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iXiGOers Jul 03 2013

What is Soof Embroidery?

Reet Cheema Jul 03 2013
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Soof Embroidery is probably the best kind of art amongst Gujarat's long-standing tradition of embroidery of distinct styles, and is characterised by vibrant colours and mirror work. Soof is done with the surface satin stitch from the reverse side of the fabric. The embroidery is worked by the careful counting of warp and weft threads, without the pattern being drawn on the fabric. As no paper patterns or reference books are used, the embroiderer (mostly women) needs skill and imagination to guide the embroidery. They mentally picture the motifs and composition, then count the pattern or motifs out, and works the embroidery from the reverse of the fabric. Embroiderers prefer working on an evenly-woven cotton fabric as it aids in the counting of threads.

Photo of Soof Embroidery

Fine, single-colour threads are used for the embroidery, and the stitches appearing on the main face are often a centimetre long. Successive stitches are only one thread of the fabric weave apart, which makes for a dense patterning. As the stitches give the embroidery a linear and geometric effect, motifs such as the peacock, stars or flowers take on a stylised form. Most of the motifs are worked with the triangle as a form. Bright and contrasting colours of threads and small mirrors worked in the embroidery give it a bright appearance. Traditionally, soof has been worked on a variety of articles including garments, bedspreads, wall hangings, quilts, torans, cradle cloths, animal trappings and cushion covers. Embroiderers now create a range of more contemporary textiles like tablecloths, jackets, dress materials and spectacle cases for the urban market much to the delight of textile lovers and urban clients.

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