The Art of Chikankari

          Chikankari is thought to be over four centuries old and has its origins in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India. Whether or not it began during Mughal control, it was certainly encouraged and flourished throughout that time period for adorning many types of cloth. 

During the Mughal Empire, soft malmal and muslin cotton fabrics were commonly used, and Chikankari was used to embellish them with magnificent floral motifs. Historians point out that Emperor Jahangir's wife, Noorjehan, was essential in setting the environment for the spread of this art throughout the emperor's reign.

Chikankari is a style of shadow stitching that is incredibly delicate and detailed. Originally, the stitching was done with white thread on tanzeb, a colorless muslin. However, today's textiles include georgette, chiffon, cotton, and other fine fabrics. Chikankari embroidered work of India has now spread to cushion covers, pillow covers, table linen, and other items, despite its origins as a clothing adornment.

Cutting, stitching, printing, embroidery, washing, and finishing are just a few of the steps involved in Indian Chikan craft. The same person does the cutting and stitching. The printing is then done with dye-soaked wooden blocks.

 Embroidery is then done, which is mainly done by women. Washing and finishing, which takes 10 to 12 days and includes bleaching, acid treatment, stiffening, and ironing, is the final step in the Chikankari embroidery process. The creeper design is the most common motif in Lucknow Chikan Kari art. Jasmine, rose, blossoming stems, lotus, and other floral motifs are used throughout the garment or in the corners.

The Different Types of Chikan Embroidery 

Chikankari has around 40 different forms of stitches. These stitches are broadly classified into three main types of embroideries viz, Flat Stitches, Embossed Stitches, and Open Trellis. Below I will be going into detail about all the different types of stitches. Let’s begin.

Flat Stitches

As the name suggests, these stitches are supposed to look flat. This stitch is done in such a way that it looks as if the embroidery is a part of the texture of the fabric. If one looks from a distance, they would not be able to make out that it is in fact an embroidered pattern. Under this type of embroidery, we further have a few different types of stitches. Let’s talk about them one by one.

    • Keel Kangan- The very first type of stitch we have is the Keel Kangan stitch. This is a beautiful floral and petal motif stitch done using either cotton or silk thread. 
    • Bakhiya- This stitch is distinguished by its double back and shadow work. The actual design on the front end is portrayed in a herringbone manner, and it's primarily done from the wrong side of the fabric. On the right side of the material, the thread's shadow can be observed. It's also known as "Ulti" and "Seedhi" Bakhiya in the business.
  • Tepchi- This is one of the most basic ways to create a Chikankari dress. It's a cloth stitch that's linear, long-running, or darning. Six strands are taken over four threads on the right side of the ground fabric, and one of them is picked up. This style is mostly used to outline the design motif.
    • Badla: Badla is a stem stitch with little stitches looped horizontally around it. It's commonly used to create flower veins.
    • Rahet: An derivation of the Bakhiya stitch, it is rarely employed in its simplest form. It's also known as "Dohra Bakhiya" because it creates a firm backstitch line on the right side of the fabric. The majority of the time, it's used to make outline stitches.
    • Khatau: Like Rahet, Khatau is also a Bakhiya offshoot. The most visible distinction is that it is finer and uses appliqué techniques. The design is usually done on calico, which is a plain weave unbleached material that isn't always fully processed cotton.

    Embossed Stitches

    The embossed stitch design adds texture (as well as color) to the chikankari work. The twisted rib appearance is created by knitting and purling the thread into the rear of the loops. It means to carve with a raised effect on the fabric. It gives the fabric a gritty texture. This type of embroidery has the following stitches-

    • Ghas Patti: A V-shaped line of stitches stitched in a graduated series on the right side of the fabric to create grass leaves. It's done in parallel rows on occasion to fill flowers and leaves in a theme. 
    • Zanzeera: This is a tiny, carefully created chain stitch done with one thread on the fabric's right side. It's primarily used to improve the outline of a shape like a flower or a petal after the fundamental outlines have been drawn.
    • Phanda: Millets-shaped knots are referred known as Phanda. Phanda is thought to be a more complicated variation. Knots have been formed here. These knots, on the other hand, are much smaller and more delicate. In simple Chikankari design motifs, it's usually employed to make the center of the flowers.
    • Murri: It's a grain shape made by repeating diagonal satin threads with a knot on a basic tepchi pattern.

    Open Trellis

    Open Trellis is the type of embroidery in which the chikankari thread is never drawn through the cloth. To create a net appearance, needles are used to separate the warps and weft yarns and little stitches are used to hold them in place. The fabric develops jaalis and regular holes as a result of this process. The stitched under this type of embroidery are-

    • Hool: This is a fine detached eyelet stitch, according to Hool. It is made up of six threads and forms the flower's heart. The threads are separated from each other when a hole is precisely punched into the fabric. It's then secured in place with tiny stitches all around on the right side of the fabric with a single thread.
    • Jaali: A Jaali stitch is one in which the thread is never dragged through the cloth, guaranteeing that the garment's back is just as good as the front.
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