Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Map of patterns - Palestine and the impossibility of edges

Here is a picture of me in the West Bank town of Ramallah in 1993. I still have fond memories of my time there and the friends I made.

I've used a piece of indigo-dyed fabric to cover Palestine and Israel and I've embroidered it with a cross stitch pattern copied from a Palestian dress given to me for my 18th birthday.

Palestinian embroiders have a very illustrious history and culture: every region has it's own particular stitches and patterns. The women of Bethlehem area learned the couching stitch from the Crusaders while the women in Jaffa, working in the fields and orchards, used patterns inspired by nature, like the cypress tree. The 'Cypress Tree' occurs in many guises - with or without branches, with different shaped branches, even up side down. (I think you can see this upside down 'Cypress Tree' pattern on my dress)
The women of the villages that remain inside Israel tend to no longer embroider their costumes; but many of the women of the West Bank and Gaza living in refugee camps, especially those of village origin - still embroider their dresses, now as a way of earning an income more than for their own personal use.
The women in Ramallah use a remarkable stitch that is precisely the same when looked at from the front and from the back. You can see from my dress that the work looks very beautiful - even on the wrongside.

I have a great interest in wrongside sewing and am nearly always more interested in 'the back' than in 'the front.' This is because I feel the 'the back' or 'the wrongside' tells me so much more than 'the front' or 'the rightside.'

For example - how the makers fingers travelled, how her mind moved - consciously or unconsciously, where the hidden joins or mends were made...the wrongside gives me clues about how a whole piece of cloth has been divided and then fitted together again and most importantly for me - how the edges have been joined together and made sense of.

This special Ramallah stitch gives nothing away and that is its particular magic.

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