The Art of Indian Embroidery: A Style Guide

The unique craft of embroidery was first documented as early as the 5th century BC and can be found in the ancient Indian ‘Vedas’. The beauty of Indian embroidery is that it has adopted and accepted a lot of traditional elements of varying cultures and geographical areas. To add to this, the craftswomen quite creatively approached the process of pattern assimilation and embroidery techniques, making Indian embroidery extremely unique and visually stunning.

What is Embroidery?

Embroidery is an adornment of fabric, enriching it with a needle and thread. Many embroidery stitches have their foundations in early textiles, basketry, weaving, and mat-making, where stitches were used for joining pieces of fabric or skins together for beautiful and well-defined ornamental purposes.

Indian embroidery design is a beautiful thread work on a variety of fabrics like cotton, silk, wool and velvet cloth, which makes the fabric more attractive. Indians are well-known for their magnificent workmanship and have produced the most beautiful hand-spun, hand-woven textiles. Indian women have practiced the craft of embroidery since time immemorial and it has been traced from the wall paintings, figurines found in Indus Valley Civilization and sculptures.

9 Popular Types of Indian Embroidery Work

Among the exhaustive variety of crafts found in the country, here are some popular types of embroideries in India: 

1. Mirror Work

Mirror work is a type of embroidery which attaches small pieces of mirrors or reflective metal to fabric. It is commonly found throughout Asia, and today can be found in the traditional embroidery of the Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan, China, and Indonesia. Originated in the 17th century in India, the craft came about when people in lower classes mimicked the jeweled garments of the wealthy by decorating fabric with silver beetles’ wings and chips of mica. When a process for manufacturing tiny mirror discs was developed during the Mughal Empire, these tiny mirrors or shisha were swiftly adopted for fabric embellishment.

2. Aari

Practiced in various regions such as in Kashmir and Kutch (Gujarat), aari work involves a hook, plied from the top but fed by silk thread from below with the material spread out on a frame. This movement creates loops, and repeats of these lead to a line of chain stitches.

3. Zardozi

Zari work is done with silver and gold metal wires, usually on silk, satin, or velvet fabric and incorporates pearls, beads, and precious stones. This type of work is sensitive to the atmosphere and can make the weave appear dull and dry. This work is often employed in western silhouettes as well.

4. Gota

Originated in Rajasthan, Gota is an appliqué technique done as gold or silver ribbon or lace. The process is lengthy and time-consuming but is visually rich and heavy while being lightweight.

5. Resham

Done using coloured silk thread, resham is used for making complex patterns. Used for making elaborate as well as intricate patterns, they are usually in the form of floral, paisley or even other decorative patterns that feature a creeper-like design.

6. Chikankari

Famously known from the city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, this embroidery is similar to shadow work, a herringbone stitch done on the wrong side of the fabric to create a shadow illusion on the right side. Usually handcrafted by using a white thread on muslin & cotton, it is also available in sheer synthetic fabrics due to its high demand.

7. Kashida

Hailing from the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Kashida embroidery usually takes inspiration from motifs of birds, fruits, vegetables, florals, and animals. Warm winter wear fabric such as wool and silk are used for this art. The method stitch used for Kashmiri embroidery is a chain, satin, stem & darning stitch.

8. Parsi Gara

The timelessly elegant Parsi Gara embroidery took its original inspiration from China. The newly immigrated Parsis of Bombay traveled a lot to China for trade. The craft came about when one of the traders brought back a new kind of artistic embroidery, which was very realistic in its depiction of flora and fauna and was targeted to the European market.

9. Kantha

A type of embroidery from West Bengal and Bangladesh, the kantha tradition transforms worn-out textiles that would otherwise have been thrown away into beautiful pieces with unique, personal designs. Kantha embroidery is usually found on mats, covers, bedspreads and other household textiles and on garments such as sarees (a women's garment worn draped around the body) and dhotis (a man's garment draped around the lower body). 

A Tapestry of Timeless Beauty: The Evolution of Indian Embroidery

India shares a pivotal position in Ancient Trade Routes across the Asian subcontinent and this has resulted in the introduction of many cultural and religious influences from other countries in the types of embroideries in India. Despite the influences, each embroidery is unique and not an emulation of others. This is mainly because of the diversity in the mode of people, the availability of indigenously manufactured textile material, base fabric, influence of ecology, traditions and rituals, festivals, deities, occupation, skills, likes, belief systems and flare for various motifs, techniques of stitchery, threads and so on.

The Stunning Colors of Indian Embroidery

India is known for its color-rich, vibrant hues in fashion and that extends to its embroideries. Whether it is Aari work that originates from Kutch, Gujarat in chromatic shades or Phulkari embroidery from the state of Punjab whose work fills up as bright colored geometrical patterns – India’s multi-colored embroidery work is exceptionally and strikingly stunning.

Add Some Embellishments As The Finishing Touch

No Indian outfit and no Indian embroidery are complete without embellishments. These can vary from tassels, beads and sequins to bead hangings in pearls, ribbon handwork and other detailing. Lashkaraa’s Periwinkle Embellished Crop Sharara Set is the perfect example of a heavily embellished ensemble with quintessential handcrafted ornamentations. Other embellishment rich options are Ombré Pink and Blue Heavy Embellished Lehenga and Peach Heavy Embellished Net Lehenga, among other styles. While adding these finished touches, it is best to be mindful of the fact that despite the intensive handwork and embellishments, the outfit must look graceful and elegant for you to wear them with versatility.


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