The past two times that I have worked with a needle and thread, I noticed a deep concentration and an odd kind of commitment I felt to finishing what I started. How literally, ‘in my hands’ it is to start and finish or not! There’s no one watching you sewing that button, darning a tear or embroidering something and so there is no expectation … but something interesting happens; you notice how patient you are with yourself.


Needlework, they say, is beneficial in many ways; it can boost your confidence, the more you make something beautiful, the more you know what you are capable of. It’s a huge stress buster, and it’s gender-neutral!!! The World War soldiers from Britain, Australia, and New Zealand were encouraged to take up hand embroidery as a part of their rehabilitation. It was a part of the occupational therapy to help them gain back their fine motor skills and treat trauma. 
It builds patience, taking the time to decide the materials, stitches, and patterns for your project and stitching it to the finish requires a certain amount of perseverance. Having patience lowers your blood pressure and reduces your acne in the process!
Needlecraft’s, let you express yourself, if you don’t want to talk…just stitch! Small words of encouragement stitched on a piece of fabric, form a great gift to others.


Many stay at home women produce small hand embroidered stuff to be exhibited and sold. What made that possible? The increase in confidence because the wheel of creativity begins to turn as you persevere at it.  It’s inexpensive, environment friendly and a wonderful activity for children too, in that it develops skills that transfer over to other areas of life.
I remember we grudgingly did needlework in school. It was a compulsory subject, where we learnt basic mending, embroidery and some buttonholing. At home, my mother engaged a gentle Parsi lady, Luluben, to teach my sister and me more embroidery; the long stitch, cross-stitch, eyelet, running and chain stitches. She knew its value and how it could embellish our lives over time I guess.

The term ‘embroidery’ is derived from the French word ‘broderie’ which means embellishment. 



Here is one we made then, now framed as a beautiful memory.

Last year when I was visiting my son in London, he was bemoaning the holes in his favourite T-shirts. Though I hadn’t done any needlework in years, on a whim I said ‘I can fix it!’  Soon a pile of  T-shirts were plonked on my bed to salvage. I went to the haberdashery and got some threads, needles and rings to do the job.
For the next few days I sat and embroidered those t-shirts with whatever stitches I remembered, I managed a beautiful bee, some fashionable crisscross stitches and some filler stitches to camouflage the big and small holes. He was very impressed! And In the process I  re-discovered the calming, engrossing and therapeutic outcome of the ‘one stitch at a time ‘ process … there is a Hindi word, ‘magna’; to be obliviously, completely involved in something. 
I realised  I had been sitting for hours, meditatively and purposefully stitching away, threading and re-threading my needles, picking colours, creating designs, admiring my own skill and most importantly thoroughly enjoying myself!
And then last week a friend came by wearing a T-shirt she finally fitted into, unfortunately, a rusted hanger had corroded gaping holes in it, but she didn’t want to discard it. Again, I offered to fix it. Several holes of varying sizes stared at me, I decided to do an eyelet stitch, leaving the holes intact and embroidering around it to restrict further tears. I sat for hours not even needing a break and embroidered away, finishing the whole lot in one happy go!
You know, the process of needlework and embroidery is also the end and not just the means to an end! What you experience through the process is just as much as you feel at the end when you admire your finished piece. It has been surprisingly satisfying, I have not felt this peaceful and happy in a long while… a needle bit of joy!!

Neerja Shah

Former Publisher Editor of Elle India & TV Producer

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