Friday, April 28, 2017

X is for X shaped stitches on a Xmas stocking #atozchallenge

The months of May and June are the hottest in the northern parts of India. Even though Dehradun sits snuggled in the centre of Doon Valley, nestled in the lap of the Himalayas in the north and the Shivalik range in the south, summers get hot.

Back in the days of my childhood, in the late seventies/early eighties, there were no air-conditioners in any homes in Doon. No one seemed to need them, unlike today. We spent the hottest part of the day indoors (forced to take naps by my mother) sprawled on beds under whirring ceiling fans and the cooler evenings outside, playing with friends or just hanging at the local mandir (temple) or gurudwara. As a five/six year old, the charm of the mandir/gurudwara was the prasad (very, very tasty food blessed by the gods and given out to worshipers after the prayers etc. are over).

As we grew older, a chance to spot the cute boy from the other day became the reason to pay our daily visit to the temple near my parents' house. Washed and sprinkled with Johnson's baby powder, a bunch of us would gather and head out to the temple in the hours that fall between preparing chappatis and sitting down to eat dinner.

We often got told off by old grannies who'd come to the temple for the serious business of securing a place in God's good books while we stood in our group, giggling and teasing:
He's looking. No, he's not. He flunked his class. NO! Grades were important to us even when we were teenagers indulging in puppy love. You say stereotype, I say reality--at least mine, when I was growing up.

Apart from the grades, my mother was of the opinion that we (my sister and I ) should know how to cook, sew, embroider, fix a button etc.etc. She made us who we are--independent and fond of creating things.

Cross stitch was the second stitch she taught us. The first was running stitch. 

One summer, Mummy brought out her sewing kit and a pale yellow fabric which had tiny holes in it. Along with it came a rainbow of anchor threads. She showed us how to take the strands out of the twisted bun, cut the right length (don't be greedy, or you'll get knots), twist the end to make a knot and then another to make sure, lick the other end with your tongue to make it easier for the thread to go through the eye of the needle. And then we got started.

We started off with cross stitching in straight lines. After a line was done, we'd go to her to show her our work. She was a perfectionist and she expected no less from us. 

After a few weeks of practice, I managed to cross stitch a motif (can't remember if it was a rose or a heart). I was very proud. 

Mummy looked pleased, too. Then she said, "turn it over."

Huhh?

"I want to see the other side. It's not just the pattern that should look good, a good embroider leaves the wrong side as tidy as the right. There should be no loose knots or lazy jumps of thread or dangling yarn."

I hated her guts then. She made us undo stitches and redo them till we got them right. I often wondered if I was adopted.

She's no more. My mother died when I was nineteen.

As I type out this post, I can almost feel her smiling from somewhere near me:
"siddha, puttha dono vadiya hone chai de ne" both sides of the embroidery should look good.  Her words ring our clearly--pieces of memories embed in us and become a part of our fabric.

Her work reflected her Meraki: from her cooking to her house-keeping and even her embroidery.

I have two pieces of her embroidery with me. Why only two? Here's the story, if you have time.

This is one of them: flowers and a bird on pale grey sateen pillow case. A few years ago, I put in in a frame and hung it. I didn't realise that the afternoon sun hit the wall I'd hung the frame on. So, the fabric faded a bit. I keep the pillow case wrapped up in tissue these days. I took it out today to take these photos.
 sidhha paasa. The right side
puttha paasa. The wrong side.
Christmas 2013, my darling friend Danielle gave me a Xmas stocking she'd made herself. I can never put in words what Danielle's gesture means to me.
Every time I put this stocking up, all the cross stitches I made to please my mother (when she was alive) and the ones I made in her memory, come alive with the joy of a life lived with all its ups and downs.
Thank you Danielle. 


You know you're blessed when you have friends like these.

Do you have a piece of cloth or embroidery that pulls at your heart strings?

24 comments:

  1. Oh man, I would been so pissed off if my mum had made me un-pull my first cross stitch triumph! As I recall, I used wool/yarn as the thread and a hessian sack as the fabric..BIG threads to count.
    I have several counting cross-stitch kits bought in optimistic moments.
    Packs still unopened.
    But I do have some cross-stitched linen cloths that my great-granny did which I love.
    Thanks for being with me on the A-Z.

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    1. Thank you for visiting and sharing Wendy.

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  2. It's funny - I was thinking about the whole "the back should look as neat as the front", idea yesterday - with your comment about a life quilt. I was raised to make sure the back is equally neat, as well. Altho' I've never learned counted cross-stitch - I was taught regular embroidery. And needlepoint turned out to be the thing that really won my heart. But good cross-stitch is really, really lovely.

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    1. It's the magic of connecting like this (via stories and memories) that one realises how similar we all are.

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  3. My favorite piece of cross stitch was done by my grandmother in the early 1930s--of Jesus as the Good Shepherd--she used a cloth flour sack. I blogged about it years ago. You have interesting stories about life in India.

    http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.com/2017/04/x-is-for-x-in-summer-sky.html

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    1. Thank you:) I'll check your old post out.

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  4. Clever X post, and some wonderful needle work. The font and back looking equally neat reminds me of technology - where the materials that you don't see (the back) should be as organized as the front (what you see on your screen).

    Phillip | X is for Xanthophytes | And they’re on XL mail

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    1. I'm seeing technology with new eyes today. Thank you Phillip, you make technology sound approachable and friendly:)

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  5. This is a very nice post. I have some works from my Mum. And now that I've become a knitter, it's me who is making things for my family/friends. I hope they bring they good memories whit the time!
    -----
    Eva - Mail Adventures

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    1. I'm sure your knitting will reflect the love you put in it Eva.

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  6. Ha Ha! I laughed when you wondered whether you were adopted! I often thought that re myself. These are beautiful creative gems Arti. When the outside matches the inside this must surely be the best kind of balance. I still have a black yoga skirt made by mother maybe 40 years ago with the most beautiful trim on the hem ...

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    1. Thank you Susan--the outside, inside balance bit is beautiful.
      A picture of the trim on the hem would be lovely to see.

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  7. It makes me think of pixelated art, or blowing an image up to the pixel level. So much work for this type of stitchery!

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    1. I know. You're right Jacqui-it does look like pixels.

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  8. That's a lovely stocking! My cross stitch wasn't ever perfect on the wrong side, although i tried to not have dangling or tangled threads.

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    1. I used to get in trouble for using extra long thread lengths. I used to think it was a clever thing to do as I's save time. On the contrary, I always ended up with pesky knots.

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  9. Such beautiful memories Arti, and such tender ones in the post about losing your beloved mother. Our mothers hold such space in our hearts forever don't they?

    I have something handmade by my grandmother and something by mother which I treasure, but neither is cross-stitch.

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    1. Yes Deborah, mothers are dear to all of us:)
      And handmade heirlooms are such treasures. So much of the people who made them stays in those pieces.

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  10. It's so amazing how the lessons we are taught stay with us forever. Such an amazing story. It sounds like your mom was an amazing woman. (Checking in from the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Almost Done!)

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    1. Thanks for visiting. I'd say my mother was truly amazing:)
      Yes, the end is near--excited about the free time but will miss this blogging bonding.

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  11. I loved doing X-stitch when I had my children and did birth samplers for each of them as well as design things myself. Now there seems no time for it but I do other arty and crafty things instead such as knitting. Recently my mum gave me an old cushion cover filled with some tools from my Dad - I remembered it from years ago because it was her school embroidery and done in "black work" - unfortunately the embroidery cotton had rotted/broken in places so very little is left but I do remember this when it was complete and I thought I'd never be able to do something so neatly. I love the stocking your friend made and as you say the memories it brings back are without price :)
    http://pempispalace.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/x-is-for-xerxes-xenophobe.html

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    1. Thank you for sharing your warm story Cat.
      Hope to see some of your creations on your blog, maybe?

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  12. Beautiful post. You really know how to take us back to our childhood days effortlessly.

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