A selection of embroidered boxes with Sufi themes

During the past year, whenever I’ve had some spare time (ha! what’s that??!), I’ve been making these little embroidered boxes. Most of them have the same motif on the top – the ‘heart and wings’ emblem of the Sufi Ruhaniat International, which is the spiritual path that I follow. The boxes are just the right size to store prayer beads in. I am going to a Sufi summer school next week, where I hope to spend a lot of time doing Dances of Universal Peace, and these boxes, hopefully, will be sold at the market that is held on the Wednesday afternoon, when the participants, who come mainly from Germany (as that’s where the summer school takes place), share items that they’ve made.

The boxes are covered in satin. I’ve used various fabrics for the lids, depending what I had available in my stash – mostly Dupion silk – and the feathers of the wings are in either DMC silver thread, or Ophir gold thread. Each feather is a lazy daisy stitch, with the outer row having a straight stitch down the centre as well. The little hearts in the centre of the motif are padded with a felt patch first, just a bit smaller than the top shape, which is fine metallic kid leather (bought from the Golden Hinde website).

The tricky bit with each box was getting the design on the fabric in the first place, as any drawn outlines would show (especially on the design with wings) – so I thread traced the design through tissue paper, ripping the paper off to leave the design, and then unpicking the thread as I stitched the design.

Some of the boxes are of Arabic calligraphy, using Stef Francis variegated silks. These were lovely to do, but very time-consuming, so I didn’t get as many of these finished as I’d have liked.

The three framed pictures are done in one strand of Anchor on 32 count evenweave, showing the Sufi phrase ‘Toward the One’ (one of them says the phrase in German, for the benefit of the Germans at the summer school!).

I don’t often make completed stitching to sell – usually, I sell kits for miniature needlepoint, so it will be interesting to see how these go down with people.

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Sufi ‘Heart and Wings’ motif embroidered on a box lid

This is another of the Sufi-inspired designs I have been stitching during the past winter. I made this one as a gift for a friend, as he was going to take his Sufi Initiation, and I wanted to make him a present.

The design is the emblem of the Sufi Ruhaniat International spiritual movement that I belong to. The emblem signifies the idea that when the heart is responsive to the Divine Spark, it becomes enlightened.

The box is black satin, and I bought it from Viking Loom of York. It measures about 3 1/2 inches by 2 by 2 high. The fabric I stitched on is black silk Dupion (from my stash – can’t remember where I got that from!). The red kid leather heart ‘fabric’ I bought from Golden Hinde, a really good online goldwork supplier, who sell lots of colours of fine kid leather, in small pieces. I padded the heart shape first with a smaller heart cut from felt, then stab stitched the kid leather in place over the top.

To start with, I traced the design onto tissue paper and transferred it to the fabric using sewing thread in a gold colour, then ripped off the tissue, leaving the design in running stitches clearly showing. I unpicked the sewing thread as I did the goldwork – any tufts of thread that I omitted to get out didn’t show, as the yellow almost matched the gold thread colour  🙂

The wings are stitched in chain stitches, with the outer row having the addition of a straight stitch added to the centre space after the whole row has been completed. It took a while to get both left and right sides to have equal numbers of ‘feathers’, but I’ve made lots of these boxes now, and it does get easier with practice!

The finished stitching was laced onto the padded card former that comes with the box, and then the stitching was glued into the lid with PVA glue.

I’ll post more examples of this design later, as using different colourways makes a lot of difference to the impact of this design – but this is one of the boldest!

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