Len and I have had some interesting discussions recently with textile collectors who have suggested that what Surayia called “nakshi kantha tapestry” is a misnomer, since “tapestries” are woven and not embroidered.

It’s an interesting point, and it calls to mind Surayia’s stories about how some people in Bangladesh argued that her work should not use the term nakshi kantha since traditionally kantha were meant for household and ceremonial use, not as art to hang on a wall.

Surayia uses the term “nakshi kantha tapestry” for several very good reasons.  First, the pieces grow out of and draw on the rich tradition of Bengali kantha: they are done on several layers of fabric quilted together, often using the running stitch of kantha.  Second, they are meant to be displayed on a wall as is a tapestry.  So the resulting artwork comes from several traditions but brings them together into a new form.

Some might call her works “quilts” rather than “tapestries,” while others insist that they are not really quilts in the sense that we use the term in North America.

In the end, we prefer to stay with the terminology Surayia uses and that has become the term generally accepted for her work in Bangladesh.  It’s also interesting to note that “The Encyclopedia of Needlework” by Therese de Dillemont says:  “Under the heading of tapestry are  included nowadays all kinds of embroidery on counted threads in which the fabric is entirely covered by the stitches.”  That definition certainly encompasses Surayia’s amazing textile art.

Furthermore, one of the most famous pieces of embroidery in the world is the Bayeux Tapestry.

And isn’t it interesting to think of how early medieval Europe and pre-European Bengal developed beautiful — but very different — art using the same basic materials and the inspiration and skill of embroiderers?  Indeed, stories in narrative textiles have been, and continue to be, told the world over.   And they bring beauty to our lives and can build community and sustainable livelihoods, regardless of how they are called.

What does “tapestry” mean to you?


We woke up Wednesday to see a light coating of snow on the ground and also a full-page article about Surayia and the film project in our local newspaper, the Peninsula Gateway.  We were interviewed several weeks ago and the article, with four of Anil’s wonderful photos, appeared in the edition of the 29th.  A very nice way to end a year of hard work on the film!

As I read the appeal from the Humanitarian Coalition when I opened my email this morning, it struck me for a number of reasons.  I live in Washington State where it rains a lot, but I cannot imagine having my home flooded up to the rooftop and having to carry what I could out on my head.  The resilience of people under such crises is incredible, with death around them, children in need, not knowing where the next comfort or food will be available.

What does this have to do with the documentary “Threads” you might wonder and why am I blogging on the crisis on this movie website?   This crisis is in Pakistan and not in Bangladesh where we are filming — however we are all connected, regardless of nationality, race or religion.  And seeing the scenes in Pakistan today reminds me of the resilient women with whom Surayia worked who, during the raging floods of 1988 in Bangladesh, preserved the tapestries on which they were working and brought them in pots on their heads – wading through the floods — into Dhaka.  Courage amidst despair, hope despite disaster.

I worked for CARE Canada in the early 1990s and thank them and all other organizations and individuals who are assisting in this crisis in Pakistan.  For those who can help the Pakistanis during this crisis in some way, let us be their threads of hope.



Torn from her family, her paintings, and her beloved Calcutta after the partition of India, artist Surayia Rahman finds a new life in Bangladesh teaching impoverished mothers to embroider her story-telling designs.

An inspirational example of the power of art and the impact of empowering women and girls around the world, THREADS takes us on an intimate journey into the heart of an artist and celebrates an unconventional path to dignity and independence.

“THREADS is an inspiring documentary about Surayia Rahman, a women who through persistence, determination, and courage taught hundreds of women in Bangladesh skills with a needle so they could gain economic independence. Pushing through her own adversities, Rahman enables other women to realize masterpieces in thread. Rahman’s story is a lesson about how each of us can make a difference in other people’s lives.” Maureen Goggin, Professor of English, Arizona State University


*TBD* – University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada  Gendered Threads of Globalization Conference

July 29 – The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum; The Sigur Center for Asian Studies

March 14 – Textile Arts Council/Hearst Museum/UC Berkeley Chowdhury Center/Tracing Patterns Foundation Kantha in Bangladesh virtual event

February 24 – UN Association Film Festival UNAFF in Libraries virtual event


September 17 – University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT Human Rights Film Series

September 16 – Essex Meadows, Essex, CT

September 14 – Milford Public Library, Milford, CT

September 12 – Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY

July 23 – International Quilt Study Center and Museum, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE Collecting and Recollecting Film Series

July 19 – Heron’s Key, Gig Harbor, WA

June 22 – Weave A Real Peace Annual Meeting, Georgetown University, Washington, DC

May 24 – Reel Crafted Film Festival, Vancouver, BC, Canada

May 1 – Pakenham Patchworkers and Quilters, Pakenham, VIC, Australia

January 16 – Institute for Global Engagement, Western Washington University Reel World Film Series


October 21 – Lake Bonavista Village Retirement Residence, Calgary, Alberta  

October 13 – Nocturne Halifax, Nova Scotia – In cooperation with the Bangladesh Community Association of Nova Scotia and Carbon Arc Cinema

July 19 – The American Center, Tunis, Tunisia

February 22 – Womens’ Initiatives Network and Algonquin College School of Social Service Worker Program, Pembroke, ON, Canada


October 7 – Cloth Roads Film Festival, Loveland, CO

September 27 – UNAFF Travelling Festival, Carroll University, Waukesha, WI

June 3 – Colorado Dragon Film Festival, Denver, CO

May 10 – Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA

April 22 – American Corner, Dashoguz, Turkmenistan

March 23 – UN Commission on the Status of Women, UN Headquarters, New York, NY

March 18 – Embroiderers Guild of America, Evergreen Chapter, Key Center, WA

March 11 – Zonta International, Dhaka, Bangladesh

March 9 – U.S. Embassy, Dhaka, Bangladesh

February 23, 24 –  Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, India

February 22 – National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, India

February 22 – Sophia College, Mumbai, India

February 21 – The American Centre, New Delhi, India

February 18 – India International Centre, New Delhi, India

February 17 – Amity University, New Delhi, India

February 17 – Canadian High Commission, New Delhi, India

February 16 – Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata, India

February 15 – Cinecentral at NANDAN Film Centre, Kolkata, India

February 14 – BRAC Centre, Dhaka, Bangladesh

February 12 – National Museum of Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh

February 10 – Spreeha at Chhayanaut Cultural Centre, Dhaka, Bangladesh

February 9 – EMK Center, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Would you like to host a screening? 


December 7 – Gig Harbor Quilter’s Guild, Gig Harbor, WA

November 17 Zonta International and Union Bank of Switzerland, New York, NY

November 6 – South Asian Film Festival Montreal, Quebec

October 27 – UN Association Film Festival, Stanford University, CA

October 22 – Textile Society of America Symposium, Savannah, GA

October 18 – Spurlock Museum and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL

October 14 – 16 – Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL

October 12 and 27 – Doctober, Pickford Film Center, Bellingham, WA

July 5 – Foundation for International Understanding Through Students, U of Washington, Seattle, WA

June 25 – Association for Asian Studies, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan

June 15 – Female Eye Film Festival, Toronto, ON    Best Short Documentary Award

May 28 – Bar Harbor, ME, with College of the Atlantic

May 13 – Harbor History Museum, Gig Harbor, WA

May 4 – Tacoma Parks, Tacoma, WA

April 26 – Information Resource Center, U.S. Embassy, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

April 14 – University of Washington, Seattle WA

April 2 – Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Seattle, WA

March 14 – Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY

March 10 – Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, WA

February 19 – FLO Film Festival, Mumbai, India

February 8 – ARTISANS’ Centre for Art Craft and Design, Mumbai, India

January 19 – U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, DC

January 6 – Key Center Library, Key Center, WA


December 15 – Women’s Interclub Council, Gig Harbor, WA  

November 6 and 7 – Friday Harbor Film Festival, Friday Harbor, WA   Best Short Film Award

November 5 – Agnus Dei Lutheran Church, Gig Harbor, WA

October 29 – Women’s Ways of Making Conference, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

October 22 – Seattle South Asian Film Festival, Seattle, WA

October 16 – Fibre Arts Newfoundland and Labrador 2015 (in cooperation with the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival)

October 15 – The Textile Museum, Washington, DC

October 3 – Chicago South Asian Film Festival, Chicago, IL

September 28 – Hilltop Artists, Tacoma, WA

August 6 – 9 – Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival, Toronto, Ontario

August 2 – Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA (with Hilltop Artists)


Women artisans, once destitute young mothers, have supported their families over the past 30 years, stitch by stitch. Just as each stitch has made a difference in their lives, so every contribution you make — small or large — will help to celebrate their many accomplishments and to bring the film to communities around the world. Your donation will help us to continue our outreach program with schools, museums, community and international organizations.

Online donations are processed through The International Documentary Association. IDA, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is the fiscal sponsor for Threads.

Please make your check or money order payable to:
International Documentary Association, and write Threads-3732 on the memo line.
Send to:  Threads, c/o Kantha Productions LLC, PO Box 143, Lakebay, WA 98349-0143.

Donations are tax-deductible for U.S. persons.  Employers may match contributions as well.


Artisan enterprise is the second leading employer in the developing world and particularly benefits women and their families. Together we can help create opportunities for women in emerging economies.


Do you want to participate in building momentum for women’s social and economic development through the arts?  To inspire young women to become artisan entrepreneurs?

Imagine the change we create if each of us gives at least one gift of an artisan each year, and wears at least one item of clothing a week that has been touched by the hands of an artisan.

Make something of beauty.

Stay informed, ask questions:

Where does the product come from? Who is the maker? How is  handwork involved?

Buy, sell or trade artisan work – for home and office, for fashion, for gifts


Many individuals and organizations have contributed to help tell this inspiring story. Thank you for your generous support.