Samples of Arhi work.

This is a follow up to my earlier posting on the Arhi Embroidery (Tambour Needle).

Today I would like to share a couple of samples. The first sample is a bright colored letter holder. I am sure many of you may have seen similar products at the Handicrafts fairs in India. This letter holder is made of cotton fabric and the chain stitch is done using cotton threads.

Isn't the craftsmanship beautiful? The design is well laid out, the choice of colors are good and the embroidery is very neat! A lot of care went into making this piece.

Click here to see the details.

Here is another sample of Arhi work on a salwar-kameez. Much of the distortion that you see is because the fabric kept slipping away while I was trying to photograph it. That said, there is a slight irregularity in the workmanship, probably because the fabric was stretched too tight. But overall, this piece has no flaws that stand out. Scroll down to view a close-up image of this embroidery.

The chain stitch is done using silk threads and the fabric is synthetic. The sequins are also attached using the Arhi. The stitches are small and even in size throughout the design. That is the advantage of using the arhi or the tambour needle. I like the choice of silk thread for this sample. It complements the luster of the synthetic fabric very well.

Click here if you want to read the earlier posting .


Kasuti - Circle of Friends.

I received an e-mail from a friend this morning reminiscing our childhood days and India as it was in the 80's and 90's. Remember that time? There was one phrase in the e-mail that stayed in my mind all day. "We called on friends to come out and play, never rang the door bell, just went through the back door." I am also guilty of this!! I have been very fortunate to have had a great circle of friends throughout my childhood. So today's embroidery is a creation remembering all those good times with my "Circle of Friends".

If you wish to try this piece of Kasuti embroidery, here is the design and the instructions for it.

Click here if you want to print it.


My experiment with the Tambour needle.

Tambour needle is the same as arhi or the cobbler's needle that is used extensively in Indian embroidery. It makes only one type of stitch - the chain stitch. For a long time I have had this desire to learn to use the tambour needle. So I bought myself a kit and began experimenting with it. I imagined that I would be sipping hot tea, listening to music, and working at ease at my homemade tambour frame. On the contrary, I was barely able to hold the thread in my left hand and twist the needle with the right! Eventually I did succeed, minus the tea and the music of course!
This is the tambour kit. It came with three needles of different sizes and an instruction sheet. The screw is used to change the needles.

Last weekend, I sat down to embroider a small design using the arhi, mostly to see if I would last that long. Here is the result. Initially it was a little challenging but when I was about halfway done, I actually started loving it!

Click here to view a larger image.

In India, arhi was originally used in the states of Gujarat and Kashmir. Now it is used by craftsmen in other states as well. In Gujarat it is believed to have started by the Mochi community (Mochi being cobbler), which primarily stitched shoes with similar needles. This technique seems to have been passed on to the Ahir community which became quite well known for their Kutchi Bharat. Their work is quite stunning! I have some samples and I will post them in a few days. Generally speaking, embroideries from Gujarat are bright with mostly primary and secondary colors (Blue, red, yellow, orange, green and purple). However, white and black are also used in Kutchi Bharat. The chain stitch is very small and is done using either cotton or silk threads (I can't imagine working with silk thread without damaging it). Arhi work can be seen on clothing, bed linen, wall hangings, letter holders, bags and so on.

In Kashmir, the embroidery done with the arhi is called Kashmiri Kashidas and quite different from the arhi work of Gujarat. The designs are mostly paisley and the thread colors, lighter. Crewel wool is used instead of cotton and silk. I will post a separate article on Kashmir embroidery so you can see the difference.

Lastly, my thoughts on the Tambour: There is a learning curve in using a tambour needle, no doubt about it. But once you cross that, it is great for working large pieces of embroidery and fast. Tambour means drum (I think in French!). It is rightly named for a frame, because the fabric has to be held as tight as a drum in order to embroider with ease. It is best if you use a frame so you have both hands free. If you choose to work with a hoop, make sure that the fabric is taut and that you can rest the hoop somewhere so that both hands are free (it is not impossible, but will slow you down).

Try it -you'll enjoy the experience!

You might also be interested in...
From the city of the NawabsKasuti - Circle of Friends



Here is a list of websites that may be of interest. I will try to update this page as often as possible.



I love to read and I am always looking for new books and references. So here is a list of some books that I found to be useful. These books have also been a great source of inspiration.

I have read all the books listed on this page, but if you're wondering whether I own all of them, the answer is NO! (I wish I did!! :))

  • Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Embroidery Stitches.
  • The Encyclopedia of Stitches: With 245 stitches Illustrated and 24 Exquisite Projects, by Karen Hemingway.
  • Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Embroidery. Includes Crewelwork, Goldwork, Ribbon Embroidery, and Embellishment by Melinda Coss.
  • Embroidery Techniques and Patterns by Marie-NoĆ«lle Bayard.
  • Blackwork by Mary Gostelow.
  • Creative Surface Design by Sandy Scrivano.