The 'Baby' Thobe Project: Keeping Traditions Alive
It’s amazing how quickly things can change - in surprisingly loving, cheerful ways! If you’re reading this, you probably know by now that our baby girl will be here this summer and we couldn’t be happier about it! Crafting her first thobe was quite the experience - one filled with love and countless other emotions.
A couple of years ago, I set out to create a tatreez wardrobe for myself. I’m still in the midst of that journey, but the journey has taken on new purpose in a short amount of time. Had you asked me about this dream six months ago, I would have rambled on and on about how this dream has taken shape and how inspiring it’s been to welcome other Palestinian women and allies across the globe into my thobe-making process. And now, that dream feels so distant - or different, rather. Of course - its not that distant yet as the chest piece of my current thobe is laying across my lap, but now the only dream I can imagine is a beautifully full tatreez wardrobe for my future daughter. I imagine her in the most beautiful, well-crafted garments - each piece a celebration of the beauty and resilience of her Palestinian heritage. The moment we found out our family would be welcoming a baby girl, I got to work.
I must admit - making a baby thobe was more challenging than making an adult or even adolescent thobe! I didn’t have a pattern to work from for this one - so I am entirely grateful for many of the friends, students, and colleagues who measured their little ones for me multiple times over Facetime as this came together! I can honestly say - this whole experience would have been easier if babies didn’t have such large heads compared to their tiny little bodies! But, I learned a lot and am grateful both for the skills and experience of making her first thobe. Her second is already being crafted!
In our house, we had a beautiful conversation on what it would mean for our baby girl to have her first thobe. Many family members weighed in on the fabric choice and colors. I kindly allowed them all to have opinions… knowing secretly that her first thobe would speak to her Ramallah pride that she’ll inherit from me!
Look at her little sleeves coming to life!
My husband is from Zakariyya- a small village outside of Al-Khalil, and he had strong opinions on her first thobe. He told me he couldn’t even imagine a natural colored thobe and I was shocked because these are my personal favorites! Needless to say, he loves her little thobe, too. But, his original preference was for a black thobe and he even picked the colors - bright purples, oranges, greens, and a pink accent. He told me THIS is what a khalili thobe looks like to him and handed me the threads. I’m excited to start that next thobe knowing her first (and third one!) will represent her Ramallah heritage, too - something I want to be sure is not lost down the line. I’m already working on my matching thobe. Her current thobe shares many of the motifs that are also on my current thobe that I will finish later this Spring.
Lastly, what a privilege it is to choose colors and fabrics and design her future (and current) thobes alongside my own. It is never lost on me that this privilege has been ripped away from generations of Palestinian families and women - as are the textile knowledge and skills necessary to keep such a tradition alive. If you or anyone you know is interested in learning to make your own thobe or one for someone in your family, our next cohort of The Thobe Project will be starting soon and there are scholarships available to help make these skills more accessible to future generations of Palestinian women who want to reclaim these practices within their own families.
Also, how cute is her little matching zunnar? That was a very fun part of the project to bring to life! You can make your own, too, with some of these fabrics if you’re working on your own.