Arabic calligraphy on an embroidered box lid

During the winter, I’ve been gradually stitching designs onto a selection of box lids. They are all Sufi-themed designs (because I follow the Universal Sufi spiritual path, and I wanted to make a range of stitched items to sell at the Summer School that I go to in Germany each year, in the ‘market’ that is held on the Wednesday afternoon).

This design is based on the phrase ‘Allaho Akbar’ in Arabic calligraphy, which means ‘God / Unity is greater than all things’. I transferred the design onto the fabric using tissue paper with the design drawn on in pencil – then I tacked through the tracing onto the fabric, and ripped off the tissue to leave the sewing thread outline on the fabric. I unpicked these threads as I stitched the actual design. I only traced the main outlines, not the squiggles – I added those by eye, to complete the design.

'Allaho Akbar' text embroidered round linen-covered box with lid

Starting at the lower edge of each motif, I worked stem stitch in rows along the shape, adapting how many rows were necessary as I went. I used a space dyed thread from Oliver Twists – Fine Cotton, shade 004 – which was very smooth to stitch with, and the shading was lovely – very soft colour changes. The little squiggles between the main letters were worked using whatever embroidery stitch seemed right: twisted chain, fly stitch, stem stitch, and French knots.

Close-up of the stitching

The box is about three inches in diameter, and linen-covered on the outside, with a pale matching cotton fabric on the inside. I bought it from Viking Loom of York, who sell a wide range of these boxes, in several shapes and colours (satin as well as linen).

I don’t usually stitch with these earthy shades, but I’m very pleased with how this one came out.

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