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A labour of love

Prema Vijayan's repertoire of colour and design has made her embroidery a big hit in Kerala and the Gulf.


A STINT in Arunachal Pradesh introduced a young housewife, Prema Vijayan, to the intricate and colourful embroidery of the tribals in that State. Fascinated by their fine work, she decided to learn their embroidery. Her training honed her innate skills in needlework and colours and soon she had mastered various kinds of stitches and machine embroidery.

A pattern soon evolved. No matter where her husband, an engineer with the Central Public Works Department was posted, Prema sought out skilled craftsmen who taught her the embroidery or needlework specific to that region.

"It was a hobby and I gave away many of my embroidered pieces to friends and relatives. While we were in Kerala, I met a nun at a convent near Kovalam and began to do some embroidery work for them," recounts Prema. She had enough time on her hands and offered to teach the poor girls in the convent free of charge.

When this failed to satisfy her creativity, Prema decided to design and embroider saris and dresses for her friends and relatives. Everyone was captivated by her work and sophisticated choice of colours and designs, and soon orders began to pour in from interested clients.

"I was unable to cope up with the demand and decided to train and employ some girls to help me." Thus was born Shruthi Creations in 1992.

Prema's fascination for flowers and her close observation of Nature has helped her translate on fabric the colours and splendour of blossoms. Perhaps, it is this aesthetic blend of colour and design that have made her creations a big hit with customers all over Kerala and in the Gulf. Customers in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kochi have been charmed by her meticulously embroidered floral designs and patterns, which embellish saris, cushion-covers and salwar kameez sets.


Delicately-tinted flowers and leaves in myriad shades of green that never wilt, sprays, bouquets, vines and climbers, roses with velvet petals... it is a veritable Eden that is created by her deft fingers.

What began as a venture to keep herself occupied soon became a successful commercial enterprise that employs and trains more than 153 workers at four units along the coastal belt.

"Skilled labour is a necessity for this kind of work. For every 10 girls I train, only two or three have the skill, patience and perseverance to produce high quality work. The others leave, after learning the rudimentary stitches. They are paid for each piece of work. On an average, most of them earn between Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,500 per month," explains Prema.

Her embroidered pieces have made their way to most of the boutiques and shops that cater to an exclusive clientele. "Earlier, I used to take orders from one of the biggest textile showrooms in the State. They supplied the material and I would choose the design to be embroidered on the material. I decided on the kind of embroidery to be done depending upon the motif."

Prema embroiders the fabric with satin, stem, chain, shadow work and French knots. "The French knots that I do are the best that can be found anywhere," she claims. "The number of knots in each motif adds to the price of the finished piece," she adds, displaying a design of yellow roses embroidered using French knots.

Unable to keep up with the demand of the textile showrooms, Prema now supplies only to upmarket boutiques. It is her artistic skill and desire to help others that motivate this housewife turned entrepreneur to expand her business and bring more women into this profession. For Prema, it is a labour of love.

SARASWATHY NAGARAJAN

Photo: S. Gopakumar

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