With the various ins and outs of rulers in India, the only joie di vivre through the tumultuous years was the amalgamation of different cultures establishing their roots in the land early on. From those cultures emerged rural and folk traditions, stories of visual expression that spoke about the lives of those wearing emerald studded robes and gold-threaded garments. Over the years, there have been major shifts in technology, social norms and the way we live our regular lives, what has stayed constant is those stories that still hold relevance with the denim adorning sneaker-wearing trends of today.
Quintessential to the different regions of India, Indian designs and embroidery have long been the colour, glitter and glamour for many. Decade on decade, from handlooms to machine produced exquisiteness, we’ve evolved with the times.
Initially seen as a mark of wealth and status, these embroideries have become the culture markers of specific geographies. The process of tailoring, embellishing and needle working has fostered the development of a varied type of sewing techniques and the decorative possibilities of these techniques have led to the adaptation such age-old crafts into the modern design sensibilities.
Depending on the texture of the fabric, design, type of stitch and the different materials used (metal strips, pearls, beads, sequins etc.) there is plenty of work that serves as an inspiration for designers today. Take a look at the most popular embroidery designs from those times that still give us the ornate feels.
Kashida work (or Aari)
Derived from Persian and Mughal influences, a darner skilled in the handwork is said to have brought it with him from Persia. The Aari Work, uses a special type of crooked needle to make consistent loops where each loop is held by the subsequent one to give it a chain-like appearance. It is said that no single piece of Kashida is done by an individual completely, passing through many skilled hands before it’s declared done.
A versatile yet simple running stitch that can be applied in a multitude of ways, Kantha uses pre-loved fabrics to create beautiful patterns that are worked by hand and cannot be mass-produced in any way which makes no two pieces of Kantha ever look the same. Unlike other embroideries, Kantha work in the olden days was never ordered by the gentry but passed down as dowry from mothers to their daughters.
Extensively used during the time of the Mughals, Bullion stitch came to India from China and is worked by twisting a thread around a needle several times before it touches the cloth. A series of bullion stitches make up for the bullion knot. Also, originally the expertise of hand sewers, bullion knots today hold a special place in the luxury designer bandwagon.
Folk women of native communities in Gujarat used patchwork to make large canopies and tents. For patchwork, various patterns and colours of fabric are cut in different sizes to form a complete piece of work. The interesting thing to note in this type of embroidery is, once completed, the fabric never sags or wrinkles. Today, top designers from the industry are piecing their way into making collections that are based on patchwork. Using luxury silks and fabrics they give sustainability a true definition by making stunning ensembles from what erstwhile was dead stock.
Stonework, back in the time, was stitching precious stones like emeralds, rubies and other semi-precious stones onto elaborate fabrics like brocade, silk and velvet for the members of royal descent. The work evolved with the times and when haute couture paired itself with stonework, ensembles with Swarovski crystals started trending. Across the world today, stonework makes a statement proving all that glitters is not always gold.
– Blog written by Ananya Sharma Shah for Nidhi Embroideries