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Talli embroidery in Abu Dhabi

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Talli is a traditional United Arab Emirates handicraft that creates an intricate adornment for all types of women’s clothing
Talli is a traditional textile handicraft that features bright colours and beautiful designs. An element of cultural heritage in the United Arab Emirates, it decorates all types of women’s clothing – from wedding gowns and formal dresses to everyday wear. Talli is created by twisting and braiding different strands of thread together to create long, narrow strips of textile with fine, elaborate patterns. These skills have been passed down from mother to daughter for generations.

THE BRAIDING PROCESS


A pillow, called a mousadah, is used as a support on which to create the braiding. Depending on the complexity of the pattern, a woman working on a single piece of Talli will use between eight and 50 dahary (bobbins) to hold the equivalent number of threads she is working with. Each pillow is attached to a metal stand called a kajoujah, and is placed in front of the artisan.

The Talli braids traditionally used real silver or gold thread to create the centrepiece of these intricate patterns, and they were combined with pure cotton threads of different colours that ran along the borders of the piece. The combined result would create special patterns for weddings and other ceremonial occasions. Today, the real silver and gold have been replaced by synthetic versions. Alongside silver, the most popular colours for Emirati Talli are black, green, red and white.

Popular designs


Sayer yaay (‘coming and going’) is named after the method used to create this hatch pattern, whereby a single silver thread is passed back and forth.

Bu-khostain or bu-fatlteen (‘double strand’) is a reference to the technique used to weave this pattern, which creates a wide silver band running down the centre of the textile. Only two bobbins of synthetic silver thread are used to make the pattern.

Bu-khosa or bu-fatlah uses a single dahary to create a silver band half the width of bu-khostain, running down the centre of the textile.

Several bands of Talli textile can be sewn next to each other on cuffs, hems or other borders to create striking designs.

Did You Know ?

Bu-khosa with six dahary (bobbins) is one of the simplest forms of Talli, yet it still takes up to three hours to create one metre of this fabric.

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