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OUR TECHNIQUES

EMBROIDERY TECHNIQUES OF RAJASTHAN

Embroidery in India includes dozens of regional embroidery styles that vary by region on the varied Indian clothing styles. Designs in Indian embroidery are formed on the basis of the texture and the design of the fabric and the stitch. Rajasthan, as its name signifies, was a conglomeration of princely states. They were of all shapes and sizes, wielding varying degrees of power and enjoying wealth and prestige according to their size and martial prowess. Whatever their wealth or size, however, one characteristic was shared by all. The rulers were invariably patrons of the arts.

The traditional Rajasthani Embroidery work was done on cotton, silk or velvet with a variety of fine stitches. The embroidery designs were floral, geometrical or mythological and, showed

The common people of Rajasthan beautified their clothes and articles of everyday use with rajasthani embroidery that used simple embroidery stitches and motifs derived from nature and objects familiar to them in their day to day living. The tradition has continued. In Bikaner district or Rajasthan, women embroider their garments by counting threads and building up the pattern by following the warp and weft thus producing geometrical patterns. By using a double running stitch the pattern appears the same on both sides making the garment reversible. The work resembles the great Rajasthan favourite, the bandhani or the tie and dye method of decorating fabric with colour.

Chain stitch, done in contrasting colors, is used in Alwar to produce an effect of richness and beauty. Geometrical forms are used with flowing circular lines to produce a sense of movement in the design. Stark contrast is created by producing black and white motifs on a golden yellow background.

In Sikar and Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, skirt borders are embroidered with a variety of birds, animals, trees, and flowers. There is a pleasing quality of naiveté in the work. The Rajasthani emrboidery stitches used are simple— herringbone for filling and stem stitch for outlining but a three-dimensional effect is created by using a thick thread in a variety of colors.

The ralli is a patchwork spread made in Jaiselmer district of Rajasthan. Small pieces of material are stitched together in a decorative pattern to form the top of the spread. As in other parts of the country, the padding is made up of layers of old material held together with running stitches. Jaiselmer and Jodhpur also excel in silk thread embroidery on leather which is done especially on shoes and waistcoats. The knuckle pad is another article made of leather which is decorated with scenes resembling miniature paintings. The work done in the cities is fine and in subdued colour and is sometimes highlighted with gold or silver thread. In rural areas the designs are bolder and made with bright colors and thicker thread. Horse and camel saddles are embroidered with an awl and are richly colourful.

The obvious inspirations for the folk embroidery of Rajasthan are toys. A whole expanse of material is covered with people, projecting arms at awkward angles. Elephants have large staring eyes, short legs and long trunk falling from a small head. Trees are shaped like candelabra with stems sticking out on either side and tapering to a point at the top. A horse stands on stick-thin legs; two sausage-like dogs with curling tails growl at each other while pencil slim human beings carry on various activities. The whole scene could have been lifted from a Paul Klee Canvas or, perhaps, embroideries like these could have been the inspiration for Klee’s work.

KALAMKARI

Kalamkari is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, produced in parts of India and in Iran. The word is derived from the Persian words ghalam (pen) and kari (craftmanship), meaning drawing with a pen (Ghalamkar).

There are two distinctive styles of kalamkari art in India - one, the Srikalahasti style and the other, the Machilipatnam style of art. The Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari, wherein the "kalam" or pen is used for free hand drawing of the subject and filling in the colours, is entirely hand worked. This style flowered around temples and their patronage and so had an almost religious identity - scrolls, temple hangings, chariot banners and the like, depicted deities and scenes taken from the great Hindu epics - Ramayana. Mahabarata, Puranas and the mythological classics. This style owes its present status to Smt. Kamaladevi Chattopadhayay who popularized the art as the first Chairperson of the All India Handicrafts Board.

To create the Kalakari look the cotton fabric gets its glossiness by immersing it for an hour in a mixture of Myrobalans and cow milk. Contours and reasons are then drawn with a point in bamboo soaked in a mixture of jagri fermented and water; one by one these are applied, then the vegetable dyes. After applying each color on to the motif, the Kalamkari fabric is washed after drying. Thus, each fabric can undergo up to 20 washes. Various effects are obtained by using cow dung, seeds, plants and crushed flowers to obtain natural dye.

KANTHA EMBROIDERY

Kantha embroidery is an indigenous household craft that is also considered a form of art, due to the uniqueness of individual creations, its ability to convey a story and its use as a form of personal and artistic expression. What sets this form of needlework embroidery apart from others is the wide use of the running stitch, also known as kantha. Yarn used for running stitches is often taken from old sarees or dhotis, and covers almost the entire piece of fabric onto which motifs and designs are embroidered. The repetitive use of the running stitch contributes to Kantha’s signature wrinkled and wavy effect on the fabric.

Kantha embroidery began as a means of recycling old or unused cloths and garments, such as sarees and dhotis, in order to create items for household use, such as quilts and plate covers. One of the oldest and most popular forms of Indian embroidery, Kantha is predominantly practised amongst rural women in the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha (Orissa). Techniques used in Kantha embroidery are passed down from mother to daughter and are popular dowry traditions.

The motifs found in Kantha communicate the identities of its wearers in terms of caste, village and status. Motifs in early Kantha embroidery were drawn from primitive art, such as illustrations of the sun. With time, Hindu Kantha embroiderers created religious motifs, such as of Gods, peacocks, tigers and lotuses, and auspicious colourful motifs that represent the lotus flower. Geometric designs were, and still are, commonly found in motifs createdby Muslim Kantha embroiderers.

HAND SEQUIN EMBROIDERY

Embroidery is the handcraft of decorating fabric with needle and thread or yarns and different types of beads and materials . Sequin embroidery incorporates using disk shaped beads, these are available in wide range and variety of colours and geometrical shapes .

Embroidery and handcraft techniques were at the peak of the Mughal rule in India, in the 16th century in the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar , handcrafted and embellished apparel were in real vogue under the Patronage of the Akbar, the imperial workshops in the towns of India turned out masterpieces of workmanship in fabrics and the figures and patterns and knots and variety of embroideries were outstanding and could astonish the most well experienced travellers. Embroidery was an important art in the medieval Islamic world in cities like Damascus / Cairo and Istanbul embroidery was visible on each and very fabric that was used in the daily lives .

Embroideries from India have been a constant source of inspiration to all the leading designers of the world.

SHIBORI

Shibori is tie dyeing fabrics in different shapes to make different patterns. Shibori is the Japanese word for a variety of ways of embellishing textiles by shaping cloth and securing it before dyeing. The word comes from the verb root shiboru, "to wring, squeeze, press." Although shibori is used to designatc a particular group of resist-dyed textiles, the verb root of the word emphasizes the action performed on cloth, the process of manipulating fabric. Rather than treating cloth as a two-dimensional surface, with shibori it is given a three-dimensional form by folding, crumpling, stitching, plaiting, or plucking and twisting. Cloth shaped by these methods is secured in a number of ways, such as binding and knotting. It is the pliancy of a textile and its potential for creating a multitude of shape-resisted designs that the Japanese concept of shibori recognizes and explores. The shibori family of techniques includes numerous resist processes practiced throughout the world.

The special characteristic of shibori resist is a soft- or blurry-edged pattern. The effect is quite different from the sharp-edged resist obtained with stencil, paste, and wax. With shibori the dyer works in concert with the materials, not in an effort to overcome their limitations but to allow them full expression. And, an element of the unexpected is always present.

KASHIDA EMBROIDERY

Known to be one of the most ancient and traditional type of intrinsic art, Kashida Embroidery, also spelled as Kasida de nes its cultural essence through the medium of bead and threadwork, which has gained maximum popularity, fame and recognition in the ethnic land of Jammu and Kashmir. The purest essence and forms of nature like birds, leaves, trees and many such natural motifs are replicated in this embroidery with multi colored threads and beads woven into the fabrics like shawls and saris.

The land of Kashmir etched its beautiful essence in the form of Kashida embroidery into the fashion world way back in the Mughal period which was patronized by the emperors and the royals of that era. However if we go further up along the paths of historical archives of fashion, it can be found that this embroidery was also creatively initiated by the residents of Srinagar. Intrinsic needlework and quality was webbed into the nest maze of creativity and innovation using a wide spread of colors and patterns which intertwined the mood and spirits of the craftsmen with the essence of the pure nature, and that too through the traditional form of embroidery which involved the role of one or two styles of embroidery stitching.

The motifs were mainly taken from nature; animal and human gures were not seen in this embroidery. Bird motifs were seen on the shawls (like parrot, woodpeckers and king shers). Floral motifs like lily, lotus, iris, saffron flower and tulips were mostly seen on the shawls. Other designs like grapes, cherries, almonds and apples were their favourites. The chinar leaf is considered as an important motif.

Single stitch style is considered to be the signature style of Kashida Embroidery. Besides there are many other stitches like satin stitch, herringbone, stem stitch, chain stitch, knot stitch and many more which are also creatively implemented. These stitches are however not executed more than twice. There are many other intrinsic styles like sozni work, papier mache work and even hook or ari work which comes under the wings of this embroidery style, as traditional motifs like animals, birds, 3owers, and fruits are woven into the fabric with the threads of gold, silver and other metallic colored threads which replicate the sheer essence of the mystic nature.This embroidery is done on silk, cotton and wool fabrics. Colourful fabrics like white (sufed), green (zingari), purple (uder), blue (ferozi), yellow (zard) and black (mushki). The threads used were wool, cotton and silk.

KUTCH EMBROIDERY

It is rightly said that Gujarat has given India the greatest heritage in embroidery work and craft through its famous and versatile Kutch embroidery. The hub of the Kutch embroidery work is basically located in the regions of Kutch and Saurashtra wherein the local artisans churn out the most creative and exquisite designs. From mirror and bead work to Abhala embroidery along with the usage of silk threads of bright colors, the Kutch embroidery basically ornate the entire fabric and embellishes it completely. The impeccable designs of Kutch embroidery is a tribute to Rabaris, a nomadic tribe that crafted the art of Kutch embroidery which is now an artwork of international repute.

Historically, it is said that Kutch embroidery was brought about by ‘Kathi’ cattle breeders who later settled down and created some ne needlework which displayed a variety of elements, designs, themes, patterns and moods. Kutch embroidery has been there for centuries and in the 16th and 17th centuries Kutch embroidery pieces were exported by western countries.

It is also believed that mochis or shoemakers were taught Kutch embroidery 300 years ago by a Muslim wanderer in Sindh and that is what started the tradition. However, Kutch embroidery clubbed with Sindh tradition owns styles such as Suf, Khaarek, and Paako, Rabari, Garasia Jat and Mutava.

A lot of the Kutch embroidery is in3uenced by various architectural designs and motifs such as the ‘Heer bharat’. Using the Heer Bharat as a mirror is easily xed in the center that adds more beauty to the embroidery work. Kutch embroidery is mainly done in colors such as Green, Ivory, Indigo, Black, Deep red, Yellow and off White. This embroidery is also in3uenced by romantic motifs as well as patterns of human gurines in dancing poses and dancing peacocks too. A lot of motifs are also inspired by Persian and Mughal arts that are inspired by animals. Delicate beadwork is also incorporated with great nesse. The work is done on fabrics such as Cotton and Silk.

STYLES:

AHIR EMBROIDERY

The Ahirs, who migrated from Gokul Mathura settled mostly in Kutch and Saurashtra. They are mostly engaged in agriculture. Women of the Ahir community do needle work, when they get time from the work in the house and fields. This embroidery resembles Rabari stitches but only round mirrors are used with geometrical and 3oral motifs. Their dresses are embellished with embroidered articles. Kotay, Dhori, Sumraser, Habai, Lodai, Dharempur, Padhar, Dhanee, Mamuara, Nagor, Cheperedi are main centres of Ahir embroidery.

RABARI

Rabari has mirrors in a variety of shapes and patterns in chain stitch. It is then decorated with a sequence of stitches in vibrant colors. Artisans also use decorative back stitching, called bakhiya, to decorate men’s kediya/ jackets and the seams of women’s blouses.

BANNI

Banni embroidery' refers to a kind of embroidery done by people belonging to the Banni community in Kutch. It is also known as 'Heer Bharat'. It makes use of brightly coloured threads; yellow, red and orange are the most commonly used colours. Beads and mirrors are also widely used for added effect. Usually, silk floss is used for the embroidery. Chain stitches and buttonhole stitches are commonly used in the Banni style of embroidery.

PHULKARI

Phulkari, which literally translates into ‘flower work’, has a history etched in the culture of Punjab. Spun from the charkha this spectacular style of embroidery is patterned on odinis, shawals, kurtis and chunris. The main characteristics of Phulkari embroidery are the use of darn stitch on the wrong side of cloth with colored silken thread. A face of fashion that finds its first mentions in Punjabi folklore of the romantic protagonists Heer and Ranjha, Phulkari is a dream weaver for every Punjabi girl.

Phulkari is brought to the Indian Subcontinent by the migrant Jat people of Central Asia in ancient times. Techniques and patterns of Phulkari were not documented but transmitted by word of mouth. The tradition of Phulkari was associated with the Sikh heritage but was also shared with Hindus & Muslims.

n the days gone by, the Phulkari was an art that offered complete freedom of creativity. Motifs used were an adroit representation of the dear and sundry values of Punjab. Since it was essentially a communal activity, colors and shades were somewhat run-of-the-mill, however, the fact that most of the women were experts in Phulkari would even make mediocre look exquisite. Back in the days, Phulkari was a reflection of routine and regular life of a typical Punjabi woman. She embroidered on a cotton cloth a tale of her tryst with the gardens.

Thread by thread, each Phulkari motif was created in a geometric grid, which was a peculiar technique for coming up with a curvilinear finaloutput. Long and short darn stitch was put to clever use for creating horizontal, vertical and diagonal thread work, inspired by routine of the artists, flowers, and animals.

Phulkari, a rural tradition of handmade embroidery, literally meaning “3ower work” is an auspicious, head cover embroidered by the versatile fingers of Punjabi women. Embroidering on a Phulkari reveals a lot of ground cloth. A variety of characters, forms and designs are scattered and embroidered on a Phulkari.

BAGH

With time Phulkari became increasingly elaborate and decorative which led to the evolution of a special ceremonial, Bagh Phulkari. Bagh literally means “garden of of flowers”, and the term distinguishes the flowered Phulkari is that the embroidery is so profuse that the ground colour is no longer visible thus the embroidery becomes the fabric itself. Unlike Phulkari, Bagh demands more time and patience and more material, thereby increasing the expense. Thus bagh set out to be a status symbol.

CHOPE

Chope is usually embroidered on the borders. It is gifted to the bride by her grandmother during some ceremony before wedding.The “Chope” is embroidered straight with two sided line stitch which appears same on both the side. Unlike Phulkari and Bagh where a variety of colours are used, Chope is generally embroidered with one colour (Golden or yellowish golden mostly).

CHIKANKARI EMBROIDERY

The craft of Chikan work, often referred to as Lucknow Chikan, is over 400 years old with a firm presence in the Indian and global fashion arena. The technique of its creation is called Chikankari and its unique sensibility 3aunts grace and elegance as subtly as the wearer pleases. While the word Chikan quite literally means embroidery, the art form incorporates approximately 36 different stitching techniques that in modern times are often combined with embellishments of pearls, mirror and Mukaish. Though traditionally it was done on Muslin cloth, white thread on white fabric, today it can be seen on various fabrics and colors, popularly pastels. While its central hub and place of origin is Lucknow, Chikan work has spread far and wide within India, with West Bengal and Awadh also specializing in its production.

Some historians have recorded the presence of Chikan as early as the 3rd Century AD during the reign of Changragupta Maurya, but the exact origin of this technique remains a mystery to date. Another common tale behind its history relates the Mughals introducing this Persian craft to India in the 17th Century.

The Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s consort, Noor Jahan, was a known talented embroiderer with a particular fondness for Chikankari work. Jahangir was also enamored by this craft and lavished it with his royal patronage. He established several workshops to hone and perfect this art form. In this era, the fabrics used were mostly Muslin or Mulmul as they were best suited for the warm, humid climate. After the downfall of the Empire, Chikankari artisans spread all over India and founded various centers for re-establishment in the 18th and 19th Century. Lucknow was the main one with Awadh as a close second. The then Governor of Awadh, Burhan Ul Malk, was a Persian nobleman and Chikan work beneficicary who had a major role in restoring this craft to its former glory, which in many ways stands till date.

There are hardly any garments with Lucknow Chikan work that don’t use floral patterns or motifs. Due to the strong influence of Persian aesthetics on this craft, flowers have been a staple in Chikankari designs. The types of flowers (including their stems, Buti, leaves and Paisley motifs), as well as their stylizations, have varied throughout time to keep up with fashion trends, but in general have remained fairly intricate and delicate.

STYLES:

  1. Bakhiya, double back or shadow stitch in chikan work is done from the wrong side of the fabric and the design is rendered in the herringbone style. The shadow of the thread is seen through the cloth on the right side.
  2. Tepchi is a long running or darning stitch worked with six strands on the right side of the fabric taken over four threads and picking up one. Thus, a line is formed. It is used principally as a basis for further stitchery and occasionally to form a simple shape.
  3. Hool is a ne detached eyelet stitch. Herein, a hole is punched in the fabric and the threads are teased apart. It is then held by small straight stitches all round and worked with one thread on the right side of the fabric. It can be worked with six threads and often forms the center of a flower.
  4. Zanzeera is a small chain stitch worked with one thread on the right side of the fabric. Being extremely fine, it is used to nally outline the leaf or petal shapes after one or more outlines have already been worked.
  5. Rahet is a stem stitch worked with six threads on the wrong side of the fabric. It forms a solid line of back stitch on the right side of the fabric and is rarely used in its simple form but is common in the double form of dohra bakhiya as an outlining stitch.
  6. Banarsi stitch has no European equivalent and is a twisted stitch worked with six threads on the right side of the fabric. Working from the right across about two threads vertically. The needle is reinserted halfway along and below the horizontal stitch formed and is taken out about two threads vertically on the right above the previous stitch.
  7. Khatau is similar to Bakhia, but ner and is a form of applique. In Khatau, the design is prepared on calico material. That is placed over the surface of the final fabric and then paisley and 3oral patterns are stitched on to it.
  8. Phanda and Murri are the forms of stitches used to embroider the centre of the flowers in ordinary chikan work motifs. They are typically French knots, with murri being rice-shaped and phanda millet-shaped.
  9. Jali stitch is the one where the thread is never drawn through the fabric, ensuring that the back portion of the garment looks as impeccable as the front. The warp and weft threads are carefully drawn apart and minute buonhole stitches are inserted into the cloth.

ZARDOZI EMBROIDERY

Zardozi is form of embroidery that came to I ndia from Persia. Its literal translation, “zar” meaning gold and “dozi” meaning embroidery, refers to the process of using metallic-bound threads to sew embellishment on to various fabrics. This heavy and intricate style of design is said to have been brought to India with the Mughal conquerors. It found a base with thousands of artisans who have passed on this trade among their families and local communities. While the Indian city of Lucknow became a major center for this art form, its exact origin is unknown. However, there are many romanticized stories that surround its origin. Till date there are numerous micro enterprises that specialize in Lucknow Zardozi.

Zardozi is a style of embroidery that has its earliest mentions in Vedic literatures, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. The original process, known as “Kalabatun”, used silk threads wrapped in real gold and silver wires to decorate satin and velvet fabrics.

Along with the threads, other opulent embellishments such as sequins, beads, precious and semi-precious stones and pearls were also sewn on.At its peak, it was used in the Mughal Era by the royalty to adorn tent walls in the form of tapestries and wall hangings, as well as on accessories for elephants and horses. Lucknow became a central hub for this embroidery technique during Aurangzeb’s reign in the 12th Century, when this imperial art form was encouraged under ruling Mughal beneificiaries. Their patronage encouraged Zardosi artists to spread throughout India. However, Lucknow remained the main center of production due to the high demand from the city of Nawabs. However, over time, with the rise of gold and silver prices, the use of such expensive materials became difficult and artisans resolved to use synthetic threads or copper wires polished in gold and silver. In doing so, Zardozi was commercialized as a technique, though some of the glory of the traditional heritage of this craft was lost. The Geographical Indication Registry has accorded all Zardosi textiles manufactured in Lucknow and its surrounding districts with the GI tag. Cities like Hyderabad, Delhi, Agra, Kashmir, Kolkata, Varanasi and Farrukkbadare are also known as Zardozi specialty regions. This has differentiated the craft from imitation products for shareholders and has also helped to retain one of the nest and oldest art forms of Lucknow.

Lucknow Zardozi has more ornate and heavy designs, with a 3D quality to their motifs. This is a similar style to the Delhi Zardozi work, whereas Hyderabad and Agra tend to keep patterns minimalistic, with a focus on simple but large motifs. The inspiration for all motifs has always been nature. From flowers, leaves and trees to animals and birds, the national ecology of India seeps in to all Zardozi embroidery.

STYLES:

A crochet-like needle that is xed to a wooden stick called “Ari” is used to carry out the embroidery. As opposed to a regular needle and thread, the Ari greatly speeds up the work as the artisans can pass the threads both above and below the fabric. Depending on the intricacy of design and number of artisans working on a piece, this phase can take anywhere from a day to 10 days. So the ultimate tool is a steady hand and nimble fingers.

n Lucknow, the raw material to make original Zardozi threads is an alloy of gold and silver. This delicate alloy wire is made by melting ingots that are pressed through perforated steel sheets. They are further flattened by hammering and then converted into wires. Once out of the furnace, these wires are twisted around silk threads to form the thicker, spring-like Zardozi thread. This springy quality of thread called “Dabka” is credited as a Lucknow specialty. It is often combined with sequins, glass and plastic beads. Lucknow Zardozi in itself is a variety of Zardozi that differs from the other forms of embroidery that bear the same name, done in other cities. Its opulent Mughal influences, for instance, differ from the Tamil influences of Zardozi done in Chennai.

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