Chikankari Work

The craft of chikan work, often referred to as Lucknow Chikan, is over 400 years old with a term presence in the India and global fashion arena. The technique of its creation is called Chikankari and its unique sensibility flaunts grace and elegance as subtly as a weaver pleases.

While a word a chikan quite literally means embroidery, the art form incorporates appropriately 36 different stitching techniques that in modern times are often combined with embellishments of pearls, mirrors and Mukaish, though traditionally it was done on the muslin fabric.

Its central hub and place of origin is Lucknow, chikan work has spread for and wide within India. West Bengal and Avadh also specialising in its production.

Some historians have recorded the presence of chikan as early as the 3rd century AD during the eight of Chandragupta Maurya, but the exact origin of this technique remains a mystery of date. Another common tale behind its history relates the Mughal introducing this Persian craft of india in the 17th century. The Mughal emperor Jahangir’s consent , Noor Jahan was a known talented embroiderer with a particular fondness for chikankari work. Jahangir was also enamoured by this craft and lavished it with his royal patrange. He established several workshops to hone and perfect this art form in this era.

Fabric used –

In the Mughal era mostly muslin or Mulmul fabric are used, as they were best suited for the worm and humid climate. Now a days its done on cotton cloth with white thread. This craft must be soft as hand & fill. They include silk, chiffon, georgette, Net, Voile, Kota, Doriya, organza and four fabric.

In the chikan embroidery specially cotton white thread is used but in the modernised design and for creating new designs silk threads are also used.

Colors used –

In the chikan embroidery of Lucknow white thread is used to embroidered on cool colour. Pastle shades of light musline and cotton fabrics. New a days chikan embroidery is also done with closed and silk thread in colour to meet the fashion trend and keep chikankari up to date.

Motifs used –

Floral pattern and chikankari go hand in hand. Due to its strong Persian influence, flower has always been a staple with stems and butis and the leaves were added to complete the design. Instead of this the other motif includes emblishment which gives the simple work a richer look.

Steps involved in Chickankari embroidery

1. Block Printing

This is the initial phase where the design is made on the cloth of choice. It cut according to garment it will form and using multiple wooden block stamps design are imprinted in blue ink on to the fabric.

2. Embroidery

The fabric is then set within a small frame, port by port, as the needle work begins to trace the ink printed pattern. The type of stitch an ortisen chooses depend on the speciallity of the region and the type and size of the motifs.

3. Washing

Once the embroidery work is completed the fabric is soak in water to remove the pattern outlines. After this it is started to obtained the right stiffness depending on the fabric.

Types of Chickankari embroidery

1. Jali

A speciality of Lucknow, this uses minutes buthonhole stitches with a wide blunt needle to make a Jali or net where the thread never drawn through the fabric.

2. Tepchi

This is long running stitch that is weaved on the right hand of the fabric and forms the outline of the motif.

3. Murri

This is minute rice shaped design used in a minimalistic and intricate pattern.

4. Bakhiya

Also called shadow stitching, here the thread work is done on the back side in order for its outline and tint of colour to be seen on the front side of the fabric.

5. Zanzeera

This is chain stitch made to design the outline of leaves and petals especially when they are connected within their pattern.

6. Hool

This is detached eyelet stitch used to design the heart of the flower.

7. Phanda

Millet shaped stitches, these are used to make vines of flowers and grapes.

8. Rahet

This is mostly a single stitch technique used to create plant stem designs, however can also contain a double stitch using the Sukhiya technique.

9. Keel Kangan

This stitch is mainly used to adorn floral motifs and petals.

10. Khatu

Considered a finner form of Bakhiya and used for flower and paisleys the motif is first weaved on a calico and then placed on the main fabric.