In the last few months, while you perfected your grandmother’s chocolate cake recipe or mastered the push-up, a group of people — some newbies, some experienced — indulged in nostalgia. They revisited the art of embroidery. Actor-writer Twinkle Khanna, who had picked up crocheting and embroidering as a child, recently told Weekend that she spent lockdown teaching her kids how to make hoops. And if you go by Google Trends, where searches for words like ‘embroidery’ and ‘embroidery frame’ have gone up worldwide, the love is widespread.
Here are five people who’ve taken the hobby a step further, turning their art into a lucrative business.
Empowered, with mum: Aditya Lavanya of Thaiyal, Nagercoil
Floral wreaths, a boat in a lily pond, intricately hand-embroidered landscapes — these are some of the projects this mother-daughter duo has completed so far. Lavanya, 23, started Thaiyal (with a dual meaning in Tamil: stitching or a beautiful, empowered woman) during lockdown to beat boredom. “[The last few months] have taken a mental toll on everyone and art is our escape,” says the architect, who learnt embroidery from her mother, Meera Bai P, a professional artiste. Today they spend close to eight hours a day working on orders. “We draw inspiration from nature and photographs, use fabrics like net and organza, and techniques such as the fly stitch and French knot,” says Lavanya, who has sent out nearly 40 orders so far and has also created an adjustable hoop stand in-house. Starting at ₹950 for a 6” hoop and ₹2,500 upwards for a 12” hoop. The stand costs ₹600. Details: @thaiyal.by.aa
Documenting the everyday: Manvi Gandotra, Bengaluru
A few months ago, the photographer and new mother took up embroidery and began documenting everyday things: flower vases, a cycle, even a broom and mop. She also started embellishing her nine-month-old daughter’s dresses with colourful flowers and fishes. “I’ve created over 50 hoops ranging from three to 12 inches. I embroidered the cover of my favourite book [ Anne of Green Gables ], too, among other things,” says Gandotra, who designed an embroidered poster on Covid-19 for Jaipur’s Nila House. She is now hosting online workshops (₹1,500- ₹2,500) for beginners. “Participants are sent a starter kit and I cover the basic stitches in a two-hour online session,” says Gandotra, who is hosting an embroidered tote bag workshop on September 6. Hoops from ₹4,000 upwards @manvigandotra .
Fighting stereotypes: Naushin Kaipally, founder, Baari, Kerala
Smashing stigmas through embroidery is the forte of this textile designer and artist based in Malappuram, Kerala. A NIFT graduate (who learned embroidery in college), Kaipally, 25, returned to the hoop in April this year “to cope with the anxiety caused by the rapidly changing world”. Titled ‘Breaking Stereotypes, One Art at a Time’, her project spreads awareness on issues such as menstrual health, body positivity and the importance of mental well-being. “We weren’t born with these insecurities, they are given to us by the world we live in. I am using my art to turn people’s attention to the issues that need to be addressed,” says Kaipally, who has incorporated unusual surfaces such as dry leaves, twigs and paper in her latest series, ‘Grow Unapologetically’. “It is based on the belief that one should never stop growing and working on themselves, no matter how bad the past has been,” says the artiste, who spends 10-15 hours on a hoop and also customises embroidered portraits. From ₹399 to ₹2,499. To register for her embroidery workshops (held every Saturday), visit naushinkaipally.com .
Drawing from nature: Rabari Artisans at Okhai, Ahmedabad
“Hoops used as art is a new concept for Rabari artisans, from Gujarat’s Okhamandal region. [To them] this is a tool and not the end product,” says Kirti Poonia, who heads craft platform Okhai where they now retail hoops. With designs such cactus and blue skies, it is evident the artistes draw inspiration from nature. “It is what the world is craving right now. We want to bring home the scenery people are missing,” she says, adding that if an artiste embroiders non-stop, she can design a hoop in two hours. “However, embroidery is always done like meditation, in small sittings of 10 minutes or as a break in between household chores.” Raw materials are provided to the artisans at home. Priced between ₹550 and ₹700, on okhai.org
Portrait ready: Sandhya Radhakrishnan, Sandy’s Craft World, Thrissur, Kerala
When the former HR professional decided to be more productive during lockdown, she turned to bottle art, before transitioning to embroidery hoops. “Since I knew stitching and the basics of embroidery, it was easy to learn,” says Radhakrishnan, 32, who perfected her technique watching YouTube tutorials. After a follower on Facebook requested a portrait, similar orders started coming in, helping her find her niche in embroidered portraits. “They are usually done in black thread, but I use coloured ones to make them look more vibrant. And though embroidery is traditionally done on poplin cloth, I’ve been experimenting with canvas and collar canvas.” She works with 10”, 12” and 14” hoops. From ₹1,000 onwards, on Sandys Craft World on Facebook
Single-thread wonders: Farzana Faris, Thrissur, Kerala
The 22-year-old has been embroidering for a few years. After a forced break (due to health issues), she picked up the needle again this lockdown — with an Instagram account and a virtual shop, The Thready Women. “I began working on commissioned projects last year, but couldn’t continue for long. I restarted a few months ago with the hope of raising enough money to organise an exhibition of my work,” she says. While she dabbled with floral designs and recreated photographs (of couples and babies) earlier, she now wants to experiment. “I’ve decided to focus on single-strand thread portraits, something I haven’t done before. I’ve also switched from cotton to linen and casement fabrics as they last longer and the embroidery looks better when framed,” says the artiste, whose popular works include a portrait of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and actor Jayasurya. Between ₹800 and ₹2,000 on @thethreadywomen_by_farsana