Patterns can be considered the building blocks of Palestinian embroidery. Although color and pattern arrangements vary - sometimes greatly - by region, the patterns themselves are a repetition of a limited number of shapes: stars, trees, squares, flowers and triangles, among others.
Multiple names - and meanings - are tied to each pattern. For example, some researchers believe that the "eight point star" - famous in Bethlehem embroidery - is derived from a meeting between the moon and Astarte, the Canaanite goddess of fertility.
The "zigzag" pattern, found primarily in Bedouin and Gazan embroidery, is said to be the staircase Astarte descended to rescue her husband from the god of death. However, Bedouin women tell a different story. For them, the zigzag pattern can be traced back to the pattern goats make when urinating!
The classic "S" pattern was also known as the "horse's head" or "leech".
Other pattern names echo things found in a rural woman's daily life: food - "seven eggs in a pan"; or, animals - "eyes of a cow". Other names are deliberately humorous, with either political or social commentary underneath. Two birds facing away from each other could be "a young woman and her mother in law", while two birds facing each other were referred to during the early 1980's as "Begin and Sadat".
And yet other motifs refer to millennia of foreign occupation: "pasha's tent" - a reference to Ottoman times; and "officer's badge" or "officers pips" to British Mandatory military uniforms.
For those "Asalah" readers who embroider, or who fancy themselves someday embroidering, following are a sampling of Palestinian embroidery patterns: