Embroidery is one of the most famous handcrafts related to Palestine. It originates from the Cana’anite era about four thousand years ago. It is an exclusively female artistic tradition. Most women learn embroidery from those of an older generation in their families.
The largest number of women working in this craft are in informal workshops. In Gaza it is estimated to exceed 2,000 women; in Hebron, it is about 3,000 women; while in Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho and Jerusalem, the number of women producing embroidery is estimated to be 1,000 in total. There are many embroidery designs representing different Palestine areas, as each Palestinian city or village is known for its own texture. This craft is of two main types: tatreez ( cross-stitch embroidery) and tahriri (couching—stitch embroidery ).
The tatreez is an important symbol of Palestinian culture found in many family houses in Palestine and other neighboring countries. It is a common craft practiced by Palestinian women, especially in villages. Tatreez can take many shapes and designs. For instance, the traditional Palestinian dress named “thob“is made of tatreez, a long-sleeved robe-like dress worn by women in Palestine. There are different designs for different Palestinian cities. The colours and patterns of thob dresses reflect the social and marital status of women. Also, women usually choose their thob according to the social events they are invited to.
The tahriri is employed for producing long traditional and wedding clothes. Tahriri consists mainly of couching with silver, gold and silk cord. This technique is considered typical of Bethlehem embroidery. It was inspired by ornate church ornaments, liturgical clothing or the braid and couching ornamentation on the uniform of Ottoman and British officers. Tashreem (Patchwork) is a production technique of the traditional Palestinian dresses that add luxurious designs. The patches which consist of silk and Satin are sewn onto the chest panel, skirt fronts or sleeves.