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Whatcha Bedouin?

A closeup of bodice
My friend Jen, who is also the amazing knitter running classes at Adorn Atelier, dropped by with the most amazing relics--two Bedouin dresses she had bought almost 50 years ago at the Islington Street Fair. You can read more about this area here.  This area of London is renowned for it outstanding antiques, flea markets and vintage finds.

The Bedouin dress is what's known as "Tob'ob". Traditional Palestinian Bedouin dresses were often more than twice the length of the wearer and the sleeves were long, winged and large. They are decorated with red embroidery for married women and blue for younger unmarried women.

A complicated process of hitching and doubling up the fabric and wrapping the head in the long sleeves enabled the wearer to move about with ease--even with all the swathes of fabric! In the video below you can see a young woman in the 1920's demonstrating the way that the dress is put on.


The Bedouin dress shown in this video is a cousin to the Arabian Burqa, in which the woman is completely covered, her body hidden completely, but for her eyes. The traditional Burqa face covering is not the simple black fabric that  we picture today. Before the social and economic upheaval of present day Bedouins, the artistry that went into their clothing is as complicated and exotic as any fiber artist could hope to see. The tradition of this embroidered work is beginning to die out in modern Bedouin society.

However, there is a European Union initiative called the  "Craft and Income Generation Project" that gives women a way to earn their own money and preserves their traditional handwork. Check out the website Fansina.

Coasters at Fansina

Jen's Bedouin dresses are redolent of the 1960's, when the sleeves narrowed and the length was shortened to ankle length. There is no evidence that it was cut and re-hemmed, and the sleeves are fitted and certainly won't wrap around your head! The stitching is incredible. Have another look:

Whatta beautiful bit of embroidered history! Thanks so much for bringing those over, Jen. It's definitely got me thinking about new designs!

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