Embroidery, an expression of aesthetics, rendered with patient labour, is an art described as "painting by needle". Embroidery adds grace and elegance even into articles of everyday use. Indian embroidery takes its inspiration from nature and the products of various regions reflect the colors of the flora and fauna of that area. Embroidery on leather, velvet, net, cotton, hessian and silk is done all over the country. Designs in Indian embroidery are formed on the basis of the texture and design of the fabric and the stitch. The dot and the alternate dot, the circle, the square, the triangle and various permutations and combinations of these go to make up the designs.
Religious motifs such as gopurams, the tulsi plant, the temple doorway etc., are all equally popular. Enriching fabrics with the use of precious stones and metals is also well known. Beads and mica have also been used to embellish embroidered fabrics. Traditional embroidery materials such as wool, cotton, silk, beads and gold or silver thread and exotic materials as beetles wings and various seeds are being used to add richness. Today, practically all the known embroidery stitches employed in any part of the world are used in India.
Kashmiri work has a rich color spectrum and exquisite workmanship with beautifully composed designs depicting common local symbols like the chinar leaf, the grape, the cherry, plum, apple blossom, lily, the saffron flower and various birds of the region.
The Punjab-Haryana specialty called the Phulkari (flowered work), is traditionally worked on coarse cotton in red or blue or flossed silk. One can find the scenes from Krishna leela and other religious subjects, depicted in the dark silk embroidered 'rumals' of Chamba.
Karnataka's Kasuti is famous for sketching of religious themes. They make use of backstitch, the running stitch, the cross-stitch and the zigzag running stitch on hand woven cloth, using brighter colors like red, purple, green and orange.
The practice of the famous Chikan work is now centered at Lucknow (U.P.) and Gaya (Bihar) This Chikan work dates back its origin to the royal courts of Oudh. This is done with white cotton on a fine white muslin base using a variety of stitches minutely worked together with knotted stitches resulting in designs with raised surfaces. The creation of 'jali' or the net effect is one of its specialties.
Kantha Embroidery: The 'Kantha' Embroidery of Bengal makes imaginative use of waste rugs, which are sewn on a base with simple running stitches to form motifs.
The tribal embroidery is a class by itself with a wide range and varied style and composition. It generally features bright colors and simple motifs. They are often free hand, with no signs of being marked, or necessarily symmetrical. They are usually done with colored thread, and the types of stitches, subject matter, and layout define the tribes who produced them. Among the most colorful works is the work of the Lambadi and Banjara tribes. The Nilgiris' 'Toda embroidery' is also distinctive.
Shisha Embroidery: A tribal technique, Shisha mirror embroidery is the process of attaching tiny mirrors to a textile, usually in combination with other types of tribal stitches.
Zardozi Embroidery: An Islamic technique, Zardozi is the process if attaching various types of gold thread to a piece of fabric. It includes chain stitching gold thread, attaching gold beads and sequins, couching on thick gold threads and twists, and sewing on a variety of gold coils, called "purl" or "bullion". Silver and copper metals are also used to show a variety of silver metal techniques on a thin chiffon shawl.
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