Presenting Harmony's silvers - sparkling lives, success stories, accounts of endurance, courage, grit and passion
For Lakshmi Dhandapani, embroidery has been more than just a hobby

One stitch at a time

Author: admin

It was in the late 1970s that I held my first embroidery exhibition. It was at Valliammal School in Chennai, the school my children attended. The principal saw my work and invited me to display it. I sent it over and she had arranged it beautifully all across the classroom.

I have always stitched and embroidered as a hobby. I watched my sister do needlework; that’s where my learning began. In then Madras, I took tailoring classes, and have since done nearly 1,000 pieces of embroidery, ranging from clothing to upholstery.

My husband (in pic) was in the civil services and as a young bride I was expected to adhere to the norms, with no exceptions. I was never allowed to go out alone, and often stayed indoors. It was at this time when my children were young that I consistently sewed. When I had to buy thread, I had to ask the household staff to get it for me!

I also learnt to make fabric dolls from a lady in Karaikudi. My design inspiration comes from books I bought in London. Somehow I’ve never been able to part with my designs. What I have begun to part with, though, is my collection; I’ve given them to my grandchildren.

I’ve held exhibitions in 32 places across India. In 1974, I exhibited 300 pieces of my work and they were well-received. One of those special moments was when a relative of Raja Ravi Varma requested me to replicate two of his designs on fabric. One was of late prime minister Indira Gandhi and the second was a small book. He was thrilled to see the finished product!

I am 81 years old, and have no health issues. I always attend to my work at home first, and then sit with my embroidery work. I begin slowly and pick up the pace as I near completion. My vision is fairly good and I still take classes, free of cost, for those who are interested in embroidery.

Honestly, embroidery is not very useful. It is challenging and takes enormous energy, a strong will and keen interest to pursue this hobby. In many ways, I see this skill as God’s gift. I do think it’s important to keep yourself active all through the day. Apart from using one’s skill, embroidery teaches us many lessons, like being disciplined, using time productively and, most important, learning to pay attention to detail—appreciating the little things in life.

—Lakshmi Dhandapani, Coimbatore

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
December 2018