Embroidery History

Embroidery History

Embroidery Information

For centuries, Palestinians used embroidery as decoration for clothing, mastered and passed on by women from one generation to another. Embroidery is a way of expressing a woman’s skill and her connection to her village/city. Every region in Palestine has a unique pattern of stitching, colors, shapes, and style that are inspired by nature: blue from the sky and the sea, brown from earth, green from the fields, and shapes such as roses, birds, serpents, lines, and stars. For example, some well-known patterns include the moon of Bethlehem and the key of Hebron. The practice of embroidery was traditionally woven into the daily lives of women early on. For example, a girl would start sewing her wedding dress as soon as she learns to embroider, and this turns into a few years’ project.

After 1948, embroidery became a symbol of attachment to land and tradition, and conserving its Palestinian identity turned into a form of resistance and a way of keeping the culture alive. Embroidery is part of the collective memory and the personal connection to one’s ancestors. A mother teaches stitching to her daughter. While in this process, the mother tells stories of Palestine, tales of the past, and hopes that one day they will return to their villages. Nowadays, embroidery has become decorative for more than dresses, particularly in house ornaments such as couch pillows, table runners, coasters, tea cozies, shawls, scarves, hats, bookmarks, wall decorations, and even face masks.

Embroidery has been a female field since the beginning. Girls and women showed off their heritage, status, and skills through their stitching. In the diaspora, especially with so many men lost to war, women turned to embroidery as a means of supporting their children in addition to keeping the culture alive. Many women – daughters, wives, widows, mothers, sisters – became the primary breadwinners for their families partly through embroidery. This tradition helps preserve the Palestinian identity, strengthen family connections (especially mother-daughter relationships), build mastery in a skill, and offer a dignified means of living as an income-generating project.

Women embroider at home. This allows them to be with their families, to attend to their elderly or youngsters, to have cross-generational conversations about their heritage, and to function freely and at their own pace. The mode of working from home also reduces their exposure to discrimination and work-related problems like harassment or work-life imbalance. Given the dire conditions in which many live, this also saves them transportation and other costs associated with being physically present to a workplace. Working from home also offers women independence and freedom over their work as well as positivity and joy. Many women express that the simple act of bringing colorful threads and material home is like bringing home a bouquet of flowers.

Embroidery is also a form of art. It offers an escape for women and gives them a mental break from the harshness of their daily lives. Engaging in learning about the different materials, matching colors, picking designs, and making their own patterns help improve the mood of a woman. The sense of independence, contribution, and belief in herself is strengthened and thus boosts her self-esteem and attachment to her identity. This eventually reflects in the way she lives and relates to other people in her life and creates a positive impact often leading to a ripple effect of goodness.

Items sold on this website are made by refugee women in and outside the Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon. The women rely on this trade as part of the support for their livelihood. Every piece tells a tale and signifies a story that started in the past, is alive in the present, and hopes for a better, more just future.