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!

Fabric Postcards 1

I have happily come across the world of fabric postcards via a link on I love embroidery – UK.  The link was to a Swiss site hosting a mail art project. The project invites participants to submit, by posting, up to three fabric postcards. Any kind of fabric/textile art can be used. I will limit myself to hand embroidery. The theme for the project is In Between and the designs have somehow to represent this.

I have now completed two of these fabric postcards. Both use Traditional Palestinian motifs. The first one represents Hearts among the stars and features small red heats and different coloured stars.IMG_1683

The second postcard represents Rosebuds between lilies.IMG_1678

Both postcards were stitched in cross stitch, the preferred stitch for traditional Palestinian embroidery. The fabric is 16it Aida in black, and I used two strands of DMC cotton.

To turn the embroidery into a postcard you need some kind of solid material as a backing. I used Peltext 72F double sided fusible stabyliser from Pellon. This is a firm, but flexible material. For the backing I used some old calico fabric. You just sandwich the peltext between the embroidery and the calico and iron on. Even I managed to do this. You can even stitch through the peltext if you wanted.

This is what the back looked like before adding the address.IMG_1689

Unfortunately, calico is quite difficult to write on. At least without a very, very fine pen, which I do not possess. It is not just the address in Switzerland that has to go on the back, but all the details about the design and yourself – email address etc. So I printed out a postcard label and wrote all the details on this and then glued the paper to the calico back. Here is the completed back of the postcard I sent off.IMG_1677

I now await with excitement to see if it really does arrive in Winterthur. You can send in up to three postcards and if this one does arrive I plan to do two more in different embroidery styles. For more information about this project visit In between/dazwischen.

A bit of Blackwork in Blue

I have been quite busy with embroidery since the turn of the year. Two projects have been completed – one in blackwork and the other an example of traditional Palestinian embroidery.

The blackwork was an interesting experiment for me. I wanted to try and and use shapes from nature as the the basis for the work. I didn’t quite manage this, though the original inspiration did come from nature. Lewisian gneiss is apparently the oldest rock in the world. It is found on the north west coast of the island of Lewis and Harris, hence the name. Moyra Stewart, a ceramicist, based in Fife, has used this unusual rock formation as the inspiration for her ceramics. Most of her work is vases and urns, though she does produce some smaller objects. I bought three stone shaped pieces last year at the Pittenweem Arts Festival. IMG_1595

The ceramics are produced by the naked raku method of firing. Which I am afraid means nothing to me. The results are spectacular though and incredibly light. Anyway this is what I used as the inspiration for my little embroidery project. What attracted me were the very dark lines on the stones. They would create the spaces for the embroidery. I had enjoyed working with the soie d’Alger silk thread on an earlier piece – Indian Tulips – and wanted to use them again. The dark royal blue seemed the most appropriate for this, so the piece ended up as blue work.IMG_1609

To give the impression of dark lines, I used three strands of the silk thread, and chose patterns that were fairly close together. For the rest of the work I used just one strand of the silk and chose relatively open patterns. I wanted the final product to have a very light look to it. So I decided to leave each stone shape without a stitched edging. I think this works quite well with the two shapes on the right, but not so sure about the smaller one on the left. But overall I am reasonably happy with the result and will leave it as it is. I will think about what to do with the piece sometime later. Suggestions welcome!

The other embroidery project was one I have been wanting to do for some time. I am very fond of traditional Palestinian embroidery and their bright vivid colours and patterns. For this project I wanted to incorporate a key. This is the symbol used by Palestinians who were displaced by the establishment of Israel way back in 1948/49. These forced refugees have never given up their right to return. So each family has a key to remind them and the rest of us of their lost homes.IMG_1600

As I wanted the key to be the focal point of the piece, this was not only in the centre, but stitched in a very bright red. The other colours are a bit more muted than I would normally use in this type of embroidery. The design at the top is a variation of the moon pattern. The one at the bottom is meant to represent candlesticks. The design on either side is the lily, which is quite appropriate as the lily is also the emblem of Dundee.  All the work is in cross stitch, the preferred stitch for traditional Palestinian embroidery. The fabric is a 18ct aida in black. The threads are perle cotton.

A Palestinian Garden

This is the title I have given to my latest little embroidery project. Every so often I like to return to the lovely designs in traditional Palestinian embroidery. This project was a bit ambitious for me and took just over 50 hours to stitch the dam thing. But I enjoyed it and feel it was worth the effort. Here it is.  IMG_0538I chose Palestinian garden as a title for this piece as all the motifs represent things you could find in a garden.  All are taken from the book, Palestinian Embroidery Motifs, A Treasury of Stitches 1850 – 1950, by Margarita Skinner and Widad Kamel Kawar.

The fabric is an 18ct Aida in light green and the finished piece was to fit into an old frame I had picked up second hand. So this gave me the dimensions for the composition – 290mmx140mm. I quickly made some choices about the overall design. I would, unlike traditional Palestinian embroidery, limit myself to a couple of main colours. Greens and reds were the two I settled on, though I did add a touch of dark blue violet just for fun.

I also wanted the pomegranate flowers motif to be the central feature of the composition. This has been a favourite of mine for just about ever. This appears in the middle as two overlapping lines. I put in the dark blue violet here to help this motif stand out. This left just enough space to put in three simple versions of the cypress tree motif to complete the two central lines.

The border took up a fair bit of time to resolve, with restrictions of space and not wanting anything too dense or overwhelming. I wanted to include the damask rose motif, another of my favourites, and decided to place three of them at each corner. The space along the top and bottom is filled with the rose buds motif, while the small vertical space at each end has two lines of the carnation motif.

I used two strands of DMC cotton in various shades of greens and reds. As with just about all Palestinian embroidery the cross stitch was used for all the work. Despite my best attempts the final piece is as usual not square. Not quite as out of kilter as normal, so with a bit of pulling here and there, I might be able to straighten it a bit more.  Happy stitching!