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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A tiny Sufi sampler – doll’s house size!

Sufi heart with wings ‘Tot de Ene’

Here’s a tiny ‘doll’s house sized’ sampler that I made for a friend of mine, for her birthday.  It’s not that clear from the photo how small it is – it’s about two and a half inches across. I stitched it with one strand of Anchor stranded cotton, on 32 count evenweave fabric. The phrase ‘Tot de Ene’ is in Dutch (because my friend is Dutch!), and it means ‘Towards the One’.  She is a Universal Sufi (same as me), and on this spiritual path, we often say this phrase, as it’s the beginning of the Sufi Invocation:

Towards the One,

the perfection of love, harmony and beauty,

the only Being,

united with all the illuminated souls

who form the embodiment of the Master,

the Spirit of guidance. 

The heart with wings is a Sufi symbol which signifies the idea that when the heart is responsive to the light of Sacred Unity / the Divine / God, it is liberated.

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Finished embroidery: look at this ‘Om’ cushion!!

I have recently returned from a Sufi Ruhaniat summer school in Germany, which was amazing – very uplifting.

As I had to travel from England, I was a bit limited in what I could take, so I had to leave my meditation stool behind. Fortunately, when I got there, there were a lot of meditation cushions of all shapes and styles available for the use of the students, and this one really caught my eye.

Om cushion with beautiful satin stitch embroidery

It’s worked almost completely in satin stitch of a really high quality, with a little back stitch. The colours are incredibly vibrant. The cushion is about 12 inches diameter, and about 8 inches deep.

Detail of the stitching

The motif in the centre is the ‘Om’ symbol. In Hinduism, it represents the unmanifest, the essence of the entire universe.

I’m very tempted to make one of my own, now 🙂

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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.

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