A a r i – Collectible Book With Vintage Embroidery

Once in a while I get to work on an extra special book project such as this bijou fabric covered book encased in a custom made glass box.

I bound the book block months ago, but it was left sitting on my bookshelf waiting for the right cover until recently while sorting out my vintage clothes and fabric stash I came across a particular outfit I had made for myself a long time ago, this got me reminiscing about the time I bought this particular Sindhi aari dress panel embroidered by the local women of a small fishing village in Hyderabad, Pakistan that I visited some 27 years ago. 

I was out with my camera taking photos of the Indus river when I looked back to see a group of kids following me, they were so curious about my camera and wanted their photo taken even though I could not show them the pictures being the pre-digital age. One girl stood out from the crowd, it was her eyes, they were fixed on my lens. I left with a film full of curious faces and a bag of beautiful embroidered dress panels which I had stitched on to some crushed silk bought in India, the dress had sleeves with cuffs made from the same embroidery... I knew this dress which I had not worn for years needed to be repurposed, the cuffs were perfect for the cover of my new book project.  

I wonder where in the world this piece of history will end up next.

What stories it will collect in years to come?


I wanted this book to be small and compact enough to hold in one hand, to me this always feels more special than my larger books. I used some vintage brocade to make the head and tails bands and added some gold leaf to the natural deckled edges of the pages, which was a slow, but rewarding process as I love the way it turned out, the sparkling gold catching the edges ever so slightly, here and there. There is beauty in all things imperfect. 

I had originally planned on adding some Urdu and Arabic calligraphy to this book, for this reason I didn't want to not give it a particular front or back as both languages are written from right to left. In the end I decided to leave it blank with just a light wash of  watercolour paint which I imagine might be filled with favourite prayers, quotes or miniature paintings. 


Threads of time and handmade cold pressed watercolour paper stitched together For stories to be woven into later.

I left a bit of the red crushed silk on the edge of the cover to add a little elegance to this otherwise rustic book. 

The endpapers feature a print of an antique watercolour painting printed on handmade paper which almost feels and look like fabric. The book is kept shut with a hand woven silk loop and fabric button using vintage threads and finished off with a wool tassel from an old rug which I bought off a carpet seller a couple of decades ago.

Once this book was finished, it sat in my bookcase for another few months as I was on the search for an antique box to place it in, but soon I realised that although it needed to be encased, it still needed to be visible to admire its beauty... so a glass box was custom made for it.


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I do love the revival of these old brass and glass boxes. They will soon be available to order along side other custom made guest book & photo albums.