Chikankari: The play of Threads. 10 handpicked styles for 2020.
A refined play of threads, along the historic streets of Lucknow, gave birth to the elaborate art of Chikankari. This intricate embroidery technique is remembered in the pages of history as the great choice of clothing for royals. Such is its grandeur that the captivating intricacies of Chikankari remain etched in the memories of fashion patrons even today. In recent years, Chikankari has become synonymous with India’s rich and elaborate culture, serving as a prime example of the country’s artistic prowess.
HOW CHIKANKARI GREW IN PROMINENCE THROUGH THE AGES
The foundation of Chikankari traces back to almost four centuries ago, around the peak of Mughal rule in India. Noor Jahan, Emperor Jahangir’s companion, was a skilled embroiderer who was particularly adept in the Persian craft of ‘Chikankari’. Emperor Jahangir was similarly enamoured by the meticulous artwork, endowing it with his royal patronage. He established several workshops allowing Indian karigars to develop ‘Chikan’ skills and create an elegant piece for the members of the royal family.
The technique of ‘Chikan’, derived from the Persian word ‘Chakin’, is the art of creating delicate patterns on fabric with the use of thread and needle embroidery. During the Mughal rule, Indian artisans used white Muslin or ‘Mulmul’ fabric to create the dainty patterns of Chikankari using a white thread. Muslin and mulmul cloth were best suited for the humid and warm climate of India. This embroidery amalgamated more than 35 different stitching techniques to create the complete designs of Chikankari.
With the collapse of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, Chikankari karigars spread far and wide, setting up new hubs all across India to revive this beautiful art form. Thus, Lucknow became the main centre for Chikankari production along with Awadh following its heels. Burhan Ul Malk, the governor of Awadh during that era, was a Persian nobleman, quite fond of Chikan work, He played a major role in re-establishing the craft to the glorious standards that it holds in present times.
THE INSPIRATIONS BEHIND THE CHIKANKARI CRAFT
The strong influence of Persian aesthetics on ‘Chikankari’ embroidery ensured that the craft featured various floral patterns. The designs are derived from all the parts of a flower, including leaves, stems, paisleys and the buds (buti).
Although the techniques have developed stylized variations through the ages, yet the base of each pattern remains largely unhindered. The designs follow the same meticulousness in each design as has been inherited through the ages.
THE STEPS BEHIND CREATING CHIKANKARI CRAFT
The basics of creating a chikankari kurta are broadly classified into a pre-preparation stage and a post-preparation stage. The above stages comprise the following step:
1. Block Printing
The foremost phase while starting a chikankari craft is the block printing stage. Block printing is the process of stamping a prototype of the design on the fabric. This step requires an intricately carved block, that is detailed with the design of choice and indigo dye, which is used to stamp the outline of the design on the fabric of choice.
Embroidery is the main process in the creation of a Chikankari ensemble. The block printed fabric is fixed on a small embroidery frame before the artisans start the needlework to create the delicate patterns. The frame is shifted to another part of the fabric once the previous part is complete. The type of stitch used in Chikankari depends upon the speciality of the regions.
The final stage for creating a Chikankari pattern is washing the print. Once the embroidery is complete, the fabric is soaked in water for a period of time to wash away the outlines. It is then soaked in starch to obtain the stiffness required for the fabric.
THE INTRICATE MOTIFS OF CHIKANKARI
The craft of Chikankari includes the combination of various patterns that are brought together in a captivating design. These patterns are created by several embroidery stitches. The elaborate patterns created with these stitching techniques are quite renowned. Some of these patterns are:
Jali: It makes the use of button-hole stitches to create a continuous web-like pattern on the fabric.
Murri: It uses a minute stitch, resembling a rice grain, to create smaller patterns.
Thepchi: A running chain stitch used when outlining the Chikankari pattern.
Zanjeera: A kind of chain stitch that is used to fill up leaf and petal patterns within a design.
Bhakiya: Known as the ‘shadow’ stitch, this pattern is created on the backside of the fabric to allow the outline to be seen on the front side.
Phanda: These stitches are required while crafting vines.
Rahet: It is defined as a single-stitch design that is used to stitch stems of plants.
Hool: An eyelet stitch to stitch the heart of the flower.
Keel Kangan: A stitch used to fill up petals and leaves to create an aura of intricacy.
Khatua: A refined form of the Bakhiya design, this stitch is first woven on calico and then attached to the main fabric.
THE INFLUENCE OF CHIKANKARI ON MODERN FASHION
The intricate beauty of Chikankari has been epitomized in recent years as a choice of elegance and sophisticated grace. Right from its golden years up to its re-emergence, the popularity of Chikankari has only grown.
This traditional textile of India is now commercialized, with numerous stylized variants taking up the market by storm. A chikankari kurta, chikankari saree or a chikankari dupatta has become an inevitable part of the millennial wardrobe, ensuring that the craft lives on through time.
This cotton blend straight kurta with chikankari embroidery from Ada is a must have in your wardrobe. Available in multiple sizes and attractive price from Flipkart.
This cotton kurti with tie up neck, long sleeves and straight hem has handloom chikankari embroidery work. Available on Myntra.
This full sleeve black chiankari round neck sahara set paired with duppatta and adorned with sequin chikankari work is a must have for special occasions. Available on Aachoo.
Looking for chikankari sarees? This pastel green saree has the famed chikankari floral jali work on georgette material with pearls on the border. Suited for special occasions such as wedding and parties. Buy from Kalkifashion
This beige coloured saree has a heavy chikankari work on georgette dress material with embellished borders. Available on Myntra
This trending chikankari Men’s kurta from Treemoda will give you a royal look, this traditional straight kurta has a mandari collar and is made of cotton, to not just keep you stylish but also comfortable. Available on Myntra.
CHIKANKARI FOR THE KIDS
Chikankari is not just for the adults, chikankari kurtas are available for boys and girls.
Peach coloured kurta with chikankari embroidery and dupatta, to make your little princes a star. Available on Myntra.
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