Stitch by stitch

Alisha Shinde
Tuesday, 4 September 2018

We talk to artisans and promoters to know more about embroidery designs from four regions of the country

A lot is known and written about how our geography influences our food eating habits. It’s equally true of our indigenous art forms, textiles and fabrics, which have given birth to our fashion industry and also our exclusiveness in terms of patterns, stitches and vibrant colour palette. 

At the ongoing Dastkar Nature Bazaar 2018 in the city, you can explore our sartorial richness and diversity. We bring to you the hard work that goes into making our unique embroidery designs, from four regions of the country. 


Kantha is a popular style of embroidery which originated in West Bengal almost 500 years ago. The embroidery, which was practised by rural women so far, is now being taken up by art enthusiasts.
“Kantha is a Bangla word for throat. But in Sanskrit, it means rags,” says Durjoy Acharya of Jayothi Kantha, an organisation promoting the art form.   

“It is basically a running stitch done on discarded garments or cloth. Traditionally, the embroidery has been used for sarees, dhotis and quilts. Now, it has entered mainstream fashion like home furnishings,” he adds. The designs are usually traced on the cloth/ fabric very lightly and then are covered with running stitches and the stitch is such that there are no knots when the fabric is reversed.  

The organisation was founded by his mother, who moved to West Bengal after her marriage, and learnt about 
the embroidery from the tribal women of the village she lived in. 


Aari is commonly known as Kashmiri embroidery and originated in the northernmost region of the country.  Zahira Amin, artisan, says that embroidery is done with the help of a pen-like needle in the intricate pattern of chain stitch. “The embroidery is mostly popular for the delicate and fine thread work. The artwork is inspired by the flora of the region. Even the colours of the thread that are used to embroider are inspired by Kashmir’s landscape and surroundings,” she adds. 

The needle work, like in all the other handmade embroidery works, is painstaking and requires a lot of patience and passion. No wonder then that there is an emergence of machine embroidery to match with the market demands.   


Gujarat is known to have a very distinct heritage. The most popular among that is the versatile Kutchi embroidery. “The Kutch region is the hub of local artisans who churn out the best and the most creative designs,” says Shankar Aggarwal, of Om Crafts, which works closely with the Kutch artisans. 

He explains that the most common embroideries are Rabari, Jat and Mutava. The Rabari embroidery has mirrors in a variety of shapes and patterns in chain stitch and the cloth is decorated with a sequence of stitches in vibrant colours. “Women also make use of decorative back stitching, called bakhiya, to decorate men’s kediya/ jackets and the seams of women’s blouses,” he says. 

The embroideries of the region also use motifs rooted in Islamic heritage. “The Jat embroidery is primary to the Garasia women who make geometric patterns in cross stitch fabric with mirrors in distinctive colours. They were used as torans on their doors. A small group of herders produce an exquisite style of stitching — jat, paako and khareek — and follow a fine geometric technique. The embroideries are influenced by romantic motifs as well as patterns of human figurines in dancing poses and dancing peacocks too. A lot of motifs are also inspired by Persian art, which in turn, is inspired by animals,” he adds. 


Lambadis, more commonly known as Banjaras, is a nomadic tribe that have settled down mostly along the belt of Southern India. The women of this community are known for their colourful attire covered in mirror work and embroidery.
Porgai Artisans Association in Tamil Nadu extensively works with these women, supporting them to value their tradition and helping them earn a livelihood. Gayatri Priya says, “Their clothes are covered in mirrors, woolen tassels, beads and coins. But what stands out is the geometric embroidery enhanced by vibrant colours and embellishments,” she says. 

The base colour of the fabric is usually blue or brown because of which the embroidery done in bright colours stands out. “This style of embroidery incorporates 14 different kinds of stitches that provide variations in textures and helps create bohemian styles,” she adds. 

ST Reader Service
Visit Dastkar Nature Bazaar 2018, which is ongoing at Tilak Smarak Mandir, Tilak Road, till September 9

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