Perhaps it was inevitable for Adil Iqbal, a textile designer raised in Scotland by a Pakistani family, to start Twilling Tweeds – a program that uses needlecraft to bridge the two unique, but interrelated cultures. “I’ve always been torn between two worlds,” Iqbal explains. Iqbal started Twilling Tweeds in 2011 after a research trip to northern Pakistan, and was intrigued by the parallels between its female embroiderers and the Scottish weavers of the Outer Hebrides. Artisans from both cultures work in isolation, whether weaving in sheds or embroidering quietly in front of an open fire, Iqbal says.
With Twilling Tweeds, Iqbal held a series of art workshops in Pakistan’s Chitral Valley, encouraging discussion among the embroiderers. He introduced aspects of Scottish culture to show the Pakistani women the similarities between the two. “The cross-cultural element provides a dialogue between East and West,” Iqbal says. “We may come from different cultures, speak different languages, but we have more in common than our differences.”
The results of the workshops were several tapestries depicting Pakistani narratives on Scottish Harris tweed. Scottish textile artist Alison Macleod embroidered a Gaelic “Waulking Song” on Chitrali Patti, a Pakistani handspun wool.
The tapestries have been displayed in Scotland, receiving excellent feedback, Iqbal says. In May, he will exhibit Twilling Tweeds tapestries in Islamabad. He hopes to take the works to other major cities in Pakistan, then to Qatar and the Outer Hebrides as well.