African Folklore Embroidery

Leora Raikin © 2006

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Teaching the next generation to stitch with creativity, color & enthusiasm.

An African Folklore Embroidery lecture and workshop is an experience you will not forget.  If you think you can attend a lecture, sit back, doze or snooze, you are quite mistaken. Our interactive, humorous and educational lectures and workshops begin with the three most important rules of African Folklore Embroidery, (and yes you can be tested on these rules at any time during the session.)

Rule number one, what ever color you choose to stitch in is the right color; if you choose to stitch your son blue, your tree pink or your elephant orange, please go ahead and do so. Kits include a braid of bright African threads and you pull out from the top of the braid your color of choice.

Rule number two, your stitches do not need to be perfect, for there are no needle art police who are going to come and inspect your stitches.This is very important as we want to encourage people to fall in love with needle arts and to not feel inhibited or restrained in any way.

Rule number three is to have fun!  You are in the process of creating not only a needle art but also a visual art, a wearable and fiber art.

I have found amongst all age groups, from six through to eighty-six that the above rules unleash both creativity and out of the box thinking. Over the past few years I have taught over 3,000 adults and children the art of African Folklore Embroidery. Many of the adults that I have taught are highly accomplished quilters or embroiderers while others have never held needles before. The results are the same; people are stunned by the work that they are creating and the unique approach to this type of embroidery.

I am Leora Raikin, a South African native now living in California with my husband Gary and son Joshua. I was taught African Folklore Embroidery by my mother, a woman with a passion for all types of sewing, needlecrafts, quilting, hobbies and art pursuits. Growing up in South Africa, we did not have television, nor did we have many toys, so we really were encouraged to use our hands and minds to create. My mother sewed all our clothes, even swimsuits and my father made our toys, puzzles, book shelves and play equipment from wood. My grandmother was a seamstress and milliner and my grandfather had so many hobbies and passions he encouraged us to learn something new every day. Most of all my parents and grandparents passed onto us a love and enthusiasm for learning and creating with our hands.  It is this enthusiasm which I bring to my African Folklore Embroidery classes.

I grew up in a small city called Cape Town, and my parents still live in the same house we grew up in. We go back to South Africa once a year to visit family and friends. All the materials in our embroidery kits are from South Africa and since the country has a 30% unemployment rate, every product we buy from there helps create employment and income for those living there. African Folklore Embroidery is affiliated with an AIDS orphanage in South Africa called KidzPositive is also an AIDS charity and a percentage of my lecturing fee goes towards purchasing of toys, supplies and clothing for children with AIDS in South Africa.

I started teaching my son African Folklore Embroidery when he was four and a half.  He is now on his third super kit design, the lizards, and not only does he love doing it, he has inspired all the boys in his class to do African Folklore Embroidery.  The boys love it even more than the girls do. They discuss their stitches, the beads they are going to incorporate and what color they are going to use next. One of his friends in his class is a boy of 7 with Attention Deficit Disorder.  For his birthday he requested the tortoise design.  His mother has been completely surprised by his focus, attention and love of doing embroidery. Sometimes he wakes up early before school so he can do embroidery and when he comes home it is often the first thing he wants to do.  He loves the fact that he can choose his own colors and he is now teaching his mom to stitch.

We have found that since there is a whole generation of mothers who have never stitched or sewed before, it is the children through their sheer enthusiasm for African Folklore Embroidery, who are encouraging their moms to get involved in needle arts and stitching.

Last summer I taught twelve African Folklore Embroidery classes a week. Aside from teaching at various summer art camps and museums, I also taught "mommy and me" African Folklore Embroidery classes. In these classes children and their parents spent quality time together learning new stitching and enhancement techniques. While many worked on their own designs discussing colors and beading, others worked on designs together, making them into joint projects. When the designs are complete, they can be made into pillows, purses, tote bags, quilts, wall-hangings or sewn onto clothes.

We have also had so many requests for doing African Folklore Embroidery at birthday parties and baby showers. People love doing something easy yet creative at these types of events. And not only do they come away having learnt something new and being enriched, but also they have skills they can use again. The kits are also great party favors that guests can take home.

The programs also have an educational element. In lectures and workshops, students will learn information about African wildlife and different tribal traditions and customs.

With over 3,000 people having attended an African Folklore Embroidery class and countless hits to the African Folklore Embroidery and Needlecraft website to purchase kits which come with easy following instructions, the demand for lectures in other cities and states has really increased. We get calls from schools, Girl Scout troops, and embroidery, quilting and fiber art guilds in other states wanting to book our African Folklore Embroidery program. Museums and colleges are also making such requests.

The demand for African Folklore Embroidery lectures and workshops to quilting, embroidery and fiber art guilds has become so popular that I developed the African Folklore Embroidery educator program that through training and certification allows qualified persons to teach African Folklore Embroidery in other cities and states. The program provides educators with the tools necessary to teach African Folklore Embroidery with the pre-determined methodology, approach, information and educational materials. This facilitates our mission of spreading a love of needle arts and in the process educating people about South Africa.

The African Folklore Embroidery Educators Program (AFETP) is comprised of two levels. Level One certification allows you to teach and sell African Folklore Embroidery products to family and friends, receiving a 20% discount on all AFE products. Level Two Certification enables you to teach African Folklore Embroidery at a guild level, receiving payment for teaching and receiving 30% discount on all AFE products.

Level Three is for retail stores and those that purchase wholesale. Training is provided free of charge for stores who carry African Folklore Embroidery products and allows for store owners to teach African Folklore Embroidery in their store and receive wholesale prices. Stores receive press kit, flyers, marketing support, educational information , testimonials and class and workshop descriptions.

An online gallery is in the process of being created on our website, where those who have completed designs can share their work with others. One has to remember that no two completed designs are ever the same. Two people may order the fish design and complete it very differently.

Many of the more sophisticated stitchers enjoy African Folklore Embroidery because aside from chain stitch which is the dominant stitch used to complete a design, any of the other many embroidery stitches such as bullion, herringbone, blanket etc can be incorporated. It is also an ideal take-along project with no hoop required as the fabric on which the designs are printed is very sturdy and yet flexible. Most people take their kits on airplanes (yes you are allowed) and are great to take along in your purse.  Just fold them up and take out when ever a moment allows.

Beading and the use of other fibers, such as variegated threads and metallics really enhance the designs. If you have extra scraps of fabric and fibers/yarns that you do not know what to do with, this is the ideal project to incorporate all those items. All the kits come with a braid of solid threads with a beautiful sheen to them; to enhance we recommend the House of Embroidery threads.  These are all hand–dyed, variegated and magnificent tin heir quality and colors (over 200 colors from which to choose) and available at our website.

Twice a year, African Folklore Embroidery hosts the Creative Stitchers Award. The next deadline is November 10th, 2006. The winner will receive an African Folklore Embroidery kit and over one hundred dollars worth of hand dyed House of Embroidery threads. Please email us pictures of your completed African Folklore Embroidery designs. The winner will be featured and interviewed for our newsletter.

If you are planning a trip to California and would like to make an appointment to view our newly decorated showroom where you can see, touch and feel African Folklore Embroidery kits, hand dyed threads and other African items, please feel free to do so. African Folklore Embroidery is an exhibitor at quilting and needle art shows throughout the United States.

There is no excuse for not finishing your project either, since we have a full time seamstress who is available to convert your completed African Folklore Embroidery design into purses, quilts, pillows & wall-hangings.

The African Folklore Embroidery school program allows for teachers, youth group leaders and senior non profit organizations to receive discounts on more than ten kits ordered and a free lesson plan with educational information about South Africa. The same program applies to embroidery, fiber art and quilting guilds who are interested in doing African Folklore Embroidery as a group project.

Cross Cultural Creativity Expressed Through African Folklore Embroidery

African Folklore Embroidery originated in Southern Africa. In January 2003, Leora Raikin brought this unique needle art to the United States. This colorful, creative and exciting needlecraft is now being enjoyed by thousands of adults and children throughout the country. The designs drawn by a South African artist on black fabric are inspired by the Ndebele women from Southern Africa who are famous for their beautiful and colorful beadwork of African wildlife.

African Folklore Embroidery is the ideal needlecraft for highly experienced needle workers looking to try their hand at something new and colorful. At the same time, beginners – those that have never even held a needle before are stunned by their creativity. The unique and exceptionally drawn designs are categorized into a number of different and exciting themes. The main themes include illustrations depicting the Ndebele tribe, animals, nature, birds, flowers, the ocean and many others.

The artist introduces new designs every month. Custom orders with specific themes can also be requested. The kits, which include a design on black canvas, a braid of brightly colored African threads, a needle, stitch diagrams and guidelines come in two sizes. The Basic kit is 11.5 inches square and the Super kit is 17 inches square.

The dominant stitch used on this surface embroidery is chain stitch. However more advanced needle workers can incorporate other stitches such as Satin Stitch, Feather Stitch, Bullion Stitch, Buttonhole stitch, French Knots and others. Beads and sequins can also be incorporated for greater effect.

Completed Kit designs can afterwards be made into purses, pillows or wall hangings with the purchase of an African Folklore Embroidery converter kit. The completed designs really do become works of art. The converter kits come with instructions to put it all together, but a finishing service is available. Some of our clients embroider a couple of the basic kits and then combine them to make them into a quilt. Others are embroidering several of the seventeen-inch square kits and will be combining them together when complete to make into a table cloth.

African Folklore Embroidery fits into many categories. It can be regarded as tapestry, embroidery, cultural or visual art.. Some even view this as a type of Ethnic Embroidery. However no matter what category it fits into, the benefits derived from doing this needlecraft are the same.

Relaxing and Therapeutic is how many describe it. Others describe it as an outlet for their creativity that is easy and fun. While others describe it as “addictive” once you get started – you do not want to put it down!. Working with the bright colors against the black background creates a striking contrast. Since the colors are bright they are exciting to work with. What makes this embroidery art so unique is that it allows for complete freedom of expression and creativity with regard to color choice. It is this fact that adults and children seem to love the most.

African Folklore Embroidery encourages users to be creative, to choose their own color schemes and have fun with colors. The illustrated drawings do not have to be embroidered in their authentic colors. An elephant can be embroidered in red thread and a Peacock can be embroidered in a pink thread. Metallic threads and hand dyed variegated threads can also be used for enhancement and effect.

Boys seem to be as excited girls about African Folklore Embroidery. Josh Feldman, 9 of California picked up the needlecraft after his sister brought home her African Folklore Embroidery kit from a Girl Scout meeting. “It just seemed like so much fun," Josh says. "I like doing the chain stitch. Once you get into the rhythm it is so easy." says Susan Feldman, Josh's and Rachel's mother. "I have always done needlework, so I wanted my kids to learn it too. It's great for kids they learn a craft and improve their hand eye coordination."

African Folklore Embroidery goes so much faster than other needlework, people get a real sense of accomplishment. Many youngsters become so enthused with African Folklore Embroidery that they infect their siblings and parents and land up teaching them how to do African Folklore Embroidery too.

To truly get a feel for the excitement that African Folklore Embroidery generates, one has to experience it oneself, But these comments from some of our many pupils may help in getting the feeling across:

“African Folklore Embroidery is the only activity that calms me. And since I enjoy it so much and look forward to sitting down with my project, I am promised, that at least once a day, I will have quiet time”. Heather from Reseda California, Payroll officer and mother of two.
"I enjoy African Folklore Embroidery because there really isn't anything like it. It is unique, fun, and there are so many branches of it. I am a very impatient person who gets bored easily and because you can choose to do nature scenes with animals, Floral patterns, Religious designs, or even a special order and also bead work, I never get bored with doing African Folklore Embroidery. I stay excited doing the African Folklore Embroidery as I can be as creative as I want to be and choose what ever colors and beads I want.!!!!! Summer from Tarzana California, Ex-marine, model and mother. "
"I've been stitching, whether it is embroidery or needlepoint, for the past twenty years. African Folklore Embroidery has been a wonderful addition to the items I stitch because it is so unique. And because I don't have to work with anything in hand except the cloth and the threaded needle it is very portable. Mary from Taluca Lake California, Secretary. "
“The fourth and fifth graders at our school really enjoyed the African Folklore Embroidery class we offered through our after-school art program,” says Gayle Nadler, Public Relations and Grant Manager for the Multicultural Learning Center charter School. “Boys and girls alike were engaged in this peaceful artistic process and became quite knowledgeable about the Ndebele Tribe at the same time. After we showcased some of their beautiful work at our school art festival, parents and staff signed up for classes as well!”
It is so relaxing and therapeutic. “I am so busy and yet I love African Folklore Embroidery because I can take it with me wherever I go and whenever I have down time I pick it up and start stitching." Heidi, Agoura Hills, California, Attorney, mother of two and marathon walker.
"The bright colors are amazing to work with and always make me feel happy. I have become addicted in a good way,” Michele, Santa Monica, California mother of a one year old and instructional designer.
"I love African Folklore Embroidery, because it is so easy, yet it relaxes me and allows me to be creative all at the same time.” Minette, Calabasas, California, mother of two and swim instructor in Calabasas.

Email: Phone: (818) 999-6094

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