Bead Embroidered Henna Pouch
or, years of nostalgia

Years ago[1] I had dishcharged, stamped & free-style hand-painted this scrap of cotton fabric torn from some kid's pant mostly, iirc, because I thought the machine embroidery was worth saving.

Fast forward roughly a decade: I wanted something a little more elegant than a rubber band to carry my henna cards (4x6 cards with small designs suitable for birthday parties and the like) in. Since I'm still at the stage where I get henna everywhere, I wanted something that would disguise the inevitable brown stains. This piece seemed perfect.

What I think of as the “front”. —It shows the bulk of the machine embroidery, at any rate. 6x7" completed no later than 12 September 2017. Dyed, embroidered fabric, perl cotton embroidery thread, glass beads (there's also 1 copper, 1 freshwater pearl, and 1 4mm leopardskin jasper...), zipper, thread.

I used the lime & turquoise embroidery, which obviously was done with nylon thread (since it was completely unaffected by the vegetable specific dye) as my starting point for colour choice, adding in a few brown and violet beads to pick up on the fabric (background) colour and the purple scrolling (i.e. the “hand-paint”—actually applied with a squirt bottle.)[2]

Reverse. The ombre dyed brown cotton perl was a gift from Katie (Page's dear friend), purchased while we three were going about—possibly even during an earlier trip up north—thus adding another layer of connection.

Even more years ago I was given some ‘costumes’ from my boss's daughter's Bharathnatyam training[3] —I'm still wearing one of the pants, though it's on its last legs and the next step will be to take it apart & make a pattern, so I can recreate it from other fabric (hand dyed, of course;)[4]

Interior is stamped cotton fabric, but not by me.[5]

Most of these outfits, which were inexpensive & designed only to last through a few performances, have long since been recycled into other things; I thought the tan and black fabric, saved from one such costume, would be perfect for the lining, since henna is an important part of Indian culture. Note, too, the floral iconography—also very common in henna designs as well.

Closeup: the machine embroidery is actually in three colours: a brown that matches the fabric it's nearly invisible, and the green & blue for contrast. The hand embroidery was completed by 8Sept; the pouch was completed a few days later.

The beadwork also has a special meaning for me. For years, my friend Page and I had planned to go up to her parents’ cabin & make art. Unfortunately, her mother was nervous about letting my friend (let alone her buddies) hang out there on her own; now Page owns it, but has decided to sell. But before that happened, I got to satisfy my years’—possibly decades’—long ambition to do beadwork amongst the pines while watching the water in Torch Lake: since it's gonna inevitably get stained, and the old fabric is not especially durable anyway I didn't want to put too much time into stitching the beads; but I also wanted to complete the work during the trip, as it's a memento.

I did indeed finish the embroidery before we left. Since I didn't find my zippers[6] till I got back, that did mean I got to assemble the piece & insert the zipper—a resale shop find old enough to have metal teeth, btw—mostly by machine: the ends and curved parts I had to finish by hand.

So this work, fairly quick and simple, brings together several strands of experience throughout my life.


[1]I know it was no later than 2009 because I dyed a pair of pants using the same purple scrolling & black floral prints, which themselves were the inspiration for my 2009 round robin bead exchange bracelet...

[2]I don't have studio notes for dyeing, and I didn't photograph any of the pieces right away, so I may have done the purple scrolling on a couple of fairly closely spaced occasions; but my usual modus operandi was to do a series of clothes, finishing up with scrap fabric to use up the last of the dye, and then try a different combination of colours for the next round. More or less. So that dates the base fabric;)

[3]Seeing her Arangetram was a major honour and pleasure for my friend Page & me: P. shared it with two other girls, to save money, and said our enjoyment was a nice change from her relatives most of whom had seen it many times before, and were kinda bored.

[4]This particular style appeals very much, as it's close around the legs, and thus doesn't get caught in bicycle chains, but loose enough to accommodate non-stretchy 100% woven cotton during activities like yoga, and lightweight enough to be suitable for, say, highly aerobic activities like skating, even on very hot days.

[5]I did wear the pants from which it came, though.

[6]Victim of a studio tidy...