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Indian embroidery: techniques, ornaments, motifs and plots
Indian embroidery: techniques, ornaments, motifs and plots

Indian embroidery is a kind of traditional craft for this country and its national treasure. Patterns thought out long ago by ancient masters are very recognizable all over the world today. In this material, you will learn about the most popular Indian embroidery techniques, about interesting ornaments and plots.

A bit of history

The art form of embroidery is mentioned in the Vedic literature of the 5th century. BC. Elements created by hand from threads and jewelry decorated ancient clothes, emphasizing their richness. It is noteworthy that the very history of India is embodied in embroideries and its plots. In this country, new concepts and skills are still being assimilated into basic values ​​and fundamentals, including embroidery. Its uniqueness lies in the splendor of the patterns applied to the fabric in a variety of shades. By the way, products with embroidery are considered a traditional gift here. In many regions of India, it is customary to decorate the wedding dress and dowry of the bride, which she will wear in her new home, in this way. There are a lot of embroidery techniques, but we will talk about the most popular of them.

Shisha. Small mirror

indian shisha embroidery

When it comes to the visual expression of a country, Indian shisha embroidery is just such a basic element. Translated from Hindi, the name of the technique sounds like a “small mirror”, and work on the creation of elements is carried out using round mirrors. No one can say when this technique was born, but back in the 17th century this type of embroidery was actively popularized. It is believed that with such embroidered elements, ordinary people sought to imitate the rich, because in India since ancient times they love gold, bright and excessive jewelry. But not everyone could afford expensive clothes. Therefore, gold embroidery threads, glass, mica and other decorations were used.

About the shisha technique

Shisha is a classic Indian embroidery with mirrors, which is popular back in Pakistan, Afghanistan. As already noted, ordinary people really wanted to look rich, but they did not have gold. Mirrors were used, which were broken into small pieces. Their edges were carefully processed, dyed with silver, and then carefully sewn onto clothes. It was believed that such Indian embroidery could protect from evil spirits and sidelong glances. In the modern tradition, small fragments of mirrors are replaced with sequins, sequins, which are also quite inexpensive.

kantha embroidery

Embroidery is carried out using silk, cotton, woolen fabrics, which have a dense weave structure. You can take any threads, but the most important thing is to first try your hand at a flap. The work steps are as follows:

  1. First you need to processedges of decorative mirrors, and then start attaching them to the fabric. For convenience, you can first glue the pieces of decor on double-sided tape.
  2. The mirrors are covered with regular stitches to make a perpendicular lattice.
  3. Then the pattern begins with overcasting and grabbing the threads that are already on the mirror.

You can use old discs, metallized cardboard - everything that glitters and reflects light as blanks.


The most luxurious embroidery is created using gold thread. The heyday of this technique fell on the era of the Great Moghuls, when not only clothes, but also the chambers of the emperor, blankets for horses and elephants were decorated with embroidered elements. In addition to gold threads, today metal threads are used in this technique. The main thing is to choose an expensive fabric: silk, velveteen, brocade. Surprisingly, this work is mostly done by men.

indian chikankari embroidery

Zardozi embroidery is widely used in the design of local wedding dresses. So, the most expensive saris for this celebration are created on silk fabrics with gold threads, and the whole process is done exclusively by hand. With the help of such elements, bedspreads, pillows, curtains, tablecloths, bags and even shoes are finished.

Zardozi technique

Gold embroidery begins with the creation of a pattern on tracing paper. It is sewn directly onto the fabric with a clear outline of the image, and then its design begins. Aerobatics is the addition of embroidered elementsprecious stones. The peculiarity of the technique is that plant motifs are most often used. It is believed that their creation is inspired by the plot forms that please the nature of India. Embroidery is done with a special hook, which is not very easy and requires training. A popular pattern in this technique is the Indian cucumber, which today is often used by designers of the world's leading brands.

Few people know, but the most famous master working on the zardozi technique was Shamasuddin from Agra. The pictures embroidered by him are the heaviest artistic embroideries in the world, as their weight is over 200 kg! This weight is explained by the decoration of finished products with gems. It is noteworthy that many sheikhs from Saudi Arabia were willing to pay a lot of money to get such a work of art. But Shamasuddin was adamant and did not sell his paintings for any money.


embroidery in India

This technique is widely used when several layers of a sari need to be sewn together. Initially, the ornament on them was made with old threads and was used not only for decoration, but also for more durable fastening of materials to each other. Depending on the number of layers, Indian kantha embroidery could be done on both winter blankets and small prayer rugs. It is noteworthy that the products created in this way have never been sold, most often they were made for personal use or as a gift. Traditional color schemes are simple - from blue and brown to red andgreen.

How is kantha performed?

The technique involves applying various patterns to the surface with a small hand stitch forward with a needle - lattices, waves, zigzags. The drawing itself is corrugated and embossed. The technique is very labor-intensive, so it could take from several months to several years to make one thing. In the modern tradition, stitches are often complemented by special rhinestones for embroidery, which give the products an individual look. Shells, buttons, small mirrors, applications are also used as decorations.


Indian embroidery techniques

Chikankari embroidery is not the most typical for India. Its feature is maximum simplicity and absence of colorful patterns or gold threads. In fact, this is an ornament with white threads on a white canvas. Indian chikankari embroidery adorns the traditional local outfits Kurtas Chikan - long white shirts that every tourist considers it an honor to buy as a souvenir. For drawing patterns, a buttonhole stitch and a seam forward with a needle are used. The threads for this technique are selected on the basis of cotton, and the embroidery itself is applied not only to clothes, but also to bed linen and tablecloths.

About the chikankari technique

Before embroidering, a design is created taking into account the type of fabric. Stitches are already selected for the pattern selected for a particular product. The pattern must be cut out on a wooden blank or applied by hand. After preparing the form, the pattern is printed on the fabric, and all the colors are easily washed off from it. After this drawingit is sheathed according to the pattern with different types of stitches. Once the embroidery is finished, the fabric is washed, bleached, acid treated and ironed.

Popular patterns and motifs

We talked about the most popular Indian embroidery techniques. An important role and a certain spiritual value are also played by the chosen patterns and motifs, which may be different for each region. Even the simplest pattern, such as a cucumber, has its own meaning, being created from many individual elements and helping to make the pattern unified and harmonious. By the way, paisley is the most famous Indian ornament, the history of which dates back to the ancient state of the Sassanids.

cucumber pattern

What is the true meaning of this picture, no one can say for sure. According to legend, the cucumber pattern resembles flames, which are the personification of human life. On the other hand, paisley speaks of development, dynamism, and energy, which is why it is often used as a decor for newlyweds in India. It is noteworthy that today this print is popular far beyond India. Many designers use it to create fashion collections. In addition, the cucumber pattern is often used for painting dishes or interior decoration in an oriental style.

Vegetal ornaments

India is a country that attracts with magic and exoticism. But it is also a multi-confessional country, which is also expressed in folk art. The basis of the basics among the decor are floral and floral ornaments that adorn saris. In India, the image of the face of Allah, people,animals, therefore, drawings on a plant theme are most often chosen. The most popular motif is the lotus, which is revered in this country and considered sacred. It is a symbol of creativity, wisdom, harmony. Often selected and patterns of mango, pomegranate, carnation, cypress. Whatever the Indian masters use to create embroideries, each of them turns out to be a real work of art.


Geometric patterns are also popular among ornaments in India, with each shape having its own meaning. So, the star is a symbol of divinity and reliability, the square speaks of stability and honesty, the octagon - of reliability and security. The circle has many variations, which symbolize the integrity and development of life.

Color symbols

products with embroidery

Indian embroidery is a whole art that requires not only skill, but also a competent selection of materials, threads, patterns. This type of craft has always been one of the most accessible, so even the poor could do it. There were also no unified rules in embroidery, so local craftswomen could give free rein to their imagination and create unique patterns. It is noteworthy that Indian costumes are dominated by shades of red, yellow, green, pink, each of which has its own symbolism:

  • red shows sensuality and purity, so it is chosen to decorate wedding dresses;
  • yellow symbolizes the mind, the power of thought;
  • blue emphasizes masculinity;
  • green is a symbol of fertility and rebirth.

Every craftswoman in India pays great attention to the correct selection of thread colors, taking into account the purpose of the outfit or product, its symbolism. In this country, harmony plays an important role, which is expressed in everything. And the finished product, in addition to a beautiful appearance, should be balanced in color and shape, and most importantly, carry a certain meaning, symbolism.

Embroidery in modern fashion

Fashion houses around the world are increasingly returning to old traditions, embodying the most unusual trends in their collections. So, Indian embroidery techniques are used by designers to decorate wedding dresses, as well as other clothes, both separately and in combination with other types of this needlework. Thanks to this, the outfits are truly colorful, bright, authentic.

Special attention deserves the Indian cucumber, which has gone through a number of metamorphoses, but still remains one of the most recognizable prints. It is used by many brands in the world on a wide variety of clothing. Today, to create products in the style of Indian embroidery, the simplest materials that craftsmen can afford are used. However, items embroidered with gold or silver threads on brocade, silk or velvet are considered the most valuable, especially if they are additionally decorated with precious stones.

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