JEDDAH: As far as tradition goes in the Kingdom, the diversity of its cultures and traditions has historically been influenced by terrain and travels, impacting the style of traditional wear still worn today.
For years, nomads and travelers were believed to have influenced the regional traditional attire’s add-ons, lines, embroidery and even fabrics passed on by travelers that visited the Najran oasis. Historically, handwoven geometric shapes and lines have adorned the traditional costumes of Najran, and over time the traditional art of handweaving almost disappeared as tailors opted for the easier and more modern way.
But that’s not always the case. One of the oldest “masters” of handwaving Najran attire has kept the tradition alive and well preserved.
Ali bin Mohammed Al-Abdullah, known as Ibn Sarwan, has spent more than 50 years tailoring and sewing all types of traditional Najran costumes for men and women. His designs are characterized by the precision of their detail and the multiplicity of the colors of threads and beautiful geometric forms, thanks to his extensive experience using simple materials and possibilities.
He learnt his profession from his father and mother, and sewed his first costume at the age of 15. He used to sew his costumes using a thread and a needle. He moved on to the hand sewing machine and then the electric sewing machine, which he is currently uses in his well-known shop in the Abba Al-Saud neighborhood.
Najran is famous for the “Miznada” and the “Makmam” for women, and the “Muzayyal” and the conventional dress for men, he said.
From silk chains to parallel lines of red and gold, with sparse yellow and white decorations and broad hem bands, chain stitching is carried out before the gown is sewn up and finishing touches are sewn over the seams. Traditionally sewn over black cloth, the dress sometimes has so much embroidery — hand or machine stitched — that, at a distance, the base textile appears to be multicolored rather than black.
Thanks to the experience that he has gained, Ibn Sarwan is now able to visualize how many meters of textile he needs to use to make a dress by simply looking at a customer.
Ibn Sarwan’s fame has reached Najran poets who sing his praises in their work, paying tribute to his meticulousness and precision.
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