As most of you will have noticed (my social media channels were full of birthday wishes from all over the world; thank you very much!), I turned 40 recently. And as it goes: birthdays and presents go hand in hand. So when I visited Munich with my parents, we found an unusual embroidery book for my library. Before I'll show you what it is, let me tell you briefly where we found it.
Personally, up to that recent visit, I didn't like Munich one bit. As it is a very wealthy city, I always felt out of place. Although I do like shopping, I avoid big fashion names as I have found my style long ago and want to stick to it; not change every 3 months :). Anyway. This time we ended up in a whole different part of Munich as I wanted to visit a Zero Waste shop aptly named 'Ohne' (without) and my father wanted to visit some antiquaries in search of Feldpost from WWI. Both, and much more, concentrate around the Schellingstraße in the Maxvorstadt. The name Schellingstraße might ring a bell with art, literature and/or history buffs: apart from being Hitler's home turf, Bertold Brecht, Wassily Kandinsky, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lenin, Thomas Mann, Frank Wedekind, Joachim Ringelnatz, Stefan George, Franz Marc and Paul Klee frequented the establishments here in their time. Nowadays, the area is characterised by cosy and hip eateries catering for the whole world, antiquarians and unusual little shops well worth exploring. So, if you ever visit Munich and you are not much impressed by its main shopping streets, head out to the Schellingstraße!
At one of the antiquaries, I found a book named: Stickerei aus Palästina, traditioneller 'Fallahi' Kreuzstich written by Widad Kamel Kawar and Tania Tamari Nasir in 1992. The ISBN of the German version is: 3-927270-03-2 and that of the English version: 3-927270-04-0 (Palestinian embroidery, traditional 'Fallahi' cross-stitch). Unfortunately, the book is now only available second-hand and prices asked for it range between €75 and €281 !!! My mum paid €22 :). A pretty good deal indeed.
So what's this book all about? Fallahi embroidery is a form of cross-stitch embroidery traditionally practiced by Palestinian peasant women (Fallaha) in their villages. The book shows a collection of traditional patterns from the 19th and early 20th century not yet influenced by later Western styles. The collection is subdivided into Palestinian regions: Ramallah, Jaffa, Hebron, Gaza, Beersheba and the Sinai. At first glance, you might think that these are 'just' geometric motives with no further meaning. The book shows you that not only are certain motives characteristic of a particular region, it also tells you their name. For instance, there are date palms from Ramallah, amulets from Jaffa, the Pasha's tent from Hebron, pendants from Gaza and different forms of cypresses can be found in embroidery patterns from all the regions. Once your eye has been sharpened for this, they are no longer 'just' geometric patterns.
What items were decorated with this type of traditional embroidery? The embroidery can be found on the traditional Palestinian female dress: the thob. Depending on the region and the status of the wearer, parts of the front, parts of the back, the sides and the sleeves are covered with embroidery. Furthermore, the bridal trousseau would sport the same kind of embroidery.
What materials do the Palestinian embroiderers use? Traditionally, the embroidery was executed on local hand-woven linen (actually a mix of linen and cotton) or a form of loosely woven cotton. Famous weaving regions were: Majdal, Gaza, Ramallah, Nazareth, Hebron and Nablus. Until around 1930, they would use plant-dyed silk thread for the embroidery made in Syria. Traditional colours would be indigo blue, reds made from roots or insects and ochre for yellow. By far the most popular colour would have been red. Even the shade of red used would point to the origin of the wearer with wine red being from Ramallah and Jaffa, burnt Sienna from Hebron, magenta from Gaza and scarlet- and fuchsia red from Beersheba.
The main part of the book consists of full-page pictures of the stitched patterns (78 in total!). Each pattern has been stitched with European yarn (both DMC stranded cotton and perle were used after the 1930s) onto traditional Ramallah linen. I find this a very nice way of presenting the different patterns. So much more 'lively' than our traditional grid diagrams. And a much more original way of transferring pattern knowledge. Besides the beautiful pattern pictures there are also pictures of women wearing the traditional garments. This part of the book is a real feast for the eyes and your hands start to twitch as you probably can't wait to dive into reproducing a pattern yourself! I've written to the Palestinian Heritage Fund to ask if they know of an online source selling the traditional Ramallah linen. If anyone knows of such a source, please leave a comment!
The book was originally written to present and preserve the original Palestinian village patterns. Due to the Palestinian Diaspora after 1948, traditional village life changed dramatically. And so did the traditional patterns. Thus, in a way, the book also documents the influences world politics has on a traditional form of embroidery.
If you love cross-stitch and traditional forms of embroidery than this book should go onto your watch-list. With its hard-cover, detailed and clear pictures and 144 pages, it might not quite be worth €225, but around €50 would still be a good buy.
On a different note: my Instagram account has been hacked last Thursday. Since Instagram and Facebook have so far not reacted to my requests for help, I went to the police today to officially report the issue. As my hacked Instagram account is linked to my Facebook business page, it is possible that you will see posts that I have not made via both accounts. I am very sorry for that! Until this whole hacking has been sorted out, I won't use my social media. If you would like to stay up to date with my work, please sign up for my newsletter using the button at the top of the right-hand column.
With the craft fair looming and my family descending upon us from tomorrow onwards, I thought that one blog post at the end of this week and none next week, will carry you all safely over till week 21 :)! Sincere apologies to those of you now in despair. Let's talk about mounting your finished embroideries properly and at the end of this post I'll introduce a 'new' embroidery hoop.
I finally finished a pretty cross stitch kit by Lanarte. This has been my 'easy-to-take-with-me' project for a long time. Not very complicated so that I could even politely converse with people whilst stitching. Ideal for those spare moments when you can just slip in a moment of tranquil stitching. Now, some of you will probably be surprised that 'somebody like me' still does cross stitch. Yup. And I love it! Especially something so lovely like these birds by Marjolein Bastin. I grew up with her magnificent nature drawings and her whimsical stories about Vera de Muis (Vera Mouse). Do check out her website.
But what to do with the finished embroidery? Well, eventually I want it as a framed picture on the wall. And since I have known myself for nearly 39 years, the fastest that is going to happen, is to mount it immediately. Fold it away into a drawer and it will probably be found by my niece and nephew when they clear mad-auntie Jessica's apartment in 2098.
So, I started with giving the finished embroidery a good hand-wash with Woolite, followed by a thorough rinse. I let it dry a bit and, whilst still damp, I ironed it face down on a towel. The fabric was not unlike Jobelan and thus not at all prone to wrinkles. Then I cut a piece of thick museum's quality mount board. In Germany, this is available online from Klug Conservation. Covered the mount board with a piece of thick wadding, then glued on calico, sow on my embroidery and finished the back with a backing fabric. The result now proudly sits on my bookshelf. Eventually it will get in the way. And since it does not fit into the afore mentioned drawer anymore, it will then be dropped off at the framers :). If you would like to know the ins and outs of properly mounting your finished embroidered masterpieces, then you'll find instructions for download here: English & German.
And last but not least: a newbie in my webshop! This beautifully crafted embroidery hoop with table clamp from Klass & Gessmann is the latest addition to my ever-growing array of high-quality embroidery tools. These frames are plastic-free and only have wooden and metal parts. And best of all, I now have the separate hoops on a stick back in stock. These hoops range from 15,5 cm to 30,5 cm and go with the Klass & Gessmann table clamps and seat frames also available. Personally, I think they are the Rolls Royce amongst the embroidery hoops!
In a couple of weeks, a major event is going to happen. Christmas? Yes, that too. But before that, we will finally open our cooperative village store. Hallelujah! It has taken up far too much of my time and most of my stitching projects were orphaned for too long. I so hope this improves in the new year. In the meantime, meet my Holiday Stitching project:
These are the Santa's of prevention. They are keeping me sane whilst I don't have the calm and quiet to work on any 'big girl' embroidery projects. And they PREVENT me from killing any villagers who are foolish enough to position themselves between me and our village store...
But what will I do with all these charming Santa's? In comes our village Advent Windows Calendar. Our decorated window will open on the 16th of December. Want to stitch some of these charming Mill Hill Santa kits too? They are distributed by Wichelt in the US. You can order them in Europe from Casa Cenina and in Germany from CreativHorst and Stickteufelchen.
Apart from frantically stitching Santa's, I've also purchased my tickets for the Opus Anglicanum exhibition in London! And I am having fun this week with Elizabeth stitching an illustration from a fairytale book. I'll show you the pretty results next week.
Jessica M. Grimm
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