Sunday, 16 September 2012

Traditional Embroidery Forms

The information in this post is reproduced from a very informative website of the Indian Institute of Craft and Design:

Jammu & Kashmir

'Zalakdozi’, essentially means chain stitch. This type of embroidery includes only chain stitch, in concentric rings to fill a pattern. Zalakdozi typically uses wool, cotton or silk thread. It is done not using a needle, but a hook known as ‘ari’, which is more efficient. Many artisans of Kashmir earn their livelihood using Zalakdozi.

Sozni embroidery or Dorukha is often done so skillfully that the motif appears on both sides of the shawl each side having a different color. There is no wrong side. The same design is produced in different colors on both sides .

Crewel work, is a decorative form of surface embroidery using wool and a variety of different embroidery stitches to follow a design outline applied to the fabric. The technique is at least a thousand years old. It was used in the Bayeux Tapestry, in Jacobean embroidery and in the Quaker tapestry.
Chain and cross-filling stitches are used to do crewel-work on namda or carpets.

Chamba Rumal is an embroidered piece of cloth, most often in a square format (hence the term ‘rumal’ or handkerchief), but also occasionally in oblong formats used during auspicious or ritualistically important occasions to cover ceremonial presentation trays with gifts and offerings (during wedding gift-exchanges, offerings to gods. The fabric used is thin muslin or mulmul. The thread used for the embroidery was untwisted silken yarn. This yarn when used in the do-rukha stitch used in Chamba embroidery, has a three-dimensional effect, creating tones of light and shade.

Phulkari: The traditional Punjabi embroidery art is phulkari. The pulkari word means growing flowers.                     Phulkari is the floral tribute by women of Punjab. Phulkari-The art of growing flowers on fabric.
The embroidery of phulkari and bagh is done in long and short darn stitch, which is created into innumerable designs and patterns. the quality of the phulkari depends upon the size of the stitch. The smaller the stitch, the finer the embroidery.

BAGH embroidery: The phulkari with very intricate floral patterns is called Bagh that means garden. It is primarily used on the odhanies and dupattas. It is considered auspecious for the bride and for the new born. It is worn on ceremonies. Phulkari for some time now is being used in home furnishings


Applique Work: The art of appliqué practiced in Rajasthan, is a decorative work in which one piece of cloth is sewn or fixed onto another, or the activity of decorating a cloth using glass pieces, metals, wood or metal wire. This beautiful craft is usually practiced on dazzling red, purple,black, yellow, green and white fabric. The craftsman first prepares the base material in the shape of square, rectangle, and circle or oval. Appliqué motifs in contrasting colors are then cut in the shape of animals, birds, flowers, leaves, celestial bodies and geometric shapes.

Gota-patti work: The gold embroidery of Jaipur, known as gota patti work, is an intricate form of appliqué with patterns of amazing richness, worked out in minute detail in fine gold thread. Small pieces of zari ribbon are applied onto the fabric with the edges sewn down to create elaborate patterns. Khandela in Shekhawati is best known for its manufacture. It is usually practiced by the Muslim craftsmen

Soof Embroidery: Soof Embroidery is practiced by the women belonging to the Sodha Rajput and Megwar communities. The literal meaning of ‘soof’ is ‘neat and clean,’ referring to the outline of the designs created with a single  stitch.The outlined regions are filled with satin stitches. This embroidery is used for adorning traditional clothes and decorative cloth items. We can see some similarity with Phulkari work here.

Mucca: Mucca is a technique of couching metallic thread on a dark- colored the base fabric.Mucca, is a technique borrowed from Muslim embroidery,refers to the use of gold and silver thread which is couched on the fabric.

Saurashtra Embroidery includes various embroideries that are skilfully fastened onto their work. Vibrant collections of torans, bags, chaklas, blankets, fumtas, wall hangings hair pins, earrings and even safety pins - this community utilises its creativity in the smallest ways possible.


Bead work
The bead work of this Rabari community near Okha is very meticulously done with beads arranged very closely and tightly which takes a very long time to complete. A small theli takes at least six months to bead and is used for weddings as well as other auspicious occasions. A beaded theli is a prized possession of every bhopa Rabari woman and seldom part with.


Banjara embroidery is noted for its lively decoration-cowrie shells, coins, cotton and woolen tassels weighted with lead and glass beads and mirror work are all used to adorn their textiles. The Banjara women of Andhra Pradesh wear gaghrascholis and odhnis in bold appliqué and mirror work. 

The work of the Banjara of Madhya Pradesh and adjoining areas in Maharashtra and Karnataka, is known to be more subtle. The Banjara to be found in Malwa and Nimar districts of Madhya Pradesh and across into Maharashtra towards Jalgaon produce beautiful work made up of squares and rectangles of cross and stem stitch, contained within a grid laid out in closely worked herring-bone stitch. Designs are either geometric or angularly zoomorphic. The most common articles produced are the square, tasseled rumals (kerchiefs) edged with cowries, which are used for presentations at ceremonies and in ceremonial dances; purses (‘batua’) for money or areca nuts; and cholisgaghras and odhnis are also embroidered.

Sindhi Embroidery is the activity of decorating cloth using different stitches, glass pieces, metals, pearls and beads.It is one of the most expensive types of embroidery because not only is the fabric and the material used expensive but also the labourers follow a system of wages on hourly basis.

Chikankari: A study of the origin of chikan reveals that this form of embroidery had come to India from Persia with Noor Jehan, the queen of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir. The word chikan is a derivative from the Persian word ‘chikaan’ meaning drapery. Chikan began as a type of white-on-white (or whitework) embroidery. 

Zardozi is an ancient Persian art (Zar in Persian means gold and Dozi is embroidery) which has been passed down for many generations, dating back before the Mughal empire, reaching its zenith under the patronage of Emperor Akbar in the 17th century. Intricate patterns traced in gold and silver, studded with seed pearls and precious stones enhanced the shimmering beauty of silk, velvet and brocade. Zardozi embroidery is hand stitched predominately by Muslim men.

BIHAR: Traditionally, the stitching in Sujuni or Khatwa cloth was a practical way of connecting three or four layers of cloth together. The simple utilitarian straight stitch soon began to take on personal meaning as it evolved into images from the stitches’ lives.

Khatwa: It consists of applique work on cloth with chain and straight stitch embroidery as a linear element. The traditional khatwa had reverse applique in which a layer of cloth is applied onto a base cloth. The top layer has incisions or slashes that are folded and stitched down, revealing the pattern with the colour of the base cloth. Cut motifs are stitched on to the base material according to an abstract or narrative design. Much like sujuni, khatwa has been contemporized after voluntary organizations took up the cause of the women artisans and their craft. Traditional motifs drawn from nature or geometry have given way to scenes from social life as well as graphic commentary on sensitive issues.

Sujuni is very labor intensive in spite of being a simple form of embroidery with a limited stitch repertoire. A fine running stitch all over the sheet in the same color as the base cloth prepares the background. Chain stitch (usually black, brown or red) is used for the main outlines of the motifs and the design is then filled in with tiny running stitches in coloured threads.

Kantha: Kantha evolved out of necessity to drape or protect against cold. Kontha on Sanskrit means rags. It can rightly be called the recycling art. The Kantha Embroidery is the predominantly the most popular form of embroidery practiced by the rural women. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done the soft dhotis and saris. The thread for this craft was drawn out of the borders of the used cloth. It is a simple running stitch made on the edges. When five to six layers of the cloth were embroidered together it formed a quilt. Fewer layers of the cloth is used to make clothes for other purposes. The outer layers of the cloth comprises of white or light coloured clothes which made the embroidery perceptible. Depending on the use of the finished product they were known as Lepkantha, Sujni Kantha etc. The embroidered cloth is used as stoles for women and shawls. The clothes also find use as covers for mirrors, boxes, pillows etc.

ODISHA: The ethnographic textile includes - appliqué craft of Pipli which is locally called as Chandua in Oriya language, Dongria Kondh-kapda gonda shawl embroidery of Rayagada district and gontha-quilting tradition of Ganjam district of Orissa.These examples of needle craft have distinctive form and identity, crafted and drafted for social purposes whether it is for religious, symbolic or personal work.

Pipli craft/Chandua
The appliqué craft is one of the most popular traditional needle works from the pipli village of Puri district of Orissa. As the tradition of making appliqué work is located in Pipli it is called as pipli craft and locally it is known as Chandua.
The popular and tradition decorated articles such as Chandua (rectangular canopy), trasa (heart shaped with wooden stand) and Chatti (umbrella) were used for the purpose of temple rituals including other tailored articles. These handcrafted decoration used during processions provided sustainability to the several Darjis.

Dongria Kondh-kapda gonad (shawl-making): practiced by Dongria Kondh community. The embroidery usually adorns shawls.The design and patterns are not traced or drawn; they count the threads in order to construct the symmetrical geometrical motifs which appear similar on the reverse side of the fabric as well. The Dongria Kondh textile illustrates cultural and social context of kapda gonada.


Kasuti embroidery: This art was initally practiced on sarees which is the traditional ware of Maharashtra female folks. Holbein, wave and cross stiches are the main stiches used in this art emboidery. Today this art can be seen on all the possible items such as salwar suits, stoles, purses , hand bags etc. 

Kasuti work which is very intricate sometimes involves putting up to 5,000 stitches by hand and is traditionally made on dresswear like Ilkal and Kanchivaram sarees. The Karnataka Handicrafts Development Corporation (KHDC) holds a Geographical Indications (GI) protection for Kasuti embroidery which provides Intellectual Property rights on Kasuti to KHDC.[2] Kasuti work involves embroidering very intricate patterns like gopura, chariot, palanquin, lamps and conch shells. Locally available materials are used for Kasuti. The pattern to be embroidered is first marked with charcoal or pencil and then proper needles and thread are selected. The work is laborious and involves counting of each thread on the cloth. The patterns are stitched without using knots to ensure that both sides of the cloth look alike.

Parsi embroidery contains an extensive repertoire of stitching techniques, all of which contribute to the creation of its detailed and intricate craftsmanship.

Crochet is widely practiced by woman in Goa and has been a part of Goan tradition since the time it was introduced and taught by the Portuguese nuns in the early seventeenth century. It is originally a French word that means hook.

Toda tribal embroidery from the Southern State of Tamil Nadu. The embroidery is so fine that it looks like weaving. The base fabric used is cotton, which is coarse in texture and unbleached-off white colour. The fabric has alternate broad stripes of red and black length wise.,each six inches apart. Embroidery is done in a long, continuous length wise bands between these stripes. Motifs are worked, by counting the threads. So the beauty of the embroidery depends upon the precision with which these ladies count the threads of the fabric and then embroider.

The Lambani embroidery is an amalgam of pattern darning, mirror work, cross stitch, and overlaid and quilting stitches with borders of “Kangura” patchwork appliqué, done on loosely woven dark blue or red handloom base fabric.

Kasuti work involves embroidering very intricate patterns like gopura, chariot, palanquin, lamps and conch shells. Locally available materials are used for Kasuti. This embroidery is done mainly on handloom irkal saris.The motifs here range from architectural designs to a cradle and from an elephant to a squirrel. The main motifs are religious and are found to be larger near the pall.


  1. Traditional designing looks beautiful and attractive.
    Lucknow Chikankari

  2. What is traditional embroidery? Is it done by hand or by machine?