Apart from my passion for medieval goldwork embroidery, I am also interested in all kinds of folk embroidery. I particularly like the geometric cross-stitch patterns of Fallahi embroidery found in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Palestine. A couple of years ago, I bought my first vintage Bedouin dress from Egypt and last year, I bought a second one from the same source:). I love dissecting these dresses and their very colourful patterns! And since I was without a proper internet connection for so long after we moved house in November, transcribing the cross-stitch patterns was one of the few things I could do as the software does not require an internet connection. So, let's unravel the mystery of another vintage Bedouin dress!
The dress, or thob, is 130 cm long and measures 125 cm across the arms. The dress originates in the Sinai (Egypt) and was once worn by an adult Bedouin woman. The satin stitched dark-blue hem differentiates the dress from Palestinian village dresses that do not sport such a hem. The Bedouin travelling lifestyle and the fact that this geographical area has seen a lot of political upheavals makes attributing precise provenance to the dress impossible. Over time, too much mixing has happened. However, certain characteristics do point to the Western part of the Northern Sinai, possibly Al-Qantara: wide neck opening, the use of many bright colours in simple geometric patterns of which some are based on the carnation.
The dress has been patched many times. Especially in the cuff area. These dresses took a long time to decorate and were thus highly valued. Instead of throwing them away when they were worn, they were repeatedly patched. Recycling, upcycling and mending are usually the norm in pre-industrial societies.
As most of you know, embroidering on black fabric is really hard. Especially for older eyes :). Therefore, the Bedouin women tacked a piece of waste canvas onto the black cotton satin or polyester fabric. In the picture above, you can see a few white canvas threads left in the embroidery.
The cross-stitch patterns and bright colour combinations found on the vintage Bedouin dress are perfect for decorating needle booklets, pincushions and the like. I used three of the five patterns found on the dress to make a small needle booklet and a cute biscornu. For the stitching, I matched the original floss colours to the closest DMC stranded cotton equivalent. My fabric is a piece of 40 ct natural coloured Zweigart linen (I dyed some black in my washing machine).
You can find a 39-page eBook with more pictures and all embroidery charts of the five geometric patterns, three loose elements and a decorative border in my webshop. Due to the fact that I am legally forbidden to sell to UK residents (with the exception of Northern Ireland), the eBook is not a direct download. However, after receiving your order, I will try to send it to you via WeTransfer as quickly as possible. Please keep in mind that I might be in a very different time zone than you are; I do tend to sleep from time to time :). When you decide to embroider the patterns from the eBook, please share your endeavours on Mastodon!
Me too, Rachel! Especially when the dresses are made of polyester. But I've talked to some female wearers and they loved the polyester. It is modern and it doesn't crease.
WOW - how lovely and bright.
Child labour. I am loving it!
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