Beginner Series: An Introduction to Palestinian Thobe Embroidery
Date(s) - 09/13/2019 - 12/20/2019
4:00 pm - 7:00 pm
The Jerusalem Fund
The thobe, a traditional embroidered dress handmade and worn for centuries by Palestinian women, is the bedrock of Palestinian textile artistry. Since the 11th century, Palestinian women have showcased skillful stitchery on their traditional costume, displaying unique motifs, colors and styles across the various villages of old Palestine. After 1948, nearly one million Palestinians were forced into exile, and carried their Palestinian embroidery traditions with them into refugee camps and around the world, also referred to as the ‘diaspora’. As the diaspora spread across the globe, the largest and longest-standing population of displaced people in the world, the thobe evolved into a symbol of national identity and solidarity.
Author and teaching artist, Wafa Ghnaim, will share the traditional techniques of her Palestinian maternal ancestors, as well as traditional patterns, in this unique class series on modern fabrics including denim, burlap and vegan leather. The thobe has three parts; the sleeve design, chest design and panel design. In this class series, students will learn about the significance and meaning of different thobe parts, stitching all three elements by the end of the series.
Each class is structured to teach beginning students, but should be sufficiently challenging in creativity and technique for more advanced learners. Join Wafa for a unique journey into the language of Palestinian embroidery as it was used on the traditional thobe, and begin to tell a story of your own with fabric and thread. All materials are provided with registration and no experience is required.
A portion of the proceeds of this class are donated to The Jerusalem Fund.
Palestinian Embroidery 101 – Aida Cloth Bookmark – 9/13, 4-7pm
To begin learning about the thobe, it is important to learn the anatomy of the garment as well as the basic cross-stitch. The first hour will be used to present the different village costumes worn by Palestinian women before 1948, and new adaptations of thobe embroidery in the modern era. The rest of the class will be dedicated to learning the basic cross-stitch as it was practiced by Palestinian women for centuries, where you will stitch a mini thobe on white Aida cloth and turn it into a bookmark. Wafa will teach you how to measure and execute a small embroidery project, thread color usage, how to transfer patterns to fabric, and two types of cross-stitch methods. Students will finish the class with an abstracted thobe design on a bookmark using 12 count Aida cloth, or a patch to place on clothing. All materials are provided and no prior needlework experience is required.
Introduction to Borders – Stitchable Leather Cuff – 10/18, 4-7pm
A traditional Palestinian thobe typically features a repetitive border motif along the sleeve cuffs. What better than to adapt these border motifs to a stitchable, vegan leather cuff! Students will select a border motif provided in class or design their own, and personalize a faux leather cuff using traditional DMC embroidery thread. Each student will leave the class with an insta wearable art piece featuring their favorite Palestinian border motif! Wafa will teach you how to use, design and adapt repetitive border patterns, transfer patterns to cloth, and two types of cross-stitch methods. All materials are provided and no prior needlework experience is required.
Introduction to Panel Designs – Waste Canvas on Denim – 11/15, 4-7pm
The skirt of a Palestinian thobe typically features panels, heavy embroidery that gives a mural-like quality to the skirt of the dress. Panels can be ornamented heavily for special occasions or not at all for practical purposes. In this class, students will be introduced to panel patterns, and learn how to stitch them onto denim using waste canvas. Waste canvas is the most traditional technique used to create the Palestinian thobe. While one may not necessarily jump to making a thobe in their first years of embroidery, students will be inspired to embroider onto the denim they own at home — a very practical way to personalize ones clothing. Waste canvas allows you to adorn any piece of cloth or clothing, and is an important skill to master if you aspire to create traditional Palestinian embroidered garments. All materials are provided and no prior needlework experience is required — but, bring your own tweezers if you have a certain set that you are most comfortable using! And, don’t forget your glasses!
Introduction to Chest Designs – Traditional Tatreez on Burlap – 12/20, 4-7pm
The chest design of a traditional Palestinian thobe is notably intricate, and features a unique collage of motifs that communicates a central theme to the meaning of the embroidery of the entire garment. The embroiderer communicates to her viewers through the chest design first, telling us if she will be sharing an educational lesson about snakes, a sentimental story using floral motifs, or documenting the story of Cleopatra. The chest design also gives us the name of the thobe. In the final class of the series, Wafa will teach you how to assemble a chest design, manage medium-sized embroidery projects, and learn how to embroider with burlap with the hope to inspire her students to continue on to their own project and produce a thobe of their very own.
Tatreez & Tea’s mission is to provide educational resources, namely through workshops, lectures and publications, to preserve Palestinian tatreez embroidery, folk arts and storytelling traditions in the diaspora.
For generations, Palestinian women have gathered together with their daughters to work collectively on embroidery projects, bonding with one another over a cup of tea. Over time, and after the exodus of Palestinians from Palestine in 1948, embroidery has become an endangered art that has been subjected to decades of cultural appropriation. But embroidery represents more than just a village craft of old Palestine — it became the primary form of communication for Palestinian women who used needlework as a way to express their opinions, share their stories, and document their protest of occupation, war and violence.
To learn more about the project, please visit www.tatreezandtea.com. Donations are 100% tax-deductible through the Brooklyn Arts Council.