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!