by Connie DePond
Each stitch in Palestinian embroidery is done by the hand of a woman. There are stories in the designs, many going far back into history. Certain designs are specific to regions within Palestine. And the newer patterns are telling new stories – such as the story of Najwa Karajeh.
When Najwa first visited the Melia Shop in Jerusalem’s Old City, she was looking for work, and had an idea for a complex wall hanging. No pattern yet existed for what she had in mind, inspired by a photo she’d seen in a magazine that was tossed into the trash in Hebron. Something about the piece stuck with her, so she salvaged it. Once Najwa put her idea on paper, she was able to produce a replicable pattern that others might use.
Because of the complexity of the pattern – which leaves few empty spaces on the fabric – payment for the wall hanging was substantial. A series of stacked squares, the intricate pattern is reminiscent of windows – and it has been just that for Najwa. She calls the design Windows of Hope, but in her own life, it became windows onto the world. After a test in the shop, it was clear her embroidery skills were exquisite. The income from projects enables her to provide for herself and for her extended family, including her father and brothers.
Today, she is the coordinator of work in the Hebron region for women who earn their livelihoods by doing embroidery.
The emerging story about the pattern is that the squares are windows through which a woman can glance and see the Palestinian countryside outside her door. The colors are earth tones, with red, blue, green, purple and white accents. These colors reflect the flowers, sky and trees that are visible. No matter how difficult life is in Palestine, the flowers still bloom, the sun still shines and the birds still sing.
Nowadays, the pattern is used more widely than in wall hangings. The Windows of Hope design may be purchased on vests, shawls and skirts.