Needling Nostalgia — Needle work.

Audience at GALF mesmerized by the richness of Punjab and Phulkari.
Audience at GALF mesmerized by the richness of Punjab and Phulkari.

First weekend of December Goa has the Art and Literary festival. This time round we had a Kirandeep Kaur of 1469worksho. a concept her husband and she are working with, to revive the dying art of Phulkari..

They shared their journey into sourcing these original Bagh’s how they were gifted to daughters, or grandchildren on specific occasion and how each of this specific occasion was translated into needlework.

They had come across families who owned these Phulkari Bagh’s without even being aware of its worth except probably to link it to the memory and lineage of whoever did it for them.

Alka Pande and Kirandeep Kaur sharing the Phulkari journey at GALF
Alka Pande and Kirandeep Kaur sharing the Phulkari journey at GALF

they also shared the different Motif’s that were worked colours used and shared their decision to digitalize these prints so that the art form would still survive fitting into the budget and washing patterns of the contemporary user.

Kirandeep kaur a typical contemporary Indian woman, well read with strong value system essaying multiple roles, of mother, wife, daughter juggling work and family is so vibrant.and a decade ago her husband and she came up with a unique lifestyle brand showcasing the rich heritage of Panjab.. Kirandeep  shared that though it is hard to believe farmer suicides do happen in Punjab too. 1469workshop  used these Phulkari creation workstations to rehabilitate many women

Phulkari from Amritsar
Phulkari from Amritsar


Kirandeep says Phulkari is the story of women, crafted by women  handing memories and traditions to the next generation.

As Alka Pande and Kirandeep  walked us through the various Bagh’s that is what the finished work of Phulkari is called I was transported back to high school and I was in standard six.

We had a class called craft; this in those days, meant embroidery and not tailoring the difference is very subtle. I discovered colours, skeins and stitches. Each lunch break I would gulp my lunch down and rush to the craft room. Were teachers would be having their lunch, and start doing embroidery until the first bell went off, from the first bell to the second bell was what was called the study period, it allowed us to the library to access the books. These used to be the high lights of the school time.

Dharwad Kasuti on Assan silk-- 1989
Dharwad Kasuti on Assan silk– 1989

I worked on saris and dresses somehow the tradition of doing embroidery on landscapes and framing them never caught my fancy. First it was the single shade skeins, then the shaded skeins, making the design work.

As Gurumeet shared the slides, of women of assorted age, sitting across a Bagh, working their deft fingers, carrying conversations. I remember the teacher Janaki tracing out the design and many of us kids who lunch at school sitting round the spread sari and gossiping, it was as if the sari spread was connecting us.

Of course it was a different matter that the embroidery teacher would take on these projects for which she would get paid by the customers while we kids did the actual work. That really did not seem to matter much for it kept us occupied in what might have otherwise been a boring venture.

Shadow work on Calico 1991
Shadow work on Calico 1991

Though I did learn the lazy Daisy and other stitches, it was Kutch work that I found fascinating. I actually did embroider a sari for myself. Another needlework that I did find very fascinating was the Kasuti of Dharwad.

In standard eight, Janaki teacher introduced us to tatting, and a boring teacher meant we would have contests in completing tatting patterns in the stipulated time. The thrill was crafting a work longer than the others. And not getting caught while working it.

Eventually some of us graduated to knitting, for me it was tatting or crochet which I could work with even while I was travelling by bus. Actually coming to think of it travelling by bus or train makes so much sense because the travel time allows us creative respite that we are robbed off when we drive our own vehicle.

When I got married I shifted to machine embroidery using my Fashion maker I tailored and embroidered my daughters’ clothes.  Of course each of these projects took at least 15 days.

Looking at the Phulkari, I am now looking to make time maybe 15 mnts a day, or an hour a week for this art that brought in colour to my life.



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