The precise and ornate art of Palestinian embroidery is in striking contrast to the otherwise humble material culture of Palestinian villages. Young girls begin embroidering around the age of six, learning techniques from their mothers and older women of the village. Embroidery is sustained by the desire to gain prestige from the display of village identity, pride, and a display of wealth.
The patterns are executed from memory or copied from other garments and are sewn directly on the flat weave ground. The oldest embroidery motifs are simple geometric shapes used singularly or in complex patterns. In the late nineteenth century, naturalistic motifs depicting subjects of birds and flowers were introduced by European missionaries who set up schools and embroidery classes in Christian villages such as Ramallah.
The primary embroidery stitch of a Palestinian Ramallah shawl is the cross stitch. Satin, herringbone, running, and special stitches are used in oversewing edges, especially joining seams as shown in this particular shawl. This shawl has coiled polychrome silk thread embroidered in cross stitch; the embroidery work is done on two linen panels that are sewn together lengthwise. The central field contains a grid where the decorative motifs are placed.
Circa: 19th c.
Material: Cotton / Silk
Condition: Good, some small staining
Dimensions: 31" X 67"
Inventory number: TX4811