Finished embroidery: a bracelet with the Sufi flying heart motif

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Sacred Arts Dance Camp in Oxfordshire. 300 people camping in a field, cooking over open fires (great when it’s sunny – not so much fun when it’s raining 🙂  ). For about five hours each day, on and off, we did Dances of Universal Peace in a Big Top, which was wonderful. Other things like crafts, yoga, circle dancing, taize singing, etc., were also going on throughout the week.

Many people who do the Dances are Sufi, although you don’t have to be. I am, so when I see something that links Sufism with embroidery, I am bound to be interested!

On the Wednesday, there was a craft market, and someone there was selling embroidered bracelets/cuffs with the Sufi emblem of a heart with wings beaded on them. I thought they were great, but they were about two inches wide, and too ‘chunky’ for my slim wrist. So, when I got home, I decided to embroider my own version, on a daintier scale.

The Sufi flying heart emblem, marked out in running stitch on the fabric

I first drew out the motif I wanted, to fit a one inch wide band. I selected some materials – some cream close-woven cotton fabric, some Anchor threads, thin gold Ophir thread, and some tiny red and gold beads. And a lovely piece of red metallic kid leather that I’ve been hoarding, waiting for the right project to present itself. In the end, I didn’t use the beads or one of the thread colours.

The materials I planned to use

I transferred the design from my pencil drawing to the fabric by tracing the design onto thin tissue paper, then placing it on the fabric and stitching through it onto the fabric with small running stitches with sewing cotton, then tearing off the paper.

A tiny felt heart, and a larger red kid leather one

For the central heart motif, I cut a tiny heart shape out of red felt, and a larger one out of the red kid leather. I stab-stitched the felt heart on, then did the same with the leather, to make a smooth padded shape.

The felt heart, stab-stitched in place first
The red leather heart, stitched on top of the felt shape

Then I worked lazy daisy stitches with the gold thread, starting at the outer edge of the wing and working towards the centre. I did these freehand, and one side has more ‘feathers’ than the other, but never mind! Then I worked a second row, finishing with a third row just of satin stitches. At that point, it looked finished, so I didn’t bother adding beads, etc., as I’d originally planned to.

Working the 'feathers' in lazy daisy stitch

I backed the embroidery with a piece of the same cotton fabric, stitching it into a tube and turning it, before adding two tiny press studs for a closure.

The finished bracelet

The finished bracelet will hopefully look good with a red and gold salwar kameez that I’ve got, at the next Dance Day that I go to.


Beautiful Sufi embroidery on an altar cloth

Last weekend, I went to Leicester for a day of Dances of Universal Peace. It was held at the Quaker Meeting House. The altar at the front of the room immediately got my attention, as it had several items set out on it, all on top of a beautiful embroidered cloth featuring the Sufi emblem of a heart with wings, sometimes known as the ‘flying heart’.

The altar cloth with the beautiful 'heart with wings' embroidered motif

This cloth was bought recently by Gulzar Christina Lausevic, who was leading the dances last weekend. She had bought it in New Delhi, India, in February, when she went there for the URS celebration of Hazrat Inayat Khan (the man who brought Universal Sufism to the West in 1910).

She explained that the altar cloth was sold as a pashmina (she demonstrated it later, and it does make a good wrap – it’s just the right size, and it’s made from a very softly woven, comfortable fabric!). A Sufi charity called the Hope Project provides help for local people, including employment for girls in the area, who embroider souvenirs for the pilgrims who visit the dargah (tomb) of Hazrat Inayat Khan in New Delhi. As it says on the website of the Hope Project, “The Hope Project emerged from the vision of Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan to translate Sufi values, guided by the spiritual ideals of Hazrat Inayat Khan [his father], into practice.”

Detail of the stitching

This cloth features long and short stitch, stem stitch outline, and herringbone stitch for the feathers on the wings – which is very effective. I had a quick look at the back of the stitching, and it’s as neat as the front!

Hopefully, the income that these girls get from their embroidery will give them more choice for their futures than they would otherwise have.

My weekend of Dances of Universal Peace at Luddenden, near Halifax – plus embroidery again!

Last weekend I went on a retreat to the Heart Centre, in Luddenden, Yorkshire, where a dozen of us learned a cycle of Dances of Universal Peace based on the Beatitudes in Aramaic, created by Neil Douglas-Klotz. The Dances were led by Jilani Prescott. The setting was really peaceful and spiritual.

As usual, I am always on the lookout for embroidery, and spotted these lovely hangings above doorways in the house:

The fireplace in the dance studio was very prettily decorated, with the hearth set out as an altar:

I’m on a Sufi Retreat

More when I get home…

UPDATE 1st March 2010: OK, so I’m home now, so I’d better explain! I was at a three-day break at Wistaston Hall Retreat Centre at Crewe in Cheshire at the weekend. Forty people met up to do Dances of Universal Peace (many being dances from the Buddhist and Aramaic Christian traditions, as that fitted with this year’s theme), meditations, and so on, in a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere.  The weekend was led by Saadi Neil Douglas-Klotz and Tansen Philip O’Donohoe.

Wistaston Hall Retreat Centre, Crewe, Cheshire

At the Centre, there was a room with computers for the use of guests – and one of the other people staying there  (hello, Fateah!) was interested in having a blog, so I showed her how easy WordPress blogs are to use. But I didn’t have time to do much, other than demonstrate how quickly you can put up a new post – hence the brief original entry!

The retreat itself was very refreshing and uplifting. I find doing the Dances gives me very intense feelings which work themselves out through my creative designing. So, after each retreat or single dance day that I go to, I get a ‘burst’ of energy that inspires me to design more embroidery, or plan something new that I don’t think would have emerged otherwise.

To anyone who was there at the weekend – thanks for being part of something very special.