When I was in school, the girls used to have a period dedicated to needlework while the boys played football on the huge ground outside. The solace of this needlework period, sometimes, was the view of the ground thanks to the French windows, which we had in some classrooms. Also, fortunately, our school had lots of trees. It still does, but everything is bigger in memory. The almond and tamarind tress provided with shade, and, often, raw almonds and tamarinds too. We used to collect the tamarinds, and in our candor eat them for kicks. Raw as it was, it never failed to cheer us up. Needlework was compulsory in school. I was fairly decent at this handiwork, also because my mother is excellent at it. I remember clearly, we were asked to bring rectangular pieces of white cloth to class. The first stitch taught was tacking. Always. We would tack the rectangular pieces of cloth, and then we would graduate to the more complicated stitch – the hem stitch. Tacking was always easy, everyone could do it. However, hem stitch was not everyone’s cup of tea. We struggled through it. Once we had hemmed the sides of the rectangular pieces of cloth with white cotton thread, we would move on to using embroidery thread and practice a stitch a time in the middle of the cloth. Our teacher would use a pencil to draw a flower with a stem and hand our cloths back to us. We learnt how to do the satin stitch to fill in petals of flowers, how to do the stem stitch for the stem, how to do the knot stitch for the stamen of the flower and with this gradual learning we would have made a flower with leaves and a stem. This piece of cloth, could then serve as a handkerchief or we would preserve it for so much hard work, handwork, and patience had gone into it. When we did needle work I learnt a trick — I think my mother taught me this, but I forget — anyway, I learnt that if you want to test someone’s needle work, just turn the cloth around and see how neat the back of the cloth is. If it is as neat as the front, then you’ve got a great work smith. But if you don’t, no matter how pretty the front is, it just isn’t good enough. I haven’t forgotten this piece of advice.
So, when I looked at the frayed ends of my kurti this Sunday, I decided to fix it. I bought some lace, went to a tailor and asked him to stitch it on for me. He refused without even looking up. I thought maybe I could get home and ask my mother to talk to the tailor instead. When I got home, I changed my mind and ventured to do it myself. My mother, who believes that there is no point spending money when one can do a job by themselves, egged me on. For 4 days now, I have been stitching lace onto my kurti. Every evening I sit down with it and do my needlework. Today, I realise that probably it has taken me more time than it should have. Honestly, I was concerned about what it looked like on the back of the cloth. Not only this, I had to really up my patience levels to get it right. Now that I am done and dusted with my needlework, I have a teeny tiny feeling of satisfaction. But more than that I am grateful that the tailor refused to do it for me. Simply because, I enjoyed myself a lot. It was simply so much fun. You do learn life-skills in school.
P.S.: Cross stitch is an easy and beautiful stitch. For women in the quick age, the best part about it is that you don’t have to worry about anything. The aida cloth takes care of it all. Once upon a time, I stitched a butterfly perched on a flower. It was both, easy peasy, and wonderful!