Fragment of a piece of tulle-bi-telli, Egypt, early 20th century. Fragment of a piece of tulle-bi-telli, Egypt, early 20th century. TRC collection.

Tulle-bi-telli is a form of metal thread embroidery, with that name particularly associated with Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. It uses individual knots made with lamé, and this technique in general is associated with many countries. In India, Pakistan, throughout the Gulf region and Saudi Arabia, the technique is usually known as badla. In Iran it is called khus-duzi. The term tulle-bi-telli (‘net with metal’) includes the French word tulle (‘net’).

By the end of the twentieth century tulle-bi-telli was frequently referred to as Assuit/Assiut work, because much of it is made in commercial workshops in and around the Middle Egyptian city of Assyut. In addition, it is associated with the city of Akhmim.

Many late nineteeth century Egyptian examples of tulle-bi-telli were made from a soft cloth or net made out of silk, cotton or flax. Twentieth century forms were usually made of a diamond net and much harder to the touch, because they were often starched. The colours generally associated with early tulle-bi-telli are black or, less commonly, white. By the end of the twentieth century, a much wider range of colours, such as dark blue, light blue, lavender, maroon, orange, purple and red was used. These colours were chosen to attract an international market.

Until the mid-twentieth century the main materials used to make tulle-bi-telli strips were brass, copper, gold and silver. Sometimes the cheaper metals were plated with gold or silver. By the end of the century, commercially produced plain and coloured steel and metallic looking, shiny plastic strips were often used.

In late nineteeth century Egypt and Lebanon, tulle-bi-telli was used to create intricate geometric patterns on long lengths of cloth (shambar). Egyptian pieces included a range of amuletic designs, stylised floral motifs, trees, and women with children. A wider range of designs can be found on late twentieth century tulle-bi-telli, including geometric patterns, such as triangles, stars and sun-bursts as well as stylised motifs representing foliage, trees, women (bint or ‘girl’ designs), hearts and even camels. 

From the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, tulle-bi-telli was a popular form of decoration for the clothing of singers and musicians in urban Egyptian centres. It was also popular among some groups of urban Egyptian elite and (Western) tourists. In 2014 these textiles are frequently used for coats, dresses, scarves and shawls, and for the costumes worn by various folklore and dancing groups, especially in America and Europe.

Tulle-bi-telli should not be confused with the related technique of telli work, which uses stitches rather than the knots applied for tulle-bi-telli.


  • MENHEZ, Shahira and Gillian VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD (2016), 'Egyptian Embroidery,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Publications, pp. 264-293.
  • http://www.tombostudio.com/ (retrieved 28th April 2011)
  • http://www.weekly.ahram.org.eg/2008/890/li1.htm (article about the work of AUEED, 27th March 2008 [retrieved 22nd May 2011].


Last modified on Friday, 12 May 2017 13:01