Creative articles about sewing

International Pictogram Project – Solah Singar

Making artist friends – exciting !

Being invited to participate in an international art project – exciting !

Receiving the project package – exciting !

Watching ‘real’ artists put up their work –  exciting !

Trying to come up with something clever yourself –…let me start at the beginning.


My package had blue felt and the ‘woman’ pictogram. There was also some extra felt to play around with. Believe you me, the first (and only) thing I wanted to do with it was play ! Like, literally ! So I cut up a full size ‘woman’ out of the extra felt and all I wanted to do was dress her up and play doll-doll. As a child I mostly fooled around outdoors and had neither the time nor the inclination to play with dolls. In fact, I remember the only doll I owned was when I was in class 4 and a visiting cousin of mine sliced its head off and that was the end of that ! My daughters never played with dolls either for some strange reason and so this now was like a second chance given to me by the Universe lest I have any regrets about not having played with dolls.

Not only did I dress her up but I went the whole 9 yards. 16, actually. I have depicted the ’16 steps of adornment’ , the ‘Solah (16) Singar (Adornment)’ as described in Hindu mythology for a woman to look and feel her beautiful best., especially on her wedding day. Jutta, I know you asked us to stay within borders, but I created a frame for you to depict the auspicious ‘mandap’ where the bride sits besides her groom during the wedding ceremony.


The Solah Singar starts off with the ceremonial bath with sandal paste, turmeric and fragrant oils after which the bride is embellished from the top of the head to the toes in 16 kinds of adornments, covering almost every part of the body. It is a symbol of femininity and fertility as linked with the Goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of beauty, fertility and prosperity in the Hindu culture.


1.Dress : Traditionally, a bride’s outfit is in vibrant shades of the auspicious red and gold.

2.Hair : The three strands of the braid signify the three rivers in India, the Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati, or the holy trinity of Shiva, Vishnu, and Bhrama.  They could also represent the bride’s family, her husband’s family, and her, the joiner of the two. The braid is adorned with flowers and ornaments.


3.Maangtikka : This giant jewel is worn in the middle of the forehead, on top of the hair-parting and hangs over Ajna Chakra, the home of the body’s mind and intellect.

4.Sindoor : Sindoor or vermillion is a red-colored powder that is applied on parting of the bride’s hair by the groom. This ritual has a sacred significance and is akin to the ring in Western countries. The colour red is to denote marriage and the well-being of the husband.

5.Bindi : The Bindi traditionally signified the wearer was married though nowadays pretty much all Indian women, regardless of religions affiliation or age, will don a bindi either for day wear or special occasions.  There are a number of reasons why Hindus place this dot between their eyes, not least of which is the belief that it represents the woman’s third eye.

6.Kajal : Eyes are accentuated with Anjana or Kohl or Kajal, which is applied on the edges of the eyelids to make the eyes look attractive. Earlier, Kajal was prepared by collecting the soot of an earthen lamp by lighting a wick in clarified butter or ghee.

7.Nath : The Nath is the nose ring worn around the left nostril and is generally made of gold and is studded with precious gems like diamond. It is supported by a gold chain that goes behind the bride’s left ear.

8.Karn Phool : Karn phool literally traslates to ‘ear flower’ and a bride’s ear ornaments can be really huge.


9.Haar and Mangalsutra: A bride will typically wear a range of  Haars or neck pieces which can include chokers, heavy draping bibs, princess-length jeweled necklaces, long gold chains, or intricate polki (uncut diamond) sets. While not part of the 16 Singar, the Mangalsutra, a black and gold beaded chain which is given to the bride during the ceremony and which is worn everyday by her after, is a constant at Hindu weddings.

10.Baajuband : Baajuband, also known as armlets, are worn by the bride on the upper part of the arm.

11.Mehandi (Henna): It is believed the darker the bridal mehandi, the stronger the groom’s love for his bride.  Intricate designs represent a variety of things , anything from future wealth to fertility.

12.Aarsi and Haathphool : Haathphool are the 10 rings that the bride wears on both her hands.  These are attached to a central flower adornment on the upper part of the hand.  Apart from these, the bride also wears the Aarsi which is the thumb ring and is usually set with a mirror which enables the bride to get a glimpse of the groom.

13.Choodiyan : Adorning the wrists of a bride are bangles and bracelets made of gold, glass or lac.

14.Kamarband : Kamarband is the waistband that enhances the graceful shape of a female silhouette.


15.Payal and Bichhua : Payals are silver anklets with tiny dangling bells that tinkle when she walks. When the bride walks in these anklets, it signifies the entry of Goddess Lakshmi. Bichhuas are toe rings and usually worn on the 2nd toe.

16.Itar : Itar or scent completes the adornment ritual and the woman/bride is ready to take on the world !

Jutta, I don’t know if you were expecting some highly intellectual arty-sharty stuff, but this is what spoke to me and I had such an amazing time doing this. After working exclusively on the machine for some years now, it was so therapeutic for me to work with my hands as I sat patiently threading and sewing down the tiny ornaments.


I used hand woven Kancheepuram Silk with beaten gold zari border for the bridal outfit, yarn for the hair, bits and baubles from my long forgotten collection of beads and stuff, Sheesha embroidery for the ‘mandap’ pillars, gold gauze to decorate the pillars and a Zardosi embroidered strip for the pedastal. I used gold thread in some places and monofilament in others to sew it all down. Where did I use the threads you sent me you ask? Oh well, in the bobbin ! And now I get to keep them, what joy !


So, thanks again for the opportunity and hope you love her too.


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  • Jan Allston

    It is wonderful Tina. Thank you so much for the information too! I have also learned a lot today.

  • roscro

    Fascinating to read about those 16 steps, thank you, Tina. You’ve done a great job and she looks absolutely beautiful and serene. Those fabrics are lovely and create a sense of movement bringing it all to life. Brilliant!

  • Hilary Gooding

    Wow, I have learnt such a lot. Thank you for explaining all those steps. She certainly looks as if it all paid off – she’s beautiful. And that sari material…! Hilary

  • Jutta Hellbach

    Dear Tina,
    I hoped and wished so much, that especially from India comes a traditional piece – and you made it! Thank you so much.
    What a detailed work on such a small piece of felt – thats amazing.
    Looking forward to see it this Thursday at BERNINA headquater in Steckborn – when you give it to me :-).
    Big hugs,

  • Varshaa

    Very very beautiful..I am so glad I saw the “before” on your work table..and now delighted to see the “äfter” picture…

  • Sobana

    This is so lovely Tina. You are full of surprises. I wouldn’t have expected something so traditional from you.

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