Ari Work from India…Guest blogger Penny Peters
Ari work is a time honored embroidery tradition in India, typically practiced by the Mochi caste of Gujarat, India. The Mochis adopted the Muslim religion during Mughal times and belonged to a leather-working caste. Leather work was done by men who used an ari hook to work lines of chain stitches on decorated leather shoes and slippers. This work is still done today and can be found in the shoe shops that cater to locals and tourists. I found a picture of these on the internet from Wandering Threads. As tastes change there are fewer customers for embroidered shoes and skilled men look for other ways to practice their traditional art. When recently in India I found a group of Muslim men commissioned by Kamlanjni Design Studio (no website) to stitch beautiful ari shawls and wall hangings with silk thread for the upscale Indian home décor market. The men work on floor frames that hold large pieces of handwoven fabric, several men working on a single piece. The designer has used traditional Mughal themes for the embroideries. The stitchers work with one hand on top of the fabric and one below. The ari hook itself is like an awl with a tiny hook at the tip. The thread is held beneath the fabric with the hand on top holding the hook. The hook is pushed through the fabric catching the thread into a loop which is then drawn to the top. This action is repeated as the hook advances creating a line of tiny or long chain stitches. In the work I photographed, the tiny chain stitches are used as filling stitches in a variety of colors as the patterns dictate. The colors and stitch patterns are radiant, and I am so happy that this beautiful stitch tradition has not been lost.