Talli: Simple threads, complex beauty

Discover the techniques of the traditional craft from the United Arab Emirates

Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

Emirati Women weaving bright-colored cotton threads with synthetic metallic threadDubai Culture & Arts Authority

What is Talli?

Talli is a craft from the UAE in which a kind of braid is woven by hand, using a technique like the bobbin lace. In the olden days, the craft was practised at home by Emirati women, who would decorate the collars, hems and cuffs of clothing.

Bu Khosa is a technique that uses a single bobbin to create a silver bundle (2018) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Vibrantly colored cotton threads are woven together with synthetic metallic threads, such as gold or silver, known as khosa in the UAE’s Arabic dialect.

A modernized white“kajoojah” used to create the textile 'Talli' (2018) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

The goal: to create stunningly intricate designs in various colours. As the number of bobbins can be as high as 40, the women use pins to organise the threads on a cylindrical pillow positioned on a metal stand known as kajoojah.

Local Emirati Women in the process of braiding the textiles 'Talli' (2018) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Since such a traditional craft was limited to the Emirati households, it ended up fading with modernization, which ushered in the mass production of generic textiles and embroidery.

“kajooja” is a cylindrical pillow placed on a metal base (2018) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Talli patterns are based on elements in the natural environment, such as flora, fauna or common household items.

“kajoojah” (2018) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

All pieces of Talli are unique, since an identical pattern can end up looking totally different, depending on how the artisan works on it under pressure, as also the pattern’s width and shape.

Old Emarati Women working on the talli of the JalabeyahDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Creating these articles is a lengthy and complex procedure. To make a one-meter strand of Talli, it can take anything from a few hours to a few weeks or even months, depending on the complexity of the design.

Bu Khosa is a technique uses a single bobbin to create a silver bundle (2018) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Some common Talli designs are Fankh Al Bateekh (slice of watermelon), which has parallel slanted shapes that evoke watermelon seeds repeated down the centre of the textile. 

Old Emarati Women working on the talli of the JalabeyahDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Sayer Yaay (coming and going) speaks of the method used to create this hatch pattern, whereby a single silver thread is passed back and forth. 

Emirati Women weaving bright-colored cotton threads with synthetic metallic threadDubai Culture & Arts Authority

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.

Braiding weaved by hand by local Emirati Women (2018) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

Bu Khosa (single strand) uses only a single dahary to create a silver band, half the width of Bu Khostain, down the centre of the textile.

Bu Khosa is a technique that uses a single bobbin to create a silver bundle (2018) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

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

Local Emirati Women in the process of braiding the textiles 'Talli' (2018) by Dubai CultureDubai Culture & Arts Authority

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