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Behind Palestinian Embroidery: Tatreez

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Tatreez in Arabic, Embroidery in English

A story of what Tatreez means to me- By Eva Afghani for MonAmour Collection

For most people Tatreez is considered visual art where mixing deferent colors and patterns is done by a thin thread embroidered on fabric to create a great piece. It's an art that could be hanged, worn or put on throw pillows to dress a lonely couch. But for me tatreez is an art of mind and soul, you sit and work patiently and do the same stitch over and over again. This may sound boring, but if you try it, you'll find it's actually very soothing. You let the movement of the thread take you in and out of the fabric and while your doing that, your thoughts start filtering and you get into a rhythm. You could consider it as mind yoga or meditation.

Tatreez could be enjoyed with some music, a nice cup of tea and with good company. It can't be done while watching TV or being on your phone because you have to be focused on where the stitch starts and where it ends.

I learned tatreez when I was about 7 years old. Cross stitch is the most famous stitch for Arabic embroidery and its also known as the "girls stitch" in other part of the world as little girls learn it before any other stitch. At a young age, embroidery taught me that good things are worth the wait.

Tatreez, though time consuming, rewards you with a beautiful piece of art. You will get a great sense of accomplishment and pride once you see your finished product.

I always felt that tatreez told a story. A story of great history. I'm a visual person so it makes me happy to see that our ancestors had a great sense of color coordination and amazing patterns. But apparently the patterns had stories behind them. In Palestinian tatreez each city has it's own pattern and each occasion has it's own as well. With the clothing, each color and each fabric talks about the person and their status in life. You'll also notice flora (native to Palestine) which is a reflection of the Palestinian agricultural society in the old days.

When I got married I wanted to make a tatreez abaya (عباية) for my mother in law so I started looking for patterns. To my surprise, I found a pattern called the daughter/mother in-law (الحماية والكنة) pattern. The funny thing about this pattern is that it's two birds standing back to back, facing away from each other (hinting to the problematic relationship between the mother and daughter in-law).

There are two kinds of Palestinian tatreez, one through narration and one by symbolizing. The narration part reminds me of primitive art where they used to draw events of their life on cave walls. In tatreez, we draw our events with a thread, needle and fabric. A well known example is the "Palestinian wedding mural" where every detail is stitched and takes you through deferent phases of the wedding celebration.

As for the symbolism in tatreez, there are many patterns and shapes that are used to express different things. If you've seen a variety of Palestinian tatreez you'll notice the repetition of the spike (السنبلة) which is the symbol of growth, long levity and resistance for the Palestinians. And that's why it's used in deferent parts of the Palestinian art (poetry, posters, paintings and in tatreez).

Tatreez might be old and a symbol of history and folklore, but it can be a rejuvenated art that can adapt and be renewed. It started as a decoration for clothes (the traditional dress ثوب, head pieces and belts) and has since evolved into handbags, books accessories, key chains, furniture and even jewelry. And why not celebrate this amazing art by pieces that decorates our arms, necks and ears and remind us and the world with the solid beautiful history we have and at the same time give us hope for a prettier stronger future.

With love,

Eva Afghani

Blog Contributor- MonAmour Collection

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