Last week I was in Germany, at the Sufi summer school that I go to each year. On the Wednesday afternoon, there’s always a market, where participants offer for sale things that they’ve made, and I took some of the embroidered boxes that I’ve been featuring on this blog.
I was really pleased to sell about three-quarters of the boxes that I took, and all three of the miniature framed pictures. People often sell jewellery, or ethnic-style clothes suitable for dancing, but no-one else was selling anything embroidered.
They have all gone to good homes – some of them, to the homes of senior Sufi teachers, as several people who bought a box told me that it would be a gift for their teacher.
The Dervish design box is one of these – it will be given to a woman in America who is well known for her beautifully graceful dervish dancing (‘turning’).
One of my firends, who is half Scottish and half Australian, bought the box with ‘Allaho Akbar’ in Arabic calligraphy on it – the first box in this series that I ever made.
And one couple bought a Sufi heart and wings box to put their wedding rings in when they get married next month, which I think is really sweet.
So, I only have a few left, now, and they will probably be given as either birthday presents or initiation presents to people that I know. Well worth the time it took to make them all, I think 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 will hopefully look good with a red and gold salwar kameez that I’ve got, at the next Dance Day that I go to.
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’.
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.”
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.
Last weekend, there were two good one-day Dances of Universal Peace events on, both within driving distance of where we live. As we couldn’t choose between them, we decided to go to both!
The first one was at the Friends Meeting House in Hall Green, Birmingham. This one happens monthly, and we manage to go most months. The building is lovely – Victorian, I think, and cosy with a quiet feel to it. The day is led by Mike Hadden and his wife, Suzanne, who have their own website with information about the Dances and dates of upcoming events.
We danced from 10.30 till 4pm, with a break for lunch (brought by the participants). Several of the dances were new to me – a couple, in particular, were really lovely. One, called ‘Namaste’, had the lines ‘I honour the place in you where the entire Universe dwells. I honour the place in me where the entire Universe dwells’. It was a very slow, meditative dance, done in pairs. The other dance I don’t know the name of, but the words were something like ‘There is a secret One inside us, All the stars and all the galaxies, Run through Her hands like beads’. It’s based on part of a poem by Tagore, I think. Anyway, it was great, too.
On Sunday, we went to the Sheffield Yoga Centre, and had another great day of Dances led by Christina Lausevic (her Sufi name is Gulzar). She plays guitar to accompany the dances she leads, and my husband, Chris, plays drum for some of the dances, too (when he’s not dancing, that is). Gulzar adds other practices to her Dance Days, so we also did some drumming, and walking meditations.
As I’m always on the lookout for embroidery, it didn’t take me long to spot this gorgeous Indian wallhanging, as it was strung across the doorway into the room where we danced.
It was lovely – lots of tiny shisha mirrors had been embroidered on it, and, although it was a bit worn in places (it’s obviously quite old), it was a very carefully made piece. I just love the colours!