EMBODIED STITCH - Cross cultural hand stitching

Embodied stitch is my process and the first of my 6 week courses.

Over the last five years I had developed a series of processes that stem from cultural indigenous ways of working. This cross cultural fusion is important to me as I have a direct resonnance with each process.

I started useing Kwandi as a construction prosses within both utilitarian and Fine Art making when I  discovered the the African Indian tribes and their extrodinary hand sewn quilts. Both the  Siddis and the Habshis are tribes in India that are descendants from slaves that were taken  from Central and East Africa by both Arab and Portuguese traders.

It is believed, that they were taken to Goa, from East Africa, firstly by the Arabs and then by the Portuguese to be slaves and soldiers. On release or escape they moved inland to the remote areas of Western Indian mountainous regions of Karnataka and Madarashtra, where they live today.

There are differing accounts as to when they arrived in India, but it is not disputed that due to the trade wind routes they were brought over at  different times, probably between 300 and 500 years ago, however some accounts date their first arrival as early as 700AD when the Arabs launched their first Muslim conquest under Mohamed Bin Qasim.

They are often referred to as the African Indians, however the Indian Government has declared them as recognized tribes of India. 

Having been born and brought up in Kenya and having researched the textile development and patterns from the Portugese trade wind routes; I can see a definate correlation between the Portugese Lencos, through Kanga development and on to the Kwandis and Godharis ( The Indian African Quilts)

The quilts are made in a completly different way to traditional Western methods and techniques. The quilt is constructed with the two or three layers being stitched all together, at the same time, as with Indian Kantha stitching.

This enables the piece to be constructed and decorated at the same time. This means that the stitching is seen on the back. The other major difference is that the piecework is placed and constructed from the outside moving into the centre.

In Japanese Boro Boro means something tattered and old and refers to clothing, bedding and other utilitarian  textiles. It  was practiced in a remote area of Japan’s North Island where the winters were extremely harsh.

It is believed that this process developed in the late 1800’s and was used through the generations right up to the later years of the 1900’s. The traditional textiles used, coupled with reuse, upcycling  and repair over repair; enable us to follow an aesthetic that is having a resurgence and  relevance today within the  sustainable practice of visible mending.

Boro follows many Budhist and Japanese philosophies including Wabi Sabi.  Essentially it means “ imperfection, impermanence and the acceptance of these things as simple beauty”

“Wabi” translates as “ the elegance and beauty of simplicity” “Sabi translates as “ time passing and therefore deterioration “Textiles are impermanent, whilst they can last for many years, they will eventually deteriorate. However this does not mean that we throw them away, rather in repairing emphasise the repair the emphasis is on enhancing and making as aesthetically pleaseing the repair as possible.

  • We must not get lost in the aesthetics of these two processes, it is important to remember that they are both born from the necessity of poverty. Whilst we have a choice in: using scraps of fabric and old clothing  and practicing visible mendings as an aesthetic,the farmers, fishermen and small holders of India and Japan did not.
  • I do believe however that these two processes can teach us a great deal aesthetically and philosphically in todays world.

Slow stitch  is mindfulness…. Being in the presentIt is not a technique, it has no real definition. 

Kwandi is a process to make a quilt.

Boro is a form of repair and piecework for everyday objects that lengthen the lifespan of the object.

In both of these there is a means to an end…you are working towards either making or repairing.

In slow stitch…there is no end…we are not working towards a product, or a repair…the object of slow stitch is the journey…

The slow movement has grown quickly since its inception in 1986 when Carlo Petrini a restauranter in Rome began his  protest against the opening of a McDonalds in one of Rome’s oldest squares. The slow movement  however …(if we look slow down and consider it in more depth, ) is not about doing things slower, but doing things in a more mindful way, being fully in the present. By doing things slower we become more aware of our thoughts, feelings, emotions we make a deeper connection with our materials, our processes, our family, society, culture, and history. With connection there is understanding, 

When I began exploring slow and contemplative stitch I intentionally decided to make hand stitched books as a process of mindfulness meditation.  They became a record of a day , a week a month of stitching in silence.

I now also make books that are constructed from Boro and Kwandi processes and methodologies.

I make concertina books, roll books and flip books. The stitching is simple and intuitive. I use both fabric and felt, the book grows and develops over time as a rhythmic narrative takes voice.


It is my hope in this course to connect you with the global hand stitching techniques of  Indian Kwandi / Ghodri – Japanese Boro and Stitch Meditation that developed from the Slow movement.

I do not want you to copy or try to slavishly reproduce any of these methods, rather to look at the philosophy and social history and then take the elements that interest you to play, develop and explore within your own creativity and work.

In the course I teach all of the processes seperatly with 2 weeks for each process. I then encourage each student to explore and develop their own creative practice using elements that interest them.

When exploring Kwandi / Godhari I encourage a uliltarian item to be made.

When exploring Boro I encourage an item of clothing to be repired or made in the style of for example a Kimono.

When exploring Slow Stich I encourage books to be made as a means of meditation practice and intuitive abstract journaling.

Six weeks online via zoom. Private Facebook Group for participants to connect and post images of work.Private website where recordings and slides can be accessed. Both group and website available for one month after course completed.

Cost and dates for 2022 coming soon.

( Minimum 6 participats / Maximun 12 participants – If you are a group of friends or Co workers I can run a course for you seperatly.)