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.

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.


Three Bookmarks

This was a challenge set by the chair of our local branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild. A little something to keep us busy during the latter half of April, while the branch is no longer able to meet. I did three bookmarks as I had three suitably sized pieces of fabric available. For bookmarks I tend to use Aida band as the sides will not fray, so you only have to worry about the top and the bottom. Here they are.IMG_0461The first one features the heart motif, one of the many traditional motifs used in Palestinian embroidery.  I used a red and a light blue cotton thread from the old Clarks range. Two strands in cross stitch.

The middle bookmark is from a border pattern from Bargello Magic by Pauline Fischer and Anabel Lasker. For this I used a light and dark green thread from Anchor’s Tapestry wool range. Unusually for Bargello this pattern is stitched only with horizontal stitches, as opposed to the normal vertical stitches.

The final bookmark was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to do one with a Blackwork pattern. Usually I work Blackwork on a 30 or 32 count fabric. This time I was using a 16c count fabric. So the pattern comes across as much larger than normal.  The other experimental bit was to use a variegated thread, again not usual with Blackwork. Anyway I used one strand of the Tequila sunrise thread from Watercolours by Caron.

This was a simple, but fun challenge, with a end product that can actually be used. Most unusual for me. Happy stitching wherever you are.

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.



Rose Buds in Blue

I have just finished stitching my latest project – Rose Buds in Blue. This is another piece inspired by the work of Jordan Nasser. It features a single traditional Palestinian embroidery motif. IMG_8830The motif is Rose buds, though it is in some places known as orange blossom or airy fairy. I think rose buds is the original. The idea is to work a single motif in different colours. In this piece I used four different shades of blue. All are from the DMC cotton range and two strands were used for the cross stitches.

When designing this piece I had a clear idea in mind.  The overall composition involved diamonds and squares. Starting with a diamond shape in the centre and gradually expanding outwards with a square, another diamond and the final square. This is what the composition looked like before I started stitching. IMG_8755You can clearly see the outlines of the diamonds and the squares. Alas the finished piece is not so clearly defined. The rose buds motif does not lend itself to neat edges. Also the two inner shades of blue are quite similar and do not contrast very well. Still, enough shows to give an impression of the shapes behind.

For my next major project I hope to try some gold work, but at the moment I am still in the cogitating stage – ie I haven’t a clue as to what design I want. In the meantime I am continuing with pieces that involve various shades of the one colour. This time using a blackwork pattern.

New Palestinian Embroidery

Last week I finally finished a piece I had been working on for some time. It doesn’t have a title as yet, but is designed to illustrate a reality for many Palestinians – that of living under occupation.IMG_7195

The fence in the composition divides a village from its agricultural land. In some cases the illegal Israeli wall or fence does precisely this. In other cases it is attacks from illegal Israeli settlers who threaten villagers’ access to their traditional land.

The work is hand embroidered using some motifs from traditional Palestinian embroidery. This is the case with the fence itself and the cypress trees. The other motifs are based on more modern Palestinian designs.

The fabric is an 18ct aida and cross stitch was used throughout, apart from the odd vertical stitch. Cross stitch is the stitch most frequently used in traditional Palestinian embroidery.

This piece was designed to accompany an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War and the 37th anniversary of the Dundee-Nablus twinning. The exhibition is in the Central library in Dundee and is the work of the Dundee-Nablus Teinning Association.

More Traditional Palestinian Embroidery

For my latest project I returned to traditional Palestinian embroidery.  The design or motif as they are normally called is Disc and comes from Gaza. Here it is.IMG_4740

This motif is one of the many in Margarita Skinner’s book, Palestinian Embroidery Motifs: A treasury of stitches 1850-1950. The Disc is clearly made up of various motifs. Unfortunately the book does not identify them. The centre square seems to be a variation of one of the star motifs, though I am not certain. The vertical and horizontal sections are  examples of the Kohl Holder motif. I cannot make out what the other sections are meant to be.

The piece is almost certainly not in the traditional Palestinian style! The fabric is an 18ct Aida in pale yellow. Not normally a colour for fabric. The motifs themselves would I suspect, have been stitched in a number of bright, vivid colours. Instead I went for another of my colour experiments. To contrast the yellow of the fabric I chose just two colours – dark delft blue and dark blue violet. Both from the DMC cotton range and I used two strands for the cross stitches. With luck this piece should fit into one of IKEA’s neat little square frames. Crossing my fingers!  Happy stitching.

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!

Two Black Swans

Another embroidery project completed and another experiment. Traditional Palestinian embroidery is nearly always made up of lots of bright vibrant colours. This time I decided to use just black, with a tiny amount of cream, on a red fabric. Here is the finished piece.img_4473

The fabric is an 18ct Aida in bright red, while the threads are from the DMC cotton range. I used two strands for the cross stitches. The four designs or motifs are all from the patterns used traditional Palestinian embroidery. Just not normally in one colour.

The centre piece is the two swans. Not that swans are particularly common in Palestine, but this pattern was common in pattern books. The upper right and bottom left motif is an olive branch, while the upper left and bottom right motif is a carnation. The border is known as the snail.

This was a bit of an experiment as I have never tried traditional Palestinian  work with just one colour. The result is a bit unusual, but quite effective I think. The size is 12cm x 17cm and fits nicely into one of my IKEA black rimmed frames.

I have a couple of ideas in mind for my next projects. The first will be a simple illustration of the lighthouse at Tayport, while the second will be a merlin in flight, in blackwork. Happy stitching!