Chikankari

FABRIC SWATCH

Extract from the current issue of Selvedge. By Sarah Jane Downing

The origins of chikankari are as elusive as the shadowy designs that gently wend their way across this fine muslin. The embroidery is thought to be derived from the Persian ‘chikeen’ meaning ‘coin’ or ‘delicately embroidered fabric’: the name ‘chikankari’ means ‘fine work’ on the Indian subcontinent.

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The technique may have been introduced from Persia, but with origins shrouded in mystery, romantic speculation has taken over. Many interpret the ‘flowered muslin’ to be found in ‘Indian lands’ mentioned in a Greek text from the third century BCE, and white-clad figures depicted in the ancient Ajanta cave paintings, as evidence of chikankari’s ancient origins.

Embroidered in white cotton thread on the sheerest muslin, chikankari’s delicate form means no examples survive from before the early 19th century. Shadow work or bakhia embroidery creates remarkable effects by layering stitches on the reverse of the fabric, creating a spectre of the design which is then outlined in tiny running stitches on the right side.

Read more about the history and beauty of Chikankari in the current issue of Selvedge magazine.

 

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2 comments on Chikankari

  1. […] It’s a special kind of embroidery, that apparently has been around since the times of the Mughal  rule in India. Several designers and NGOs continue to use this style of embroidery on various garments. This style is made up of 35 different stitches and you if fancy, then you can read more about these, right here.  If like me, you are fascinated by the history of this embroidery style, then please do have a read of this brilliantly written article in the Selvedge magazine; right here.  […]

  2. Shilpa Sharma says:

    Lovely article on the ‘Chikankari’ work. We just gave a link to this from our blog post. Here is the link to our post:

    http://notjustashopper.com/2017/03/lucknawi-chikankari/

    Best regards,
    Shilpa

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