Embroidery is a traditional art, of decorating portions within a fabric such as a design, motif, a border section or some other with decorative needlework. There are some forms which are excellent, there are a few others which are exemplary. For not only is it the outcome, but also the complexity of the task and its time-consuming achievement, which makes the embroidery, unique and inspirational. There are some gems which have belied time, that have carried over the ages and still remain inimitable to this day.
Handcrafted embroidery is exclusive, unique, inspirational - a treasured art, since it is painstaking, time consuming, and a lot of care and dedication is put into it by ethnic practitioners, resulting in flawless creations of exquisite beauty. There are numerous forms of thread work practiced across the land, many are simple by way of doing, some are elaborate by way of both theme and execution.
And then there are the gems that have been carried across the sands of time by extremely devoted practitioners that are unparalleled in form, development and outcome. Such precious arty pieces are rare, with some extraordinary aspect or the other related to the origin and propagation helped by lovers of the unusual, that has kept them alive and flourishing till date.
Embroidery forms that have become popular
Zardozi is metal embroidery done on various fabrics like salwar kameez and sarees using gold or silver colour coated copper wire along with a silk thread. Popular since Mughal times, zari thread employed for zardozi, is imitation zari using gold or silver coated copper wire or mostly zari made from metallic polyester film, where a polyester core is covered by gold or silver coloured metallic yarn. Seemingly ordinary, this form of embroidery has an exhaustible variety and till date has remained as one of the most popular forms of embroidery.
Chikankari is intricate embroidery on salwar kameez and other canvas fabrics. An art form from Mughal times, encouraged by them and continued till date, the design or pattern embroidery once done with white thread on equally white or whiter plain fabrics uses coloured threads too. But this has neither dimmed the lustre of the art nor limited its variety. There are still too many designs and patterns that remain to be explored over a lifetime. Lucknavi chikankari is the most unique and famous of chikan work in India.
Kantha Work, the running stitch on designs in the form of motifs is embroidery work done on salwar kameez, sarees. These motifs could be animals, birds, flowers, simple geometrical shapes and scenes from everyday life. It gives the fabric a wrinkled and wavy look transforming a supposedly plain one into an extraordinary creation. Experimented with other stitches such as darning stitch, satin stitch and loop stitch, the fascination for Kantha has increased tremendously. Based on the use of the fabric, Kantha is divided into seven different types with Lep kantha and Sujani kantha being the popular types.
Bagh is special floral embroidery practised by women in rural Punjab. Heavy, exquisite embroidery on salwar kameez especially the lehenga type, where the base fabric is hardly visible, it is mostly done for special salwar suits for occasions like festivals and weddings. Phulkari or the floral embroidered motifs evenly distributed over the fabric is the lighter version of Bagh.
Kasuti is traditional embroidery of Karnataka, India. Kasuti work is very intricate, involves putting a large number of stitches by hand on traditional sarees like Ilkal, Kanjeevaram, Mysore Silk and handlooms like the Dharwad cottons. Kasuti embroidery has intricate patterns like chariot, lamps and conch shells on the fabrics. Its practitioners are gypsies or tribal folk but the art is sublime - untouched, unparalleled.
Kashida is embroidery done in the Kashmir valley, draws its subjects from nature and its offerings like leaves, floral arrangements, fruits, nuts etc. to be displayed as motifs on the rich Pashmina salwar kameez, shawls and other apparel.
Kutch embroidery is microscopic, exquisite, painstaking and absolutely awesome. It is a test of patience skill, memory and devotion rolled into one. The sensational designs and patterns that form from calculated stitches are done purely from memory. The outcomes are exotic masterpieces that have a blend of traditional flavor and modern day art. It is another masterpiece from the nomads of the desert, the Kutch region of Gujarat.
There are some others like the Parsi Garo embroidery known for their intricate thread working, with unique patterns and exceptional detailing.
These forms of threadwork are unique, distinct, exceptional and highly inspirational. Yet they have one thing in common. They have originated from humble places, been taken up more as a pastime and sometimes a need, yet the practitioners have not failed to do what is needed for a piece of work to be transformed as a beautiful art.
It is lovers of art who have through their ability to distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary that such art forms have been given their due place in the sun. There are very many more handicrafts of skill and accuracy spread across the country, where some like these, have got their well-deserved attention; others not as fortunate though, to get even the slightest attention of some encouraging body or well-wisher to bring them their due.