had intended to take this out and just leave the yellow threads with not border. However as the work progressed it became clear that the pattern meant there would be no clear edge. So I decided to keep the blue and added a whipped stitch, using two strands to make the outline. I think it needs this.

The fabric is a 16ct Aida in bright red. The piece will end up in the hoop, which is a lovely wooden hoop – Nurge No 3, 16cm across. Once I have sorted out the back I will add a cord for hanging. Quite pleased with this one. Altogether this took me just under 26 hours of stitching to complete the embroidery. Slow work indeed!

Carnations and Snails

My latest piece to feature traditional Palestinian embroidery motifs is now finished. Just working on a cord for hanging the hoop. Here it is.IMG_9873The composition is just lots of repetitions of the two motifs. I have always liked this particular version of the carnation motif. There are many versions, but this one suited my idea best. The snail is one of the very, very few motifs from Nablus. As Nablus is our twin city, it was a suitable choice.

The fabric is a 18 count Aida in pale green. The threads are all Anchor cotton, and two strands were used throughout. A variegated green anchors the carnations, while another variegated thread, in pink and blue, was used for the snails. The carnations were stitched in various shades of lavender or violet. Cross stitch throughout, as is the norm for traditional Palestinian embroidery.

The hoop is 18cm in diameter. I am getting quite fond of this way of using Palestinian motifs and this is my third go. It is fairly slow work and altogether I spent 27 hours on the stitching. Good fun though.