The Wheat Harvest Thobe, stitched by Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim from the book “Tatreez & Tea”

The Wheat Harvest Thobe, stitched by Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim from the book “Tatreez & Tea”

Beginner Series: An Introduction to Palestinian Thobe Embroidery

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 their 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, 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. 

This beginner’s workshop series can be taken individually or as a whole series. All materials are provided and no previous skills or experience is required.

Palestinian Embroidery 101 - Aida Cloth Bookmark

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 turning 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.

Introduction to Borders - Stitched Leather Cuff

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.

Introduction to Panel Designs - Waste Canvas on Denim

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. 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

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.


Sunday, November 17, 10am-1pm: Palestinian Embroidery 101 - Aida Cloth Bookmark
Sunday, November 17, 2pm - 5pm: Introduction to Borders - Stitched Leather Cuff

Sunday, December 15, 10am-1pm: Introduction to Panel Designs - Waste Canvas on Denim
Sunday, December 15, 2pm-5pm: Introduction to Chest Designs - Traditional Tatreez on Burlap

Location: TATTER Blue Library, 505 Carroll Street Suite 2B, Brooklyn NY 11215

What to bring: All materials are provided in this course, however, bringing meaningful fragments of cloth is always encouraged.

Cost: $120 for one session / $400 for all four sessions


Our Teacher:

Wafa Ghnaim,
Palestinian Textile Artist

Wafa Ghnaim is an American born Palestinian businesswoman, writer, artist and author of Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora. She and her two sisters began learning Palestinian embroidery from their mother at 4 years old. Throughout her life, Wafa has traveled alongside her mother for various exhibitions, lectures and folklore festivals from Massachusetts to Oregon. Wafa was awarded a two-year apprenticeship opportunity through the Oregon Folklife Network and the University of Oregon in 1993 through 1995 with her older sister, Fida, which enabled them to assist their mother in the completion of a Palestinian dress titled “The Gardens.” “The Gardens” was displayed in the Oregon State Capitol as “the dress of a million stitches”.

Wafa is the founder of the Tatreez and Tea Project. She resides with her husband and son in Washington DC

To learn more about the book project and organization, please visit