Tag Archives: Indian

Hand-stitched Indian doodles

I’ve been working on Indian designs lately so I thought I’d show some work in progress. The inspiration for this is some of the densely stitched metal thread work that I saw in India. At the moment each piece is a separate motif stitched on a square or rectangle of dyed felt, and they’ll eventually be joined together with some freer stitching wandering over the whole piece to unite them. I’m doing the stitching in a combination of silver kid, silver metal thread (purls and pearls) silver jap, embroidery thread and beads. The sizes and shapes of the squares and rectangles are based on the Fibronacci sequence, so the measurement of each piece is either 1,2,3,5,8,13 or 21cm. Once I’ve found an arrangement that works, they’ll all be pieced together and mounted together, possibly surrounded by something silver.

Here’s an initial arrangement done in coloured card (apologies for the strange colours and photo quality!) The idea is that I can juggle with the actual arrangement as I go along and the combination of shapes and sizes should balance each other. That’s the theory anyway – we’ll see if it works! It’s abit of an experiment as I normally have a clear idea of the overall design of a piece before I start stitching it – sometimes to the extent that maybe I ‘over-design’ it. It feels quite ‘free’ to just start each bit with whatever comes into my mind at the time – a very different way to approach it all.

Once they’re all in place, I plan to add some hand-stitching that will be freer in the way it wanders, to break up the rather rigid blocks of colour. I’ll post more images as it develops.



There used to be a front garden here

There’s been quite a gap since my last post here, but a few photos may show you why. We’re in week 4 of a 2 week building project, which turned out to be a much bigger project than we or the builders realised. The hall, stairs and landing are covered in dust-sheets, tools, plasterboard etc., and the front garden is full of rubble.

The builders are lovely, but I wasn’t planning on having them in the house all day Christmas Eve! It’s very lucky this wasn’t happening last year, when we had a house full of visitors all week. This year relatives are coming to us for Christmas lunch, but they’re all local so they don’t need to stay overnight. We’ll clear a path free of tools and rubble for Roger’s mother’s wheely-walker, and I’ve managed to get the living room relatively dust-free.

Buying a Christmas tree was delayed because of the building works, but I finally rushed out and bought one yesterday, a lop-sided B&Q left-over. Once I’d got that decorated, it did finally begin to feel like Christmas, so things are looking up. With the state of the world as it is, it seems churlish to grumble about abit of dust. Let’s just be thankful that we’re warm, dry, safe and have food to eat and people around us. Just as long as I don’t accidentally mix plaster-dust in the gravy!

Here’s wishing everyone a very happy, relaxing and peaceful Christmas and a creative New Year.





Indian Fabric Heaven

My mother used to say that her vision of entering heaven would go like this: The Pearly gates roll back. St Peter emerges carrying a tool box. After serving tea, gin and tonic or whisky (depending on the time of day) St Peter asks ‘are there any little jobs you want doing Mrs R?’ Well, my version of entering heaven goes like this. The Pearly gates roll back, to reveal the entrance to Jayalakshmi Silk Shop in Cochin. I am greeted by a whole department store stacked from floor to ceiling with silks of every colour, hue and texture beyond my wildest imaginings. Not one, not two, but a hundred shades of each colour. Floaty gossamer chiffons, dense shimmering satins and textured hand-weaves. And even better, there’s a remnant corner where an area the size of a medium-sized planet is packed with ends-of-rolls at crazy give-away prices.

This isn’t the time to be all English in your shopping style. It’s no good in India saying ‘Thank you, I’m just browsing’. In India that is interpreted as ‘I need more help to find what I want’. In my experience, this usually leads to all the contents of the shop spread out on the floor, more coffee drunk than I normally have in a week, and some random thing bought just so I can get out of the shop. Instead, in Jayalakshmi Silks it’s best to enjoy the help and advice of the most delightful sales assistants in the world, and to accept the offers of iced water and a coffee-break when needed. There’s even an air-conditioned ‘waiting room’ with iced water and ginger coffee served to the waiting men-folk before they lose the will to live. Apparently it’s not unknown for groups of women to spend three days there when they’re buying the fabrics for a big wedding. You can see the men nervously fingering their wallets!

My previous attempts at fabric buying earlier in the trip weren’t a great success. On my last trip to India (Rajasthan and Gujerat) it was really easy buying fabric from small shops and stalls, but for some reason it was harder in Kerala. Some of the markets and shops I located on Google before the trip were in fact huge stores for wholesale only, and others were selling synthetic tat. I did manage to find a great bazaar in Madurai in Tamil Nadu which had lots of stalls selling silks. ‘Great’, I thought to myself. ‘This is the place’.  Most of the fabric stalls sell fabric that they give to tailors who make made-to-measure clothes that are stitched up immaculately there and then. (Apologies for the fuzzy focus in this photo, but I was using the phone not the camera). It was a lovely time-warp experience to see the old singer treadle sewing machines like my granny’s.

There’s a story behind why I look so hot and bothered in this photo taken in the bazaar. Firstly, I was too hot. A hot Jane is a dangerous thing, according to my husband. Secondly, I discovered afterwards that my guide had told the stall-holder that I was a big buyer from England who wanted to buy hundreds of yards of silk. I think something got lost in the translation – no wonder the seller was eager! Thirdly, I hate haggling and have no idea how to do it (anyone remember the Monty Python haggling scene, when the buyer talks himself up and up in price?) My version of haggling goes like this. Me: ‘How much is it?’ Seller: ‘X rupees’. Me: ‘OK’. Not how it’s done! And the final problem was that when I converted rupees to pounds I got totally confused with the number of zeros (I blame the heat). That left me thinking I didn’t have enough cash on me, and putting most of the silks I’d carefully chosen back on the shelf and buying just a couple of apologetic half-metres. I cut this photo in half to post it here- the other half has a rather thunderous-looking stall-holder standing next to me. Ah well, you live and learn! And Jayalakshmi Silk Shop made up for it.

There’s been a long gap since my previous blog post and there’s so much to catch up on. I’ll try to keep abit more up-to-date and to catch up on my trip to Kerala and some of the wonderful colours and designs (not too many holiday snaps, I promise!) And also an update on what I’m working on at the moment, and a wonderful course I’ve just been on with Ruth Issett at Art Vango. Where do I start? But I think the sun’s under the yard-arm so I’m signing off for now.