A couple of years ago I decided I needed a new cover-up for danse orientale performances. I really loved the Palestinian dresses many of the dancers were wearing, but there are just two problems with them:
- They don’t open down the front, making it difficult to get them on and off in the wings. Especially in venues where stage wings are non-existent, which is most of the places my student troupe and I perform these days.
- They don’t come in my size. I am 5’8″ tall, and on a good day built like a German Peasant. In this I take after my 6’2″ broad shouldered German grandfather, not the petite French and English aristocracy on the other side of the family! Add to that the extra weight I carry, and things often don’t come large enough, nor proportioned well enough for me (I’ve NEVER had a winter coat where the sleeves came all the way down to my hands…)
So, because I am me, I started doing research. I now own a small library of information about the history of Palestinian dresses (jillayeh) and coats (dura`ah). My final decision was to combine 2 coat styles from the 19th century and add the appropriate embroidery from the region just outside of Ramallah.
In the long run, this will become a book/pattern/tutorial/kit for making any size you need, and a full kit for sale. In the meantime, it’s likely to be one of the longest model-stitching projects I have ever taken on. The entire back and sides are cross stitched, and the fronts will be appliqued. I started stitching last summer. My focus has been on and off – so there aren’t nearly the number of hours in it that there could be with that length of time! Don’t panic. I’m finding that the stitching actually goes quite quickly as the geometric pattern is easily memorized, and the contrast colors are added almost randomly!
The photo shows the embroidery on the back panel so far. Cross stitch and a herringbone variation. The embroidery is almost up to my knees. Then two smaller side panels, and on to applique the front!
This is likely on a par with stitching a full Norwegian bunad, something I’d also like to try. Someday. Have you ever tried a project this huge? If you have, I’d love to hear about it!