Did You Know

Desert Lace

Handed down from mother to daughter, this traditional handicraft creates beautifully intricate textiles that can be used to adorn all types of women’s clothes

Talli, a traditional textile handicraft that features bright colours and beautifully intricate designs, has been used for generations in the United Arab Emirates to decorate all types of women’s clothing – from wedding gowns and formal dresses to everyday wear.

Passed down from mother to daughter for generations, Talli is similar to bobbin lace. The textile is created by twisting and braiding a number of different strands of thread together to create long, narrow strips of textile with fine, intricate patterns. 

The Braiding Process

As with bobbin lace, a pillow is used to perform the braiding. Depending on the complexity of the pattern, a woman working on a single piece of Talli will use 8-50 dahary (bobbins) to hold the equivalent number of threads that she is working with.

Each pillow is held on a metal stand, called a Kajooja. Usually women in the UAE who practice Talli sit on the floor with the Kajooja and pillow in front of them. 
The Talli braids originally used real silver or gold thread to create the main centrepiece of these intricate patterns that were combined with pure cotton threads of different colours that would run along the borders of the piece. The combined result created a pattern for the most special weddings or other high ceremonial occasions. Today real silver and gold have been replaced by synthetic versions.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

Some common Talli designs include Fankh Al Bateekh (slice of watermelon), which has parallel slanted shapes that evoke watermelon seeds repeated down the centre of the textile. Sayer Yaay (coming and going) speaks to the method used to create this hatch pattern, whereby a single silver thread is passed back and forth. 
Bu Khostain (double strand) is also 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 dahary of synthetic silver thread are used to make the pattern.
Bu Khosa (single strand) used only a single dahary to create a silver band half the width of Bu Khostain 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 build striking designs.

Did You Know ?

Bu Khosa 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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