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 … the painstaking art of HAND EMBROIDERY
threadwork ‘ of apparel , and 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 ‘ he 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 ,’ demonstrating to me 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 !’
Easier said than done !
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 .. Thomas laughs 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!
I gasped !
‘Yes ,Hand embroidery is a very skilled ,a very laborious art .. unfortunately it’s a dying art. The first hand embroidery Machine was introduced in France in 1832 .. (though he added that’s no match for the all original hand embroidery) 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 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 were in each inch ! Of course 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 Kerala chai .
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 am now 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 , for all things 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!