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.