There are some things in life that come back at a later stage, like a memory or a habit and tend to give your life a new lease. It might be a hobby or a lifestyle quirk or a forgotten custom. After I’ve spent more than half of my lifespan, one of my hobbies made a huge resurgence – embroidery.
I think for most of us growing up in India, embroidery has been equivalent to mandatory craft classes in school that were invariably boring. I felt so, too. My mother and paternal aunts are amateur seamstresses and I used to resort to them for sewing assignments in school. I tried a few but they weren’t too satisfactory. As long as the school assignments were being made by mother/aunt, I was happy. After my high school board exams, there was a lull of three months waiting for admission into college. Something struck me, probably boredom, and I picked up a plain cotton saree, drew some motifs and began stitching. If you have any idea about sarees from Bengal, there is a novel craft called Kantha stitch and the products are amazing. It began seamlessly, although an oxymoron for a stitching habit. Once I got the hang of it, with a little tutorial from mother, I did another saree in entirety. Then came table cloths and cross stitch. I guess I fell in love for the first time in my life with cross stitch and the saga still continues.
Life has obviously been busy since high school and I have abandoned embroidery quite a few times. But the best thing about it is, the skill hasn’t left me even after these years. I’ve been doing pieces intermittently, small ones and large table clothes, name boards for couples, and once a gift for a friend’s newborn too.
Cross stitch has been the ultimate stress-buster for me for over twenty years. I have rediscovered patterns; the ones in Indian books are mostly flowery and small scenes. But my recent love are bookish patterns. Not only cross stitch, I’ve done bookish quotes with other stitches too. Trust me, they look so good and are bound to cheer up bookworms.
Embroidery is mostly relegated back to a primitive hobby, as I hear in India these days. Teens or young adults definitely don’t indulge in this tedious craft as they perceive it as boring. When I visited Calcutta a few months ago and went to a local store to buy threads/floss, I realised the slow death of amateur embroidery from the store owner. He was perplexed to know that I was buying threads worth Rs 300 (which is a lot as they’re really inexpensive) to bring back to Belgium. He almost shrieked, Why are you buying so much? Who does embroidery these days? I knew he was right as I could see the fading colours and rotting cardboard boxes of ochre, turquoise, teal, vermillion, Prussian. I had to reassure him that my supply would run out within the year till my next visit home in February 2020. Just to reassure myself and any fellow embroidery lover, I’ve already run out of the stash of black thread.
Thankfully, Instagram has connected me to quite a few enthusiastic people all over the world who are still going ga-ga over cross stitch, chain stitch and French knots. It feels so gratifying to complete a piece and see how it brightens up my house and Instagram wall.
Oh, and the most important thing, I stitch in Bangla too; although I’m still struggling and trying to perfect the alphabets, it is working. I might take orders later in my life if I’m able to keep up the work in Bangla.
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