Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Beaded Bag
& Syrian Wedding Dress

Nothing like three whole days with your long-time bead friends to make one happy! Lucky me... that's what I've been doing! Four bead sisters gathered in Mary's art-filled home to share ideas, recent work, sources of inspiration... and most importantly, time to bead. Life is good!

One of the gals had previously shown us a little crocheted beaded bag that she had made. Two of us were highly intrigued, so she gave us a quick lesson. Below is my bag in progress. I still have to finish the top, and I plan to crochet a ruffle or two under the holes for the drawstrings. I'll show it again when it's done.

crocheted beaded bag in progress by Robin Atkins, bead artist

My experience with crocheting is VERY limited, having put a crocheted edging on a set of embroidered pillowcases back in the '60s and made a potholder or two in the '70s. I didn't know if I'd take to working with a #9 crochet hook and #8 perle cotton. Yet once I got the hang of it, the meditative quality of the repetitive movements kicked in and made it quite appealing.

After getting home last evening, I tried to find free directions for a simple scalloped edging on line, with no success. So now I'm trying to "invent the wheel." However, I did find this fine website with links to many lovely crocheted edge stitches (just not one that worked for this bag).

Mary's home is so filled with beautiful art that I could have spent the entire three days photographing it. (Sorry... I had to bead.) However, just before I left, I photographed the Syrian wedding dress that hangs in the entry way to her home. There wasn't good lighting in the hall, so we carried it outside. Here is the whole dress.

Syrian wedding dress, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist

The fabric is hand-woven, heavy-weight cotton (and possibly some linen) of an even weave. The embellishments are mostly cross-stitch. I totally love it... especially the way it's symetrical at first glance, yet on closer inspection you can see that the accent colors are not exactly symetrical. The "flags" which hang from the sleeves were stamped (with a poem), embellished, and added by Mary.

Here are two detail shots of the dress... the shoulder/neck area and the lower center front. Click on the pictures to see them enlarged. What an amazing amount of work! It almost makes me embarassed to show my little crocheted bag.

Syrian wedding dress, detail, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Syrian wedding dress, detail, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist

While living in the Middle East for a couple of years, Mary learned that the Syrian girls begin working on their wedding dress at an early age. I've witnessed this same thing in Hungarian villages of Transylvania, where young girls become proficient with a needle at an early age and take great pride in making their own traditional wedding dresses. Often these dresses are worn for special occassions and to attend church for several years after the wedding, then kept as a family treasure. Although I'm sad that the need for cash forced a Syrian woman to sell her wedding dress, it certainly is a beautiful thing in Mary's home... cherished as much as it would be in Syria.


  1. The wedding dress is a work of art. Much more interesting than the traditional ones we have here in the US.

    The little crocheted bag is so pretty. I have nade many little bags like this but never beaded them. Guess I'll have to give it a try.

  2. OMG the dress is splendid!!!! I can't even begin to imagine the time involved....not to mention the skill! Simply beautiful and thank you for sharing this! Also, thanks for your nice words on my blog. Being my last year, I think my eyes are looking a little too far to the future! I need to keep my eyes on today...if you know what I mean!

  3. Anonymous6:16 AM

    I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed some of the links you have to other blogs on different subjects. I even marked on in my favorites section. I hadn't taken the time to look before. Thanks for the heads up.

    Oh, I like the dress, but I'm not a real fan of old stuff. I know, I'm just not sensitive or sentimental that way and I really just don't get it. I'm so not connecting on that one, that it is good to see others really appreciate it.

  4. but what if the dress doesn't FIT???!!!

    a good site to start looking for anything crochet is crochet.about.com.

  5. THat's so great that you're trying bead crochet again, Robin. I've never tried it. But, I have a whole bag of supplies from my Grandmother's that I could bust out at any moment. LOL!

  6. The dress and work on it are gantastic. The photo beautiful. Thanks a bunch.

    I love the little crochet bag -- I had begun one and had it done to the top -- just ready for edging when Munchkin, my Pug, decided it looked like something to play with -- she didn't harm the threads or beads, but did pull out half of the stitching. Now I close it in a box when not working on it LOL Should have done that sooner -- I always make sure my beads are covered when I'm not using them -- have heard horror stories about animals eating beads.

  7. Robin, how wonderful that you had a gals' week-end full of beady creativity! Nothing better...
    I think Folkwear Patterns has a Syrian dress; this original is fantastic. Thanks for posting...
    Love your little bag, too. Very nice work on a small hook, friend!

  8. Thanks to all for your comments!

    I forgot to mention that the cross stitch on the dress is very fine, at LEAST 16 guage - that's 256 crosses per square inch, or more! There must be millions of stitches on the dress.

    What if it didn't fit? Well, the side panels don't have much embroidery, and could be made larger or smaller to adjust the fit of the dress.

    BTW, it's not very old... probably about 20 years is all.

    It's amazing to think that these traditional folk ways are still practiced in many village communities around the world... although I noticed transition in Transylvania. For example, I attended one wedding that was totally traditional (with amazing hand embroidered and beaded "costumes"), yet the couple also had a "Western" wedding ceremony with a white bridal gown. Saddly, I fear that the traditional folk practices are diminishing.

  9. Wow, the embroidered dress is really beautiful. I also love your beaded bag; it's delicate and delightful. I'm glad you had such a wonderful time with your friends and I look forward to seeing your finished bag. Your work is really lovely!

  10. Dear Robin, thank you so much for all of your posts. I enjoy reading all you have to say. Your blog is my "quiet corner" that I can escape to and think about things in thoughtful ways.
    This Syrian wedding dress is beautiful. It is sad that the owner had to sell it, but it is well looked after and admired and the creator is positively remembered along with it. I think it has had a wonderful journey thus far! Who knows, maybe one day it will find itself back in the family from which it came...
    I can't wait to see how you finish your lovely crocheted bag.

  11. Where to start? The beaded crochet bag is going to be gorgeous! I enjoy making beaded crochet ropes; maybe I should try my hand at a little bag myself? Looking forward to pictures of the finished masterpiece!

    As for the wedding dress, WOW! What dedication and love must have went into that. That's a true treasure.


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!