Creating poetry with embroidery

Every one on the earth has a purpose, so do the stitches used in embroidery.  Some are there to join, some are there to mend and some to embellish.  Simple tools help in creating this magic. These are the needles and embroidery floss.  A knot sets stage for the work. The first stitch, that one usually learns is a running stitch. As the name states, it runs.  When used as a single line, it is just running stitch but when used to make parallel lines and curves, it becomes kantha, a simple, yet elegant embroidery style from West Bengal.  

Stitches of equal length and at an equidistance bring grace and beauty to the work. This comes with practice and love for the work. These repetitive movement bring balance into the being. They build a rhythm and a silent space for something sweet to emerge.  Embroidery flows but the flow does not mean a lack of system. Within the seeming process and structure, one finds their own way of expression.

Back stitch, though the name says back stitch, takes you forward. Isn’t it magical? Just like some events of life. We feel like we are going backward. But, in truth, we are moving forward! The formula for the back stitch is as follows :

One step back and two steps ahead,
Here goes our backstitch ahead,
Tiny and tight stitches look fine,
It is a pleasure to put  them in line.

Stem stitch looks exactly like the reverse side of the back stitch. As the name suggest, it is mostly used for the stems of the flowers and leaves. One should try to keep the length of the stitches uniform. The consistency gives it a very graceful look.  It takes a lot of concentration and patience to maintain the grace with every turn of the curve.  I would say, this is an inner work!  Not less than any meditation, being in the moment with every tiny movement.

Chain stitch continues and takes the length as per the desired shape.  Uniform stitches add life, irrespective of the chain being short or long.  It can be used for borders. It can be used to fill. It has the capacity to define and hold shapes embroidered by other stitches.

Lazy daisy is a beautiful variation of the chain stitch.  It is apt for the petals and leaves.  The look of it is as sweet as the name.

To teach the Blanket stitch to third grade students, I had used the imagery of wires and poles. This image helped them learn the stitch faster and the verse that supported it, is as follows :

We are building up the fence,
With wires and poles, 
Where wires are tight 
and the poles are straight.

For me blanket stitch is very interesting. It represents to me an image of universal brotherhood. A universal brotherhood of men and women, standing straight, holding each other and protecting each other, yet distinct from each other.  When I work with this image, the work does not remain work. It is as if I am adding to my work and the outcome is quite interesting to witness.

Satin stitch is called so because on completion it feels shiny and smooth like the satin cloth. It is generally used to cover the defined shapes.  It is a task to keep up with the shape, as it tapers or widens. It is with focus, one can make this stitch look beautiful. The appearance of the satin stitch varies with the colour and it is magical to see this happen!

Long and short stitch is a variation of the satin stitch.  It breaks the smoothness and adds the texture to the surface.  It adds life to flowers and leaves. Taking inspiration from the colours of nature helps in replicating natural elements using this stitch.

French knot, as the name says knot, is a knot. It most commonly sits in the center of the flower in the group of many as pollens.  The conscious help of the second hand is most required in this stitch.  If done well it looks very neat.

Bullion stitch is a decorative technique that is worked by twisting a thread around a sewing needle several times before inserting the needle into the cloth.  Various flowers take birth with this stitch.  It allows you to be at your creative best, accommodating straight lines and curves.

Stitches take you inward, and bring forth the spontaneous and fine coordination which resides within. The activity of embroidery, helps a person to be one with the task. As within, so without. The state in which one works, is reflected in the work. And the state within slowly improves and softens as one works. The process is intertwined and intermingled.

Project outcome gives the sense of accomplishment, boosts confidence in capacities. Hand-eye coordination improves over time. There are many benefits of learning this craft, both subtle and gross. Wishing you a happy exploration with needles and threads!

About the Writer:

Sunanda lives in Mumbai and has been a handwork teacher at a Waldorf school for the last 9 years. Practising and teaching handwork, comes to her as easily as breathing. So deeply immersed is she in this world that she now finds herself tinkering with patterns, stitches and colours, coming up with her own style and way of doing things. If not sewing, crocheting or knitting, Sunanda finds herself tending to her balcony garden or baking!

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