JEDDAH: A fine needle, thread, Aida fabric and her imagination can create hundreds of picture-like projects for cross stitches like Alaa Al-Sawwaf of Jeddah, a stay-at-home mom who has been crafting for over 20 years. years.
These embroidery tools are familiar to her family, as she picked up the hobby from her grandmother when she was just 10 years old.
“It all started when I was 10, when I sat next to Fini, my Austrian grandmother who did a lot of crafts like knitting, crocheting and embroidery. It was very exciting for me to ‘to be right next to her and watch her knit,’ Al-Sawwaf told Arab News.
“She gave me my first embroidery and knitting kit, and she started teaching me and correcting me when I did something wrong. My grandmother is the main reason for my passion for needles and sons,” she added.
Recalling those times, the embroiderer said the Kingdom had no stores that sold embroidery tools and she bought a counted cross stitch kit by accident while she was abroad. This led Al-Sawwaf to a hobby that she greatly identifies with.
“We used to get it from Austria or the UK or the USA. I remember one time when we were in New York in the summer and I was buying my embroidery kits, I Bought a kit thinking it was embroidery but didn’t open it until I came back to Jeddah Once I opened it I couldn’t figure out what was going on I started reading all the instructions carefully and it was love at first point,” she said.
“What made me love counted cross stitch even more is that when embroidering, I don’t know what I’m embroidering. I look at it from a distance, then I see the whole picture. My heart still skips a beat because of the beauty my hands just stitched up,” she added.
@lulusstitches is Al-Sawwaf’s handle on Instagram and Tiktok. She said she gets great support on social media, especially on Instagram.
“I found my community there, and it’s a great community. Most of them come from abroad. I learned so much from them and they were so supportive,” she said.
Al-Sawwaf’s favorite project is “Al-Shaikhah”. To create it, she used about 78 colors and it took her two years to complete. This is a portrait of a woman dressed in traditional Bedouin clothing, an image credited to another artist on Instagram, @ahmadart86.
“I found myself sewing it. I knew my style and what I like to do while sewing it. It’s an amazing feeling when you think you’re just sewing another project, but then it becomes the room you saw your style and yourself in,” she said.
Al-Sawwaf stressed the importance for embroiderers to take care of their hands, neck, back and eyes regularly, to prevent injuries or strains.
“We seamstresses need to take care not only of our hands, but also of our necks, backs and eyes. Before sewing, it is better to try to stretch your hands and wrists. It is very important not to stress the hand by holding the hoop or the needle too tightly. It’s a joyful pastime – relax your hand and enjoy your stitches and try to move your hands once in a while,” she added.
“Your neck and back should be straight when working on your project – choose the right chair with pillows to support your hands, back and shoulders. The eyes are the most important, in my opinion. You need enough of light and glasses or perfect reading glasses.Don’t overuse your eyes.Once they get tired and teary, stop.
What made me love counted cross stitch even more is that while embroidering, I don’t know what I’m embroidering. I look at it from a distance, then I clearly see the whole picture. My heart still skips a beat because of the beauty my hands have just sewn.
Al-Sawwaf said the time it takes to complete a project depends on its size. A small project can take three to six weeks, while larger, more complex projects can take 11 months or up to two years.
The cross pointer is currently being treated for Fuchs dystrophy, a buildup of fluid in the cornea of the eye.
“This disease ends up losing sight over time, and the only way to save it is to do a corneal transplant,” she said.
Her passion for her hobby is the driving force behind her perseverance and determination to recover from illness.
“With Fuch’s disease, you lose your sight and go blind. I have two choices: either lose my sight and adapt to this new life, or undergo surgery. I chose to see and I decided to go through everything just so I could see and continue doing what I love most – sewing,” she said.