Chikankari of Uttar Pradesh

Chikan work, or chikankari, is an Indian form of shadow work. This example from Dr. Shirazi’s collection is worked in white thread on pale pink fabric.

It’s incredibly detailed for such a large piece – it covers the table in the photo, and that is a table for eight people. The fancy border is worked at each end. Here is a closer view:

It’s really beautiful. If you take a really, really close look, you see that this is actually shadow-work.

The entire piece is worked in herringbone from the back! The fabric is thin enough that you can see the herringbone stitch through the fabric, and that creates the color in the design! The herringbone naturally provides an outline to all the shapes on the opposite side. Here is the back of the embroidery:

The pink color is more obvious once you’ve folded the fabric over a few times, and it stops being so see-through. Here is another photo of the back:

Now I know y’all aren’t tired of looking at it, so I’m going to end with a whole bunch of photos of the work.

This is one of a special series of posts based on the embroidery collection of Dr. Faegheh Shirazi, from The University of Texas at Austin. Her research is on “textiles, dress, gender identity discourse, and material culture in the Middle East; the meanings of veiling; rituals and rites of passage as they relate to material culture.” Over the years she has collected a number of examples of embroidery from around the world, and has very kindly allowed me to photograph them for my blog.

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18 Responses to Chikankari of Uttar Pradesh

  1. wendy says:

    Wow, it’s really, really beautiful

  2. Rachel says:

    Oh, boy, yet another technique for my List of Things To Try!

  3. cynthiagilbreth says:

    Hannah,
    Thanks so much for exposing your readers to Dr. Shirazi’s work. Most of us know so little about Middle Eastern and Asian embroidery so it is a real treat to see these beautiful items. Thanks again.

  4. Pingback: Indian shadow work · Needlework News | CraftGossip.com

  5. jeanine says:

    Beautiful work. A Pakistani friend once gave me a Shalwar kameez (top and pants set) in which the sheer black top’s front is covered in this shadow work. Using this technique on a blouse front is very effective.

  6. Anita says:

    Hi Hannah!
    It’s nice to see chikankari in your blog.It’s not done from the back.It’s worked from the front using double back stitch which is called bakhya , the fabric used for this embroidery are voile,organdy in pastel shades.As a person who has been learning Indian embroidery from childhood I ‘d like to share this little info with you.

    • Hannah says:

      Really? It looks just like herringbone! I would love to hear more about it – I obviously don’t know much about it :-) I don’t think I quite understand how it’s worked using double back stitch???

    • Hannah says:

      Hmmm. My Indian embroidery book has it labeled “bakkhia” and describes it as “herringbone stitch on the wrong side.”

  7. Laura Bray says:

    So inspiring! Thanks for sharing.

  8. That is some amazing embroidery. The skill and time involved is mind boggling. Beautiful art form.

  9. Pingback: Chikankari class | enbrouderie

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