Parvez Caliph is not your Everyman. For, he has taken up a hobby that has for centuries been associated with the Everywoman. Sewing. The 37-year-old, who monitors the setting up of wind farms across the country, winds down occasionally after work, not with Netflix but a sewing machine.
Sewing and other forms of needlework, until the global 20th century, was a craft heavily lined with gender and class politics — a serious occupation for men, a preoccupation for women. Rich women sewed for leisure, poor women sewed to survive, doing piece-work at home before the Industrial Revolution, which then transported them from their slums to mechanised sweatshops.
Mass-produced garments and linen made sewing and tailoring fringe affairs. Feminists saw it as regressive and anachronistic labour. Some men did sew, but they were the exception.
It was only in the 21st-century that enterprise and individuality brought back needlework as a creative craft, free of gendered buttonholes. Men, in fact, have brought a new sensibility to sewing, introducing motifs and designs (skulls, bikes, etc.) not commonly found in classic embroidery canon.
Until last year, the Bandra-based Caliph’s sewing skills extended to fixing a button or mending a tear. Then he stepped into The Hab, a haberdashery and workshop centre run by Usha (the sewing machine makers) in Bandra. He signed up for a couple of beginner courses in stitchery and purchased a sewing machine. “I have expensive appliances at home, like a pair of glass speakers by Harmon Kardon, and I wanted dust covers for them. Instead of calling a tailor, I decided to stitch them myself,” says Caliph, who aims to stitch his own shirts one day. Caliph, who also plays the guitar and cooks, sees sewing as therapeutic.
For hobbyists, needlecraft is a form of creative expression or mode of meditation, often both. Self-taught embroiderer Asif Shaikh likens it to vipassana. He started sewing as a young boy in Ahmedabad. “A weak constitution prevented me from doing strenuous physical activities so I would sit on my balcony and sew, even though people asked me why I was doing women’s work,” he says. Shaikh’s embroidered art now sells for several lakhs.
Behind Parin Gala’s decision to take a stab at needlework was a desire to gift his 3-year-old daughter Reeva a self-made birthday present last year. “She’s a fan of Peppa Pig, so without telling my wife, I came to Bombay for a day’s workshop at The Hab, where I machine-embroidered the character on a towel under the guidance of the instructor. It took no more than half an hour,” says the superbike dealer from Pune, whose daughter now won’t have any other towel but the one her father made her.
Gala believes if there is anything that can induce men to needlework, it is the new and improved sewing machine — sleek, wifi-enabled, automatic contraptions that can embroider digitised designs almost independently even as you cook a casserole in the kitchen.
In metros like Mumbai, while quilting, crocheting, and other needlework classes abound, trendy concept stores like The Hab that double as sewing schools are more likely to draw in male students because they leave them free to browse without coercing them to learn. “When they walk in and learn how innovative and easily operable sewing machines have become, they want to know more,” says Arwah Attari, brand manager at The Hab, where workshops are routinely organised. “What excites them further is the customisation they can achieve with a sewing machine, working with different fabrics, even paper and synthetic material. You can make wedding cards on a sewing machine,” she says.
Laksh Pahuja, a 53-year-old goldsmith, plans to co-opt the sewing machine into his jewellery design by making fabric jewellery and other forms of needlework-enhanced decorative art. “Sewing is simply creative,” he maintains, “There’s nothing ‘girly’ about it.” Chris Hemsworth, in a recent interview, admitted to enjoying some cross-stitch. When Thor himself endorses the craft, its macho appeal doesn’t need proving.
Source : timesofindia