Chikankari Embroidery from India – As a child growing up in Lucknow in the 1960s, I recall being dragged along to the stores when my mother and aunts shopped.  Much to my boredom.  Except when we went to the chikankari shops.  Even as a child, I found the gossamer tenderness and transparency of the craft fascinating, and I’m not alone in this.  In 1903, George Watt described it as “the most artistic and delicate form of the indigenous needlework of India.”  Laila Tyabji compares it to a dragonfly wing.  

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Chikankari Embroidery, A Lucknawi Tradition.

As I turned the pages of Paola Manfredi’s pioneering book on the past and present of Chikankari Embroidery, one of the most luxurious and evergreen traditional embroideries from the Indian Subcontinent,  I feel proud of the culture that has patronized the excellent details and flair for this artistry. Nonetheless, the attention to detail is so nuanced( whether it is a small-cap or a full bodice) that I believe it will be an injustice to the research and images shared in the book if one attempts to discern everything in one read. (more…)

Traditional Chikankari Embroidery at a NYC based company
Traditional Chikankari Embroidery at a NYC based companyImage Source: Poala Manfredi’s book on Chikankari

CHIKANKARI EMBROIDERY HISTORY 

Traditional Chikankari Embroidery at a NYC based company. The historical city of Lucknow with its detailed architecture is synonymous with Chikankari embroidery. In 1775, Lucknow had become the capital of the city of Oudh. It at once began to attract craftsmen, artists and musicians, who were patronized by the Mughal court.Mughal Court

The stitches of  white on white patterns such as paisleys and florals adorn the surface of the fabric . The use of untwisted cotton or silk threads was common. Some stitches start from the front of the fabric, others from the back. There are six basic stitches, which form a large repertoire of stitches as a combination of each other for embossing flowers and leaves.
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