site was created to support the objectives of the Ladah
Foundation, a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization.
The objective of this site and those
who created it has been to promote Palestinian culture, especially the art of Palestinian
embroidery. Traditional Palestinian cloth articles, in the form of womens
dresses, tablecloths, pillow cases, table runners, bed spreads and other similar items,
are made of various color cloth materials embroidered by hand.
Until recently, Palestinian embroidery was
practiced by most women living in the countryside. After completing their house
chores, country women gathered in groups, chattered news of the community and practiced
the art of Palestinian embroidery, al-tatreez. Older women made cloth
articles for their daughters or for their sons dowry, and young women worked on
articles for themselves and their families or for their future family homes. After
the lives of the Palestinians were turned upside down as a result of their political
misfortune, and after the exodus of most Palestinians from their homes, villages and
cities, first in 1948 and second in 1967, the art of embroidery became a luxury which many
Palestinian families could not afford ( Click Here to
read about a personal account of exodus from Palestine.) As the struggle of the
Palestinians for their individual and collective survival intensified, the practice of
Palestinian embroidery by individuals and families faded away more and more, almost to
Thanks to the many nongovernment
organizations (NGOs), the various programs and trade schools which they organized in
refugee camps included the craft of Palestinian embroidery. Many independent
Palestinian arts-and-crafts groups and associations also taught and encouraged this form
of Palestinian art. One such notable group was the Ramallah Handicraft Cooperative
Society which was formed in 1954 and to whose publications we give credit for some of the
design plates shown in this website. The programs and schools did not only teach the
art of embroidery to young Palestinians in refugee camps, but also distributed the
articles which were by-products of training, for donations and commercially. Our
family visited a few of the schools which taught embroidery in Palestinian refugee camps
and bought a few embroidered articles from them for our home; these articles are included
among the articles exhibited in this site. These programs, schools and centers, for
al-tatreez, bear the primary responsibility for preserving the art of Palestinian
It is our hope that this web site will motivate
some, anyone, Palestinian or not, to take interest in this delicate art of Palestinian
Only one kind of stitch is used in making
Palestinian embroidered dresses but the patterns and colors used for these dresses vary.
The color combinations of the embroidery, the design and the color of the
cloth on which the embroidery is made, have specific connotations as to the specific
region in Palestine where the article was made or the status of the person owning or
wearing the article ( in the case of womens dresses, called thobes, the
status may be a new bride, an older mother, a pregnant wife, etc.) Also, one can
determine where a Palestinian woman comes from through the patterns of the embroidery on
her dress; almost each Palestinian town has its own unique pattern. Palestinian
embroidery is therefore more than just an art or a craft; it is an integral part of the
Palestinian geographical and cultural landscape.
While many of the patterns used in Palestinian
embroidery are designs of geometric shapes, they also include designs which were most
familiar to Palestinian women as impressions of their daily surroundings. Depending
on the region in Palestine, the patterns included representations of cypress tree, bunches
of grapes, apple tree, cauliflower, cock, pigeon, rainbow, roses, birds, flower pot and
extensive other such representations. Geometric designs were given such names as
'foreign moon', 'cow's eye', 'mill wheel', 'crab' , 'moon with feathers', 'old man's
teeth', 'bachelor's cushion', the baker's wife', 'old man upside down' and other such
creative and often humorous names.
Palestinian embroidery did not, with rare
exceptions, include patterns with any religious symbols. While the majority of
Palestinians are Moslems, there has been no obvious Islamic representations in embroidery
as there has been in other forms of art such as calligraphy. Because Christian
minorities in Palestine have enjoyed essentially full societal partnership with the Moslem
majority, Christian minorities did not find it necessary nor desirable to separate
themselves from their Moslem brothers as did Christians in some other Arab countries, nor
deliberately make themselves stand out as non-Moslems. In Palestinian society,
religion was a private matter between 'man and his God'. A phrase which was very
popular in Palestinian society during all of the twentieth century was "Religion is
for God, but the country is for everyone" (Aldeenu Lillah Walwatan Liljamee') which
meant that no one wanted the differences in religious beliefs to impact societal relations
among Palestinians. Therefore, Palestinian Christians and Moslems did not use
embroidery as a form of public display to separate them from each other.
Nonetheless, Christian minorities have made embroidered articles with Christian
representations for use exclusively in their homes or for the exclusive use in their
churches for religious rituals and ceremonial purposes.
Our family has often experienced, and heard
stories from our ancestors about, harmony between Moslems and Christians in Palestine.
Click Here to read more about an account of religious
harmony from as far back as the Ottoman rule in Palestine.
Arabs, both Christians and Moslems, and Jews lived in
harmony in Palestine until the Zionist movement came into being and started to threaten
the livelihood, hopes and existence of the Arab population. Click Here to read about one story of an Arab family and a
The following is a quotation from
'Palestinian Embroidery' by Shelagh Weir and Serene Shahid, published by British
Museum Publications Ltd., 1988:
"Cross-stitch is very simple, but
there are various rules to observe for the best results. Make sure the beginning and
end of your thread is well-secured. Do not use a knot or the lump will show.
Start by inserting your needle leaving a short end at the back of the fabric which you
work over with your first few stitches, making sure it is firm before continuing.
When you start the next new thread, run the threaded needle under several of the stitches
you have already made, then oversew it securely through the back of the last stitch before
proceeding with the embroidery. When you finish a thread, pass it through to the
back of the fabric, then sew it firmly over four or five stitches. Cut the end
"You will do some rows of
embroidery horizontally, and others vertically and diagonally. You may find it
easier to do the cross-stitches in different ways. When working
horizontally, the easiest way is to work a row of stitches by doing one set of arms
on one direction, and crossing them in the other. This is also more economical with
thread. But if you need to do a vertical or diagonal row, you may find it easier to
cross each stitch as you go along. The diagrams below show the difference
between these techniques. Once you get started you will work out the method which
best suits you."
following six pattern plates are from "A Study of Palestinian Embroidery"
written in 1935 by Grace M. Crowfoot and Phyllis W. Sutton. These plates are a
fairly complete collection of the traditional patterns which have been in use throughout
the years, passed on from mothers to their daughters with their wedding dresses. The
local names add interest and attest to the imagination and sense of humor of the
women. They are included chiefly for their historic and artistic value but could be
of value to the modern woman who wishes to enjoy them in her own home on articles she can
use and in colors she would like. Although red and black are the traditional colors,
other color schemes can be worked out satisfactorily.
like to see those traditional patterns, click on the link below.
Foundation extends special thanks to all the sons and daughters of our parents, Salim
Ibrahim Ladah and Lydia Andoni Bahu, for contributing embroidered articles and information
to complete this site. Also, thanks to our children Lydia, Salim and Ramzy Ladah for
their ideas and editorial information.
This site is in the
process of being developed and will continue to be revised and improved.Please send any comments, corrections or
additions, through the email procedure you normally use, to the email address below,
or click on the email link below to send your email message if your browser is set
up. Also please sign our guestbook
and write any comments you may have.