As a young girl learned the stiches, she was also initiated into her culture. Patterns, colours and fabrics revealed her village, tribe, social status, material wealth, and the period in which she lived. Individuality was expressed in the way each woman assembled the piece of her dress.
A young girl’s skill in embroidery was noted by the older women and was equated with her capabilities as a home maker. The finer her stitches, they said, the better her groom. Until quite recently, nearly every Jordanian or Palestinian girl, whatever her social class, embroidered her trousseau. The six to 12 loosely cut robes she made were worn over a lifetime, and her bridal dress served for many special occasions – and in some cases as her shroud.
Trousseau on both sides of the Jordan River traditionally included embroidered cushions that were as beautiful and varied as the dress. Today, it is the cushions that have carried this art into modern-day life in Jordan: in many homes, the décor is not complete without one or more matching sets. Their colours can range from red, maroon, purple and pink, spiked with orange, green, and gold, to a more sober combination that instead emphasises the artistry of the needlework. The simple cross-stitch forms the basis for the myriad designs, and the recurring motifs tend to be drawn from nature.
Contemporary pieces include large wall- hangings stitched with the “tree of life” motif and elegant quilts based on the popular “horse’s hoof” design.