Happy Dasara!

Dasara brings such warm memories of childhood that it makes me want to be a kid again! Today's embroidery, 'Kalasha' is symbolic of Dasara as it is celebrated in South India. 'Kalasha' is a metal pot inside which are a few neatly tucked mango leaves and a coconut in the center. To me the embroidery also reminds me of my grandma. She lived in Chennai and would visit us every summer. During her stay, she would make me a special 'Kalasha' for the 'Golu' (Another South Indian tradition of proudly displaying one's collection of clay dolls, heirloom artifacts, travel souvenirs in steps). In our house, the centre piece was always grandma's meticulously decorated 'Kalasha' made from a few simple things - plastic pot, rubber ball, large gold sequins and of course, tons of pins!!

Well, whatever fond memories Dasara may bring to you, here is wishing everyone a Happy festival season!


From the City of the Nawabs...

Today, we travel to Lucknow, a busy city in the state of Uttar Pradesh. This city is worth visiting for two reasons. One, the amazing monuments and second, (more important!) to shop for some beautiful Chikankari work.

Chikankari is the Indian version of Whitework and Shadow work. The designs used are generally flowers and creepers. Another very common design is the mango. The embroidery is done predominently using white cotton thread on white fabric and other pastel shades of fabrics. This style also seems to fit the description of Shadow work because it is done on transparent and semi transparent fabrics like poplin, voile and chiffon. There are many stitches used in Chikankari, some specifically for the outlines, and others for filling the pattern to create the shadow. Besides this, there are the raised stitches that stand out quite well against the flat stitches and of course the jali work.

I have barely scratched the surface of this style and I have a long way to go in exploring and experimenting. Take a look at today's samples.

This piece is probably 8 years old
and is still one of my favorites. I bought it in a small store in
Bangalore. If you ignore the pilling
in the fabric, the embroidery looks bright to this day.

Chikankari has always been practiced as a commercial trade. This design would have been transferred to the fabric using the block printing method. And later on washed to remove the color once the embroidery was completed.

This is my first creation! It was done on a semi transparent cotton fabric. The primary stitch used here is Double back stitch worked with two strands of white embroidery floss. And the needle is just the regular crewel needle. You will get the same result with the Herringbone Stitch, but then you would have to work with the reverse side of the fabric facing you. You can see the holes that the stitches have made in the picture on the right. Creating holes is part of Chikankari.
The sample on the right is another attempt at Chikankari. I just couldn't resist using additional colors! :) It looks nice, doesn't it? :)

This is also done in Double back stitch using two strands of white embroidery floss.

Chikankari is unforgiving of knots. Take the time to make small knots. Another note - let's say you are making a flower. When you finish one petal, weave your needle through the petal to start the next one. If not, the ugly long piece of thread will show through!!

Well, I hope I have inspired you to try Chikankari. Happy embroidering!

You might also be interested in...
Embroidered Pillow CasesSamples of Arhi Work