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INHABITING THE HAB

Sathya Saran  (click here to know more about this blogger)

I am stitching a dream! 

I, who failed regularly in sewing class at school, who never mastered hemming and surrended with tears when faced with the pursed contours of the cross stitch, am creating a pattern of roses and two-leaved tulips. And thinking to myself.. why did they not teach us this at school?l!
 
It started far away in Bhutan. This sea change in my attitude to needlework which in my entire experience (and despite my professed love for clothes) had never crossed beyond the fixing of a loose button. Those attempts too fired by an early zeal to be a model wife, toiling over household tasks romanticised by pretty pictures in books, were sacrificed at the altar of a writing career. A chance conversation with Siddharth Sriram, Chairman of Usha International which was sponsoring Mountain Echoes Lit Fest I was attending led to a kindling of interest. His description of The Haberdashery was vivid enough. And here I am, months later, standing in front of the store.
 
The Haberdashery stands in a corner building on the busy Linking Road between Bandra: Mumbai's 'Queen of Suburbs and Khar'. A white building with the legendary The Hab emblazoned on it.. it says nothing more about what lies behind its glass doors. The observant passer by will notice the glass bottles and jars full of colourful skeins of wool and thread that serve as window dressing along the glass front of the shop and might wonder what they mean. A colorful installation which includes a sewing machine covered with flowers might tell the initiated that Manish Arora has been here but it is a busy corner and many may miss the installation.. just as easily. I almost did!!
 
I had expected a shop crowded with stuff... glass topped tables and shelves holding a melange of colorful sewing accessories... buttons and sequins and and threads of course. Visits to such 'sewing kirana stores' (as I termed them) with more gifted sewing enthusiasts led me to expect something slghtly more organised along the same lines. But 'The Hab' was promising me a surprise. It has everything a stitch happy person could ever want.. and more. The high ceiling.. the colors of the store's offerings that blaze brightly against the cool white walls.. the semi circle of work stations with the trays of accessories and sleek ivory colored machines.. it made me take a deep breath of appreciation. Never dd I think I would find excitement in a haberdashery! It was, I had assumed, a place for maiden aunts to shop in.. part of a stereotype! Wryly, I realised it was I who was out of date. 
 
A quick tour... a dazzling array of buttons.. rows and rows of zippers in every color imaginable.. cloth roses and plastic stars.. shells and rainbow-reflecting moon spheres.. beads and stones.. enough and more to embellish anything from a dress to shoes. To aid the ambitious.. patterns which can transform cloth into dresses and outfits for every age and taste. I continued to be impressed. The workstations have machines that perform different functions. Some quilt, some smock and others ruch and pin tuck.. three-way piping.. cording and applique. Some work on leather and some help make cards and bookmarks and table mats or coasters.. even personalised wrapping paper! Yet others make buttonholes and pucot and fix zips. All are self threading and electronically enabled. And a future series of machines will let you draw a design on your smart phone, transfer it to the machine and sew it out on fabric.. I am told! Good heavens.. I murmered despite myself.
 
But how many women use any of this.. I wondered. This was the electrnoic age where one bought stuff hanging in the multitude of stores across the country. The Hab tries to change that and bring back the romance of stitching things for oneself.. I am told. Disbelief is evident on my face as my misadventures with the needle flash past my mind. Yet I cannot resist the challenge and seat myself down obediently at a work station. The machine I am at (Dreammaker of Japanese provenance) is a robot in disguise!! The strip of felt in my hands quickly gets embroidered in long lines of roses and two-leaved tulips. Felt circles along the length find other brightening stitches. Before I know it I am working with a practice that has presented itself like a genie out of a bobbin.. guiding the material and pressing the 'stop' ' lift needle' 'needle down' and 'cut icons and watching my creation take shape. When it is done I feel a brand new pride of owning something I have made! A giant step for a simeine born with ten thumbs! 
 
A week later my excitement leads me to take 7-going-on-8 Anu to The Hab. Being more handy with her fingers than I am, she makes herself a birthday card and guides the machine into writing her name on it. Both her 'tutor' at the machine and I are impressed suitably. Children, I am told, love the place. Indeed the many shop floor attendants are patient, knowledgeable and encouraging. It is a wonderful introduction indeed to the world of thread and color.. of creating leather coasters or embridering a personalised towel. I can well imagine children coming in to create a birthday gift for a parent or friend.. in the process creating a product unique and individual. Designers of clothes and shoes and home accessories are clients too.
The Hab has a series of workshops ranging from surface embellishment to knitting which they conduct a floor above the shop. It also houses a library cum book store with a collection of books on various aspects of stitching. In a world of hard sell where everything from real estate to washing machines and holiday destinations are sold through loud advertising.. here is a sewing machine enterprise that sells the romance of sewing. Somewhere in the joining of hands between Jenome (the Jap machine makers) and Usha (the marketing company) I see the combining of high technology with our ability to sell a story! I dont doubt at all that the machines will also get sold.   
 
In fact.. a few more visits and I might end up ordering one! 
 
Sewing machine with flowers tells us Manish Arora has been here
 
The Hab
 
The Hab
 
07-OCTOBER-2013
 
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2 Comments
 
09-OCTOBER-2013 Rakhi Agarwal
Sew Sew Interesting! Definitely makes for some time out!
 
 
09-OCTOBER-2013 Supriya K
My aunt would love this place! I should take her there :)
 
 
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