Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Knots, a Long Way

All who know, those who've attempted those tricky stunts, have all said we shouldn't keep the thread too long. But I was in a hurry. I had so much I needed to do. I thought the longer thread would sew faster.

I was wrong. It got into a twist as soon as I pulled the needle through the fabric. At the first tug through uneven terrain, a knot emerged. I wasn't ruffled. After all, knots are part of this whole threaded affair. But as I inserted the needle into the centre of the knot, carefully trying to prise it open, I realised it wasn't just one knot there. It seemed as if three of them were nestled together, really, really close. And, unravelling them was trickier than anything I'd tackled before. I could have cut my losses, started over and this time gone with the knowledge of seers, taking a shorter thread. But I'm stubborn. I like to finish whatever I've started and rarely cut the knots out of the thread.
I pulled and poked and tugged and cursed. I got some slip. It gave me confidence so I tried harder and persisted. The second one opened and I thought okay, it's going to be alright! But the last one was such a bummer. It wouldn't relent. And after the lengthy struggle, when it gave way and the threads separated and I could sew again, there was no thrill, no sigh of relief.
And then for a while, each time I pulled the lengthy thread through the layers of fabric, it knotted and I went through quite an ordeal.

All I could think of was that the time it took, it wasn't worth it. I was self-critical, judgemental and grouchy. But gradually the working eased up and after it was approximately half the original length sewing was a breeze. As I stitched in running stitch, tacking a finished embroidery onto organza, for it to be framed as if in mid-air, something stirred in me, akin to hope. No, not hope but something that seemed to revive hope.

I found the thread was nearly long enough to go right round the perimeter of the fabric - like a parikrama. Of walking around a sacred space and completing it from corner to corner, where this parkirama symbolizes the cycle of life - from non-being to being to self-realisation of that state of non-being. Although I didn’t manage this with devout faith, the idea was both heartening and interesting. This journey through life towards realising the fundamental essence of being as non-being is, after all, what the scriptures encourage us towards defining as the essential purpose of life, isn’t it?

But, it ended just two stitches short of it. This made me consider, that if I hadn't started from the uneven terrain, where the delicate organza was heavily layered with cross-stitched matte, which meant beginning a little before the actual corner, then it would have been a perfectly calculated length. But the reason I'd started out at that angle was because I wanted a strong support for the knot - that knot that secured the thread to the fabric.

This was a tricky dilemma. It had taken a long time. It had been a tiresome and knotty ordeal. I hadn't followed the prescribed wisdom of those that went before me. The beginning had taken up more thread and resulted in an incomplete parkirma. I could say that I had learned things along the way, unravelling the knots. I had tried something out that I'd seen through to the end – if not the end of the journey, but the end of the thread? And besides, what guarantees does one have that the shorter thread wouldn’t create its own knots? The length of thread was no longer the issue in my mind.

The crisis I faced, was at that crucial juncture when the thread ran out, which was the hardest to bear. It seemed such a cruel fate to have to re-thread, start all over again because even though I'd selected intuitively, even though my perception and foresight were profoundly correct, they still fell short of that perfect bulls eye - of getting it just right and validating all my choice in the process.

It seems simple doesn't it, to just pick up another length from the same reel of thread and carry on? But somehow, this isn't how we deal with the nitty-gritty of living, is it? If this were a situation that involved emotional issues, that sense of falling short would have been cause for recrimination and beating of the proverbial chest and questioning the existence of God. I mean, it would be perfectly natural to question that if I could come so close, why couldn't my intuition have guided me with the perfect length of thread? And so much would be said in a similar vein. But, a thread spun of cotton fibre, or that of the fibre of experience, at the end of the day are just that - a thread with which we keep sewing. Or isn't it?

I didn’t finish the parikrama, I left it two stitches short. It didn’t matter for the purpose of tacking the finished work, but would it matter in the larger scheme of living? I wonder. What do you think?


  1. I think I have not often, even maybe never read such an interestng thing about textile art. What you express is so close to my path : living the sewing and the stitching as a personnal spritual way. How technical options, or making options reflect inner decisions bound to the deepest requirements of one's interior life is properly a wonder.
    Thanks for sharing this journey where know-how and art of living " weave " together, it echoes so perfectly in my mind, it is exactly the kind of things I feel when working. Learning, through making, where and when your intuition wants to guide you to perfection, and you learn to listen to thus little voice whispering into your ear, I think it's the highest you can ask to art. I'll share these thoughts in french and let you know.

    1. It's there.

      Sorry, it's in french, but i'm not fluent enough in english to keep the motion..

    2. Thank you Guillaume for those thoughts. I surely appreciate your comments and will see the link in French - I hope there is a translation facility there as I don't read or understand French at all. It is really good to hear that you find resonance with my process.

    3. Thanks Gopika. I'm sure you will understand the main line, because I did nothing but say what you said, just say it a way it makes still more clear in french how much you can heal with textile art. I wish I take the time to translatee it " properly", I mean putting the readers feet in your path, to make understand how " universally human " was this ordeal, and thus, alla the profit we could make of it.

    4. Thanks Guillaume, it feels really good to know that, through your understanding and appreciation, my thoughts are reaching a whole different audience, one I couldn't ever have considered addressing because of the language barriers. But you are right, the issues we face are universal and healing through stitching is something that everyone can relate to. Once again thank you for sharing.

  2. Interesting. I guess we are accepting in some areas of life and not so accepting in some other areas.
    The insight you bring to this piece is an eye-opener.
    Thank you.

    1. Thank you Austere, you're right some things are easier to accept than others - I find it very useful to use stitch and thread as an analogy because being inanimate - a thing, the emotion is distilled and I find greater clarity. Most of the time, as I am working a thought pops up that is compelling and I have to write my thoughts down there and then. Obviously there is deeper thought given before I post. I explore the idea with time and thought, but usually the inspiration and insight is revealed while stitching.

      Thanks for reading and writing in. Always appreciated.

    2. A very sensitively written piece of literature, which indulges in self-reflection and analysis of experiences of life in a philosophical way. Each experience, if experienced consciously and reflectively,leads one to wisdom.

    3. Thank you Gayatri for those words of wisdom. It is true that if we immerse and feel each experience fully, this does indeed lead us to wisdom. I find that those are the most fulfilling moments of being, when I am able to do that. For the most part it tends to get chaotic and then writing is the best way of meditation and contemplation on experiences. I am glad to hear that you liked this post. Thank you for reading and writing in. Much appreciated.