“suz, suz, suz, suzani”

To paraphrase Phil Collins……

Progress is slow on this, not because it’s difficult, overwhelming or a slog i feel obligated to get through, but because Life is happening. (Not in a bad way, just a busy way.)

Technically, a “Suzani is a type of embroidered and decorative tribal textile made in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries. Suzani is from the Persian سوزن Suzan which means needle. The art of making such textiles in Iran is called سوزن‌دوزی Suzandozi (needlework).”

Though there are elements of Swati and Uzbeki in this, i’m also going for some Sindhi, Kutch–and Me 🙂 For easy reference, by no means comprehensive, but still useful, check out the Wikipedia page “Embroidery of India”, for an overview. I have no desire to emulate any of these exactly: instead i am doing exercises to broaden my use of stitch, and to learn either new stitches, or new ways to use variations of them, an in depth self directed workshop.

While i stitch, i think. I have ideas already for other work, that is less derivative/evocative/reflective. While i know that contemporary work in some of these regions is now done with synthetic dyed threads and fabrics, it’s the naturals again that are making the choices and setting the direction for me. I wouldn’t have tried this if i had dependence still on commercially dyed threads: it just wouldn’t have occurred to me to try this. Research and study of natural dyes leads to the history of them, the use, the end product of thread or cloth, the purpose of these materials geographically and as an art/craft form— it’s a never ending rabbit hole!

I managed to find TWO books from our local library  that have been helpful. “Embroidery from India and Pakistan” by Sheila Paine is somewhat of a catalogue of items from the British Museum, with gorgeous photos of clothing and household items, some with detail shots, and very basic descriptors of the region, stitch type and aesthetic notes, but no “how to’s”. I *did* learn however that satin stitch as we know it, is not actually used a lot, as it is wasteful of thread. If you think of how much of it is behind the work (on the reverse) as well, you can appreciate that when resources are few and probably quite expensive, you want to use as much as possible on the front. A lot of what looks like satin stitch is actually a surface stitch, akin to darning, but without the crosshatching weaving of another thread. I fell in love with this one, a detail from a Sindhi dress:

I left this as a deliberately large photo, so you can see the details more clearly. You can see though that with the surface stitching(the rounds with “radiating stitch” and the pink and lavender shapes down the sidebars), wear and breakage happens, i would think easily, and quickly.

The second book is “The Techniques of Indian Embroidery” by Anne Morrell. Again, wonderful photos in colour and with details of items, and with illustrative diagrams of the stitches used. The only problem i had was the constant flipping of pages to match “figure 36” stitch diagram with plate 21 to see the stitch in “action”. I’m curious too why the artisans  would work with the reverse side towards them, as stated in this book, as it seems very counter-intuitive.

This is also the surface stitch i mentioned, used in this Phulkari piece:

What also blows me away, and a Thing i do not aspire to, is the neatness and regularity of the backs of these! Some are two or three layers of cloth to eke out  what is available, but many are one single layer.

Your thoughts? (Spammers, good luck on that.)

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