An embroidery style that has graced the wardrobes of the royals – Chikankari, is a loved and sought after traditional embroidery art , not only in India but internationally too. Lucknow the hub for Chikankari embroidery is said to have been presented this art by Nur Jehan, the wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir. This is not the only story circulating on the origin of this art in India. Delicacy best describes and characterises this embroidery. In the early years of its discovery, fine, intricate patterns were developed on muslin cloth using a white thread. Fashion has evolved and so has this art. Now chikankari embroidery is not just limited to the white hue and muslin fabric. One can find this embroidery in any shade of their preference – from pretty pastel, pink blue, green and grey to vibrant red and purple and on fabrics like khadi , georgette, net, silk, any soft material.
Each chikankari outfit goes through the manual process of pattern definition, cutting, stitching, print making, embroidery, washing and finishing. One of the most noticeable attributes of chikankari are the floral motifs that serve the purpose of royal signage. The dainty work of needle and thread is carefully woven to form the patterns of floral motifs that make the entire piece of cloth look ravishing. Any chikankari outfit will have round about 36 stitches or at least ten most widely used embroidery flat stitches of the 36. For every process – right from cutting to stitching there are artisans who specialise only in that particular task. In fact, artisans in India, make a living, knowing and largely practicing only one of the 36 stitches of the embroidery as well. Chikankari embroidery is popularly found in apparels for adults as well as kids. From boys kurtas, to little girls lehengas, kurta pajama for boys to sarees for women. Over the years, this work has also made its way on to newer silhouettes and fusion wear that rightly encompass the richness of this art with contemporary trends.
Each outfit goes through the process of silhouette definition where the fabric is cut in to the preferred style i.e. kurta, lehenga, dress etc. Thereafter block printing is done on the outfit where basic embroidery work is done for the printer to get a know how on print definition. At this point the fabric is sewn in to a semi stitched garment and detailed chikankari embroidery in steps commences. Once the outfit is completely embroidered, it goes through quality and pattern checking. Any errors found are rectified afterwhich washing takes place and the outfit once dry is starched to give the required stiffness basis the type of fabric. With the likes of Madonna, Julia Roberts, Judy Dench strutting this graceful art internationally the demand and popularity for Chikankari embroidery, world over has only risen over time and continues to do so.