One Stitch at a Time: Reviving Hand Embroidery with Wenlin Studio
Hand-written letters are replaced by instant messages, rental video stores now only exist in old TV shows, floppy disks have been rendered obsolete… The emergence of new technologies simplified our lives and gave us immediate access to almost everything. However, the Fourth Industrial Revolution might bring the end to many traditional arts, including the art of hand embroidery.
Why supporting Hand Embroidery Matters
I have a me-made tote from when I was 14. It’s made of an old curtain and after 10+ years it doesn’t look very instagramable, but I love that tote. I have other market bags which were given to me as merchandise. They are cute but I won’t be upset if they break or get stained.
As for embroidery, mass-produced items often mean machine-made. Such things do not have a soul, they look monotonous and often are quickly discarded. We, consumers, tend to treasure things that are one of a kind and can tell stories.
Wenlin Studio has a wonderful story to tell. Founded in 2017 by Gul E Raana, the brand designs and produces hand embroidered bags “with a blend of contemporary aesthetic and the traditional ways of artisanal workmanship”. Through this work Wenlin Studio empowers communities in Pakistan and helps them benefit financially from a craft native to this land.
hua pouches in the making
I’m a lucky owner of A Bunch of Garden Flowers pouch! It’s made using the traditional Aari technique. Aari work might look like it is machine-made, but those are usual chainstitches done in a different way: the fabric is stretched on a frame and stitching is done with a long needle with a hook similar to a crochet hook but sharper. Let me take you through the making process.
For every design Wenlin Studio takes inspiration in all things around, but especially nature. The sketches are made by gouache on acid-free paper, and then they travel from London to Punjab, to serve as a reference for artisans.
Designs’ outlines are drawn onto butter paper and then transferred onto fabric using the old method of pouncing. Artisans prick holes onto the surface of paper, and pigment gets through those holes directly on the fabric, priming it for embroidery.
All Wenlin Studio’s products are a combination of traditional embroidery techniques and modern values. The pouches are made by local artisans in Punjab using natural fabrics and threads.
The products are sewn in London by talented Annie Blatchford. Wenlin Studio is committed to use only 100% natural, surplus or recycled textiles, and recycled zippers from YKK.
my personal favourites
I love all Hua Pouches because I love everything handmade, knits and embroidery especially. But if I had to narrow it down to four, I’d choose these:
The world is rich in craft skills. Some people knit, some macramé, some make pottery or ikebana. And some, like people at Wenlin Studio, make embroidered designer bags! Traditional crafts are important and worth being passed to future generations. They are links to our past, and it’s up to us to sustain these crafts and let them into the future.