Colorful and vibrant colors and meadows of flowers are just what we need right now, and Dhara Shah of @chain_stitch delivers! She has been sharing about her embroidery journey for quite a while now on Instagram and has published a brand new embroidery book last year. In this interview Dhara Shah aka @chain_stitch shares more about her experience, her book, and tips & tricks about embroidery.
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Hi Dhara, I’m glad to have you here! Could you give us a short introduction so my readers know who you are?
I’m Dhara Shah living my passion of being an embroidery and fibre artist currently in Warsaw, Poland. I make original embroidered hoops, canvas embroidery, embroidered bags, apparel and quilts. I’ve been embroidering on and off since childhood but I started my business since December 2017.
I love travelling and exploring cultures and so far this is the 6th country we’ve lived in!
How did you find your way to embroidery? When did it become a passion of yours?
I have grown up seeing women around me embroider almost as an extension of their being. It was routine to see them get together and embroider(usually a saree or a big bedsheet) every afternoon or evening once their chores were done… and it was very easy to be inspired by it… even without consciously analysing it. When something beautiful is created, that is always inspiring!
I learnt the basic stitches in school, and then carried embroidery with me in some form or other throughout my life. It became a full time occupation some 4 years ago.
You recently wrote an embroidery book, can you tell me more about it?
My embroidery book is a little part of my being … I have tried to pass on everything I have learnt in my 20+ year embroidery journey to anyone who wants to try out embroidery or explore it a little more …what to get when you’re starting out and how to source it, the basic stitches that’ll be enough to get you going and a whole bunch of fun and varied patterns to give you practical experience! I also included a bunch of patterns to embroider home ware and apparel – because I love functional embroidery that can be incorporated in our daily life.
My review of The Embroidery Handbook
I got a copy of Dhara’s book to review. The Embroidery Handbook is a great starter book. If you have never touched an embroidery needle before, you will love this book. I love how thorough Dhara has written out the basics like how to transfer a pattern, thread the needle, etc. You will have a great foundation of knowledge to tackle a lot of projects after reading this book without it being too much.
This is a beginner book. So everything you need to know is included in this book. There is always more than one method explained so that you can choose based on the project. I was very impressed by the many transfer methods included. That part is often overlooked in embroidery books or kept very short.
15 embroidery stitches
In this book, you’ll learn 15 stitches. Each stitch is featured on one or two pages (depending on difficulty) with a lot of instructions and step-by-step pictures. The instructions are thorough and easy to follow.
The Embroidery Handbook includes 20 projects. The projects range from very beginner-friendly to a bit more elaborate. I love that the projects are a good mix of embroidery for frames, home textiles, and clothes. My favorite is the embroidery on a velvet sweater! Each project comes with step-by-step instructions and pictures!
I’m personally a big fan of vibrant colors and this book is filled with them.
I like that there are multiple types of motifs like flowers, animals, books, food, leaves, landscapes and more.
What is your favorite time and place to embroider?
I normally like to embroider when I am alone and not worried about other matters at home or outside – so my most productive times tend to be the school hours or once the little ones are in bed. I enjoy the silence and simultaneously to hear the needle piece the texture of the fabric.
Are there any embroidery helpers or tools you recommend using?
That’s a question one can answer for many pages!! Because it is difficult to know when and where to stop!
However, beyond the embroidery basics(floss, fabric, hoop, needles and snips) I would recommend investing in a basic light board to transfer your patterns, a good quality transfer pen (like Bohin) for darker fabrics and wash away stabilisers. They’ve been game changers for me!
What is your system of storing your embroidery threads?
I like to use the DMC organisers for my stranded floss and bigger boxes for my perle cotton floss, which I absolutely love to embroider with. I tend to experiment with a wide variety of floss – hence I do make sure to separate them by brands – it helps to keep track of the floss numbers when I’m making my patterns
What is your favorite part of the embroidery process from start to finish and which do you like the least?
The actual embroidery is without doubt my favourite part – and I think the portion when I have to choose the colour palette is both exciting and scary all at the same time . I tend to be intuitive and impulsive in my colour choices and sometimes they don’t turn out as expected and that leads to a lot of unraveling!
Which embroidery project was the most challenging one you have ever done?
I would say the sunset canvas embroidery was the toughest one till date – it was embroidered on canvas and there was a very gradual gradient of the sunset colours … but there was no pattern to it. It had to be done organically- and I couldn’t put my mind to any other project(I normally multitask) while I was working on that one.
There are so many embroidery techniques and materials out there. What would you love to try out one day that you haven’t done yet?
Oh, punch needle! I would love to have a go at it- I love the textures you can achieve with punch needle and it would be fun to try my hand at it.
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self who has just started embroidering that you wish you had known back then?
Always go for quality over the cheap stuff. Embroidery is meant to last – you don’t want your beautiful work spoiled because the colours ran or the fabric tore cuz of quality issues!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! Where can we find you to see more of your work?
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