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5 Crafts to Discover in ‘Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery’

In our exhibition Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery, there are lots of different crafts for you to discover. Be inspired by a range of techniques and materials in both historic and contemporary works. Here are 5 to look out for on your visit.

1. Tatreez

Tatreez is an Arabic word that represents the traditional art of Palestinian embroidery. This style of embroidery consists of counted crossed stitches to create repeated motifs. These motifs then create designs that have developed over the centuries to speak a language symbolic of different regional traditions and Palestinian culture. Material Power celebrates the tradition of Palestinian embroidery in all its forms and regional styles, so be sure to visit before it closes on 29 October 2023 to see the intricacies of tatreez in Palestinian dress.

Photo by Jo Underhill
Photo by Jo Underhill

2. Natural Dyeing

Natural dyeing is the ancient art of dyeing fabric or yarn using plants, food or other natural sources. Common examples of natural dyes are cochineal (a type of insect), indigo, plants including madder and woad, onion and avocado skin, and many more. Naturally dyed fabric is predominantly achieved by heating the ingredient in hot water to extract the dye, before soaking the fabric or yarn in the water to fix it with the colour.

In Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery, you can see examples of indigo, pomegranate, madder and tea used as natural dyes in historic dresses and contemporary works.

3. Tapestry

Tapestry is a form of textile art that is traditionally woven on a loom to create figurative images, but the term can also be used for large textile wall hangings with embroidered designs. Tapestries are predominantly created for decorative purposes, but can also be made to serve as soft home furnishings, such as cushion covers or curtains.

In the exhibition, you can see the tapestries of Bilab bi delo, a collective led by artists Julie Fox and Eliza Collin. The tapestries are stitched by local embroiders in the town Biet Ummar and are naturally-dyed according to traditional Levantine techniques.


Photo by Jo Underhill
Photo by Jo Underhill

4. Dressmaking

Dressmaking is the craft of making clothes, the term used typically to describe womenswear. The term ‘dressmaker’ was first recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1803, but until the invention of ‘ready-to-wear’ in the nineteenth century, women across the world would have been responsible for the creation of their own and their families clothing, unless the family was able to employ the work of a professional seamstress.

In Palestine, the cut and shape of garments vary across regions, and designs are traditionally carried over generations from mother to daughter. The different regions within Palestine such as Ramallah, Bethlehem and Beit Dajan also contain their own histories and traditions that are influenced by landscape, heritage and industry. For example, dresses from the Hebron area frequently showcase the vine leaf motif as it is famous for its grapes grown on the Hebron hills.

5. Freehand embroidery

Embroidery is the craft of using a needle and thread to stitch designs onto fabric. It can also be used to personalise, mend and reinforce clothing, with many of the basic, earliest stitches still being used today. Whilst historic examples of Palestinian embroidery are the focus of this exhibition, it also features contemporary artist, Aya Haidar, whose embroidery series ‘Safe Spaces’ (2023) documents her mother’s memories of growing up in Lebanon during the Civil War (1975–1990). The embroideries are displayed in wooden hoops and show scenes of conflict and its effect on every day, domestic life.

Photo by Jo Underhill

Visit Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery at Kettle’s Yard before 29 October 2023.

Try it for yourself!

Get crafty with these recommendations from our shop.