Embroidery is a very widespread craft – craftsmen and craftswomen from most of the countries around the world practice it. But the traditional talli embroidery of the UAE differs much from any other embroidery technique. Emirati women have kept this tradition till today and continue to popularize it in the modern world – you can find fashionable accessories adorned with handmade talli in many European expensive boutiques. You might not even realize that your purse or belt is embellished with talli embroidery.
The talli embroidery is a part of Emirati culture and tradition. It's something that differentiates the UAE from other nations with their own unique crafts. No one can tell exactly when and where the art of talli was invented. Though, we know that Bedouins were the first people to use it. They adorned the cuffs and hems of their garments with talli embroidery.
Emirati woman in the process of embroidering
The talli embroidery is very different from any other embroidery technique. Women don’t use needles to make the pattern. It is weaving rather then embroidering, if you ask me. The embroidery design is made with a help of numerous bobbins of threads in various colors. These threads are intertwined to create a pattern. Usually, gold or silver threads are added to add some richness and exquisiteness to simpler colors. In the past, they even used real silver for talli embroidery. Emirati women like their adornments shining and sparkling.
Process of talli embroidering
The talli embroidery is handmade – the craftswomen usually sit on the floor, and there is kind of a little stand (called “kajooja”) with a bolster-shaped cushion that stays on top of it. And then they start to cross and weave the threads together to create certain patterns, and then taking the whole roll and start designing or putting it up on the cloth.
Kajooja – plastic stand with a bolster-shaped cushion, and dozens of bobbins of threads used for talli embroidery
The talli embroidery is mainly related to women of the UAE because most of the elements embroidered by talli are used for decorating the woman's dress. The talli embroidery is used on different parts of the garment, but mainly on the chest, cuffs, and hem of the trousers.
Process of talli embroidering
Modern Emirati craftswomen work hard to promote the craft of talli embroidery and provide it with a sure place on the market, as well as get engaged in the craft and teach the younger generation of it. They think that it is not enough just to produce fabric and clothes embellished with talli. They also try to modernize this ancient craft and demonstrate its beauty and potential to modern designers. Nowadays, talli embroidery is used rather often by Emirati designers of clothing, accessories (bags, belts, handmade jewels, etc.) tapestry, carpets, and décor elements. All those items are sold not only in the UAE but far outside the country – in European and US folk and fashion boutiques.
Emirati craftswoman Ateeja Ali Al Muhairbi at work