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360,000 pins : Place one, press one, push it in

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What do you need to make a large scale embroidery batik?

As we are learning in the Islamic Foundation of Ireland Mosque, a batik can take a lot of materials, time, care and attention. But more than that, the batik created with the Amal Group has been fuelled by tea, treats, inspiring conversations, emotional connections and buckets of laughter!

Over the last few months, the ladies have been working with visual artist Helen Barry on a large batik and embroidery border to adorn the walls of the Mosque. The participants wanted to learn a new skill while improving their immediate environment with a bright, new artwork; thus the design for the batik was born. Several hours of work, many needles and metres of yarn later, and our batik is almost complete!

Preparatory work for the batik
The IFI Amal Group make preparatory drawings for the Batik, SCR Mosque, December 2016, taken by Louise Osborne

The work in the mosque has been supported by storyteller Xanthe Gresham who recently treated us to a story about the creation of a kashmir shawl. The cumulative story tracked the development of an ornate shawl dyed with colour and embroidered with golden thread, much like our own batik. In the story the shawl is lovingly created over months, weeks, days and hours, sewing in patterns of “leaves stems and flowers”. Pins are pressed into the fabric (360,000 pins to be precise!) and the thread is pulled through into place. The repetitive rhythm of the story provided an appropriate backdrop to our own sewing of the batik.

This week, the ladies continue to develop the batik while sharing stories over tea. We are looking forward to seeing the finished product after such hard work and determination has gone in to this co-created artwork. Once completed the batik will be unveiled at an event at the Chester Beatty Library in February 2017.


IFI Amal Group embroidery while Xanthe Gresham tells stories, SCR Mosque, December 2016, taken by Louise Osborne
IFI Amal Group embroider while Xanthe Gresham tells stories, SCR Mosque, December 2016, taken by Louise Osborne









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