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Chikankari - The Art behind the Traditional Lucknowi Embroidery

Lucknow is renowned for its traditional Chikankari embroidery. The craft of Chikan work, which literally means embroidery, is a traditional style of embroidery from Lucknow. The technique of creating Chikan art is called Chikankari and has been used for over 300 years.

Chikan embroidery Image credit - wikimedia

Modern embroidery lacks the simplicity and the precision of the handwork invested on the garment making it subtle. The essence of the garment is a simple design.

The Embroidery Process

The Lucknow chikankari technique is broken down into stages. The process of chikankari includes the following steps:

  • Design and Engraving
  • Wooden Block printing
  • Embroidery
  • Washing and finishing

Design and Engraving

First, the design is determined and engraved on a wooden block by the embroiderer. The wooden block stamps are used to print the design on the cloth.

Wooden Block printing

The wooden blocks are then dipped in Safeda and Neel dyes. The wooden blocks are then used to print the design on the cloth. The cloth is then cut to take the form that the garment is intended. There are different blocks: for butis, floral patterns, and borders. Once the fabric or cloth is printed it is now ready for the embroidery work.

Embroidery

Then the embroidery process begins. The fabric or cloth is placed in a small frame and the embroiderer begins to trace the printed ink patterns. This is done using needle and thread. Different types of stitches can be made on one piece of fabric. This depends on the type and size motifs. The popular stitches include hemstitch, backstitch, and chain stitch.

Washing and finishing

Washing is the last stage of the chikankari process. The fabric is first checked for consistency. It is then soaked in water. It is then washed to remove the block printed ink color. To obtain stiffness the garment is starched and ironed. The garment is now ready for commercial sales.

The stitches are done to perfection and the quality and gracefulness are very difficult to find anywhere else. The precision and effortlessness of each and every stitch cannot be replicate even by a machine. This is why garments made using the chikankari technique, are famous worldwide.

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