This is Twinny reporting from
the Little Queen Embroidery Shop ,a tiny shop in the synagogue lane of the Jew town in Matancherry ,Kochi !
The owner , a Keralite gentleman ,Thomas P.E introduces me to a whole new world . It is the painstaking art of HAND EMBROIDERY,
threadwork ‘ of …apparel , tableware, towels ,what -have – you !
I pick up an organza throw and remark how gorgeous the design on
it , is .
‘Oh that is Spanish shadow work ‘ Thomas informs me .
‘Motifs are drawn on sheer fabric like organdy , silk backstitch is used to outline these motifs , then ‘filling ‘ is done from behind with herringbone or double back stitches .
This produces a shadow of colour on the front of the fabric . Whilst in Spain ( the land of fringes and tassels! ) a blue background is used , the Italians prefer a
‘white on white’ .
Any which way , the final look is dignified and aristocratic .
I marvel at how neat the stitches at the back of the fabric are .
From the front..
From the back …
Sensing my awe , Thomas says lightly ,
‘Oh , this embroidery is easy compared to
the French Knot ,’ He then proceeds to demonstrate how exactly a single French knot is done.
‘Stretch the cloth on a small embroidery hoop , wind a silk thread twice around the needle , pierce the cloth ,pull back , voila !’
I try my hand at it. It takes me a tense two minutes to get one knot done !
Naturally I am left dumbstruck when Thomas displays a table runner which has 2800 knots in its every inch !
Haha , laughs Thomas wickedly , enjoying my bewilderment.
‘Look here! ‘he said pointing to a unique embroidery on white linen .
‘This is Hapdanger embroidery from Norway .It is rich in ‘drawn thread work’ and the cloth has plenty of ‘voids ‘ traversed by delicate threads , sometimes , by just a single thread!
”Yes ,Hand embroidery is a very skilled and laborious art . Unfortunately it’s a dying art form .
The first hand embroidery Machine was introduced in France in 1832 and now with computerised embroidery machines ,
embroidered garments are churned out by the dozen .
Here in Kochi there are barely a handful of women who actually hand -embroider !
St Gallen embroidery which is also whitework ,was such a productive part of the Swiss economy , a picture of it is imprinted on the Swiss Franc .
And you must know that Michelle Obama chose to wear a St Gallen lace overcoat at the swearing in ceremony of her husband Barack Obama .
Wowwww again !
”Now mostly machine -made pieces are available .It is only here in Kochi that women sit together and sew 8 hours for a paltry 150 Rs !”
A deep respect grew in my heart for the artisan who produced such beauty .
But Thomas was not finished .
He theatrically unfolded an heirloom Venetian piece of exquisite craftsmanship …
gossamer lace used to adorn royal Victorian dresses , the detailing amazing because of the number of bobbins used, not 24 , good grief as many as 84 ! Once again I was starryeyed !
No wonder the Prince of Wales and His wife Camellia have visitedThomas ‘ shop to buy lace !
They liked my
‘petite point ‘ a lot , said Thomas proudly ‘ The Prince was very knowledgeable. He wanted to know how many counts there were in each inch . Of course I had an answer to his every question !
Thomas , you have mentioned French/Spanish / Italian / Swiss embroidery .. all European , but we in India have so many hand embroidered fabrics .
”Yes , yes , hand embroidery is as old as the hills .. it’s in China , Japan , in the Middle East , Turkey ,everywhere !These were luxury items catering to the elite choices of aristocrats , of royalty.
In India there are so many varieties of handembroidery …
Kantha from West Bengal,
Phulkari from Punjab ,
Aari from Kashmir!
In fact Chikankari from Lucknow is exactly similar to shadow work and probably originated here in India much earlier than it did in Europe !
In the court of Akbar too, brocades were enriched with gold threads ( zardosi ) , mirrors , precious gems !
As for the elaborately embroidered Parsee Gara sarees .. they are sold in Mumbai but toiled over right HERE in Kochi !
Did you know it takes 2 years to make an 8 metre saree border ?!
Once again , I gasped !
My head was swimming with images of beautiful borders , royal dresses,embroidered shoes.
The warm Kochi sun, the gentle whirring of the fan , the sinking in of all this information made me long for a cup of hot tea .
I mentioned this and Thomas instantly whisked out a beautiful teacosy complete with tray cloth .
It was simply irresistible!
It was now definitely TIME to BUY and buy I did … a dozen embroidered napkins, 6 placemats , a set of embroidered towels, 2 dresses for a three year old , a runner here , a lace doilie there !
Armed with all these pretty purchases I was set to invite my stylish nephew Ranveer all the way from California for a cup of tea . He is a boy of exquisite taste and has a keen eye for all things fine and beautiful !
There you go Ranveer …
”a pristine white ,scalloped tray mat with a pleasing embroidered napkin placed in an appliquéd pocket on the left hand corner.
Oh yes ….and
is your cup of tea!
16 thoughts on “Travel with Twinny .. embroidery means embellishment!”
And once again, Twinny you render me speechless!!!
I would have never thought I’d read about embroidery with interest…..but I did …I did!!!!
Way to go girl 👊🏽👊🏽👊🏽
Have finally managed to send a reply ..
Thankyou for being the first MALE to read about embroidery!
Interestingly most of the workforce for hand embroidery are females,
But for factory spun ensembles .. 90% are men !
They also dominate the field in pattern making !
Women are slowly getting into that domain .
Apparently this is a big issue in the villages..
Dominance of males in the field of pattern making !
Ok enough gyaan ..
Thankyou Ashish .. always good to hear from you 😊
And yet another cementing fact! In fact you are getting more and more excitingly sisterly in your adventures… do you know that in Chennai there is a VTI which boasts of beautiful nun made embroidered home linen! Both my mothers left their heirloom with me and most of it is from kochi . But what’s beautiful is you have spent so much learning time listening g to Thomas’s stories and then telling us. For me the excitement is can’t believe my multifaceted doctor cousin who completely falls in live with hand embroidery … mummy taught me the value of these beautiful creations and today I discover the same gene in another body… tell me more about yourself!
You are tooo cute Tina !
What I learnt is to VALUE craft .. we pay very little for the sweat and dedication a person uses to create articles of beauty!
May this art never die !
Thankyou for your kind words ❤️
Very informative. Since you are researching embroidery, please look at the fine lacework done in Bruge.
Yes… will do !
Bruge and Venetian lace are a class apart !
Beautiful as usual the words,the thoughts and the pride.
Thankyou Nanni … love you my sister ,for reading !
We have all toiled through crossstitch and not gone further!
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Thankyou dear Malashree!
One learns all the time , when you least expect to ..
Wow Radha superb
Thankyou Anita !
So glad you read …❤️
Exceptional as always.every post of yours amazes me.and get to constantly learn so much from art to embroidery.keep writing .
An amazing succinct description which makes it like a virtual reality tour through your eyes. I think I imbibed so much about embroidery embellishments that I could make quite few heads turn in appreciation if I were to off load this knowledge in a gathering. Beautiful works of art but the real sad part is the financial benefits do not accrue to the creators but the middlemen. We need to find a way to reach the artisans.
A masterpiece from the creator Radha……….. enjoyed every bit👍
Wowww Ranajit .. Thankyou for the appreciation.
Yes , my heart too goes out to the workers toiling away patiently ,…for a pittance !
Their work is so detailed , so fine !
Lumberjacks have it easy in comparison !
Can imagine you in a Babu Moshai accoutrement spouting gyaan on embroidery .. very becoming and convincing indeed !😊
Twinny you are just too exquisitely expressive!!
A very explicit awareness of a gentle lost art. Sad that these finer senses are lost in today’s chaos!
Truly appreciate your detailing and reminder of our childhood struggles with needle work !!!
Love you as much as your piece of artistic writings!!!
YES to More!!!👏🏼👏🏼🌸☘️🌸👌💕
Have just read Anu .. your comment for my older blog !
Thankyou so much !
So encouraging !
Yes .. it does remind us of that needlework period and how useless I was at it !