All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association
all india artisans and craftworkers welfare association
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Chikankari Embroidery

The Craft

Chikankari is a delicate embroidery technique more than 200 years old. The design was marked with wooden blocks using removable pigment. Today colors and different types of fabric are used in addition to the traditional white thread stitched onto white cotton fabric. The word chikan comes from the Persian word chikaan meaning drapery. Some sources attribute the origins of the craft to East Bengal where the word chikan means fine. Chikan was first referred to in the third century B.C. in the records of Megasthanese, a Greek traveler. There is also reference to the craft flourishing under the Nawabi influence where a seamstress from Murshidabad embroidered a cap for the Nawab that strarted a local fashion trend. There are no surviving samples of early garments. They were so delicate that after two washes they had to be discarded. With the British influence, formalization of the designs started taking place and home linen started being made. Among the motifs used, the fish was the most common and was also the emblem of the court of Oudh.

Who practices this craft?

The craft originated in Lucknow, earlier known as Oudh or Awadh. More recently, chikan is also being done in other areas of the country, including Delhi. Each type of Chikankari stitch is very unique, and is used to achieve specific visual effects. Craftsmen specialize in particular stitches; the same person will never do a jaali work and a phanda work.

What materials and tools are used in this craft?

Tools: Chhapas (blocks for printing), needles, embroidery frames;
Materials: Fugitive colors, kachcha dhaga or lachchis (thread), fabric.

What is the Craft process?

The tailor cuts the fabric into the required shape.

Then a quick running stitch is done to give the block printer an idea of the placement of the designs to be printed.

The designs are printed on the semi-stitched garment with blocks using fugitive colors. The cloth to be printed is spread out on the table. Then, the printer dabs the block on the tray of color and places it on the fabric, banging it with his fist. He repeats the process as he moves along the fabric.

The embroidery is done on the printed designs. Different people specializing in different kinds of stitching contribute to the finished embroidery.

This is very important. After the garment goes through the preceding steps it becomes so dirty that the finer flaws are not seen unless it is washed.

Clipping extra threads, fixing any flaws, and putting finishing touches on garments are some of the final steps.

Producer Groups practicing Chikankari
Fab India

Product categories made with Chikankari


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