The A-Z of Indian Embroidery

India is home to a stunning array of artistic traditions that include a host of embroidery techniques that are as diverse as our land and the many cultures it is home to. Every region boasts of a distinctive style where the embroidery is not seen just as ornamentation but a means of communication. Fabrics are woven threads that are spun with the stories and beliefs of the community and reflect the essence of the surroundings. 

In this week's blog, we will be exploring the myriad embroidery and needlework techniques of our country and gain a brief insight into what makes each so unique. 

Aari (Kashmir) 

Also called Zalakdozi, it is a method of chain-stitching that is done using an awl, a hooked needle. It first originated amongst the Mochi community and was practised as a technique to make and repair footwear. 

Chamba Rumal (Himachal Pradesh) 

This technique uses unbleached muslin to create mythological motifs through embroidery done in subtle shades using double darning stitches. The interiors are filled with untwisted silken floss called pat. 

Chikankari (Lucknow) 

A highly renowned white-work floral embroidery, it is made by employing about 35 different stitches ranging from flat and raised stitches to embossed and jaalis-like stitches.

Gota Patti (Rajasthan) 

Gota refers to gold and silver lace that is used in the royal Rajput embroidery work along with applique. Small bits of zari is stitched onto the fabric and is placed over georgette or bandhini cloths to create textured surfaces.

Kantha (West Bengal & Odisha) 

A sustainable embroidery technique that quilts together layers of recycled/worn-out fabrics using a running stitch, over which colourful and vibrant embroidery patterns are added. 

Kashida (Kashmir)

One of the oldest needlework techniques, it is traditionally practised by the menfolk and uses thick coloured threads and beads to create nature-inspired motifs like birds, blossoms, fruits and trees in a single stitch technique. 

Kasuti (Karnataka) 

Traditional folk embroidery made without the use of any knots to have similar patterns on either side of the cloth. Highly intricate, it involves up to 5,000 hand stitches to create patterns like the gopuram, chariots and palanquins. 

Muqaish (Uttar Pradesh) 

Distinguished by a dotted silver or gold pattern it started as an adornment for Chikankari work. It involves twisting thin metallic threads to create patterns over the fabric and is locally referred to as ‘sachcha kaam’. 

Parsi Gara (Gujarat) 

An embroidery technique with Persian and Chinese origins, it takes pride in its realistic depiction of flora and fauna. It makes use of satin stitches and French knots on a dark base fabric along with ivory threads. 

Phulkari (Punjab)

A symbol of happiness and prosperity, it uses handspun khaddar that is dyed in vibrant colours and employs a darning stitch on the reverse side of the fabric to create beautiful patterns. 

Sujini (Bihar) 

An art form from rural Bihar, it translates to storytelling. This embroidery technique involves creating outlines in chain stitch and is filled with a running stitch. The theme revolves around social and domestic issues. 

Tilla (Kashmir) 

A time-intensive embroidery technique, it is done by delicately tying gold or silver imitation threads by needlepoint over the fabric to create a range of designs. 

Toda (Tamil Nadu) 

Handwoven by the women of the Nilgiris, it uses thick white unbleached cotton cloth with embroidery done on black and red stripes at the end of the cloth. Locally called 'pukhoor', the darning stitch is used to create designs. 

Zardosi (Uttar Pradesh) 

It literally translates to 'gold work' and is an extravagant embroidery technique that is characterized by the use of gold or silver wrapped-threads and embellishments. 

 

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