I was looking through photos of my sourcing trip in India last year and came across these wonderful examples of phulkari embroidery, which I was lucky enough to see in a private collection in Bhuj in Gujarat. Phulkari literally means flower work and is a style of embroidery which comes from the Punjab, and is normally applied to woven shawls and head scarves for domestic or ceremonial use.. The embroidery is done from the reverse of the fabric, known as khaddar, which is locally spun, hand woven naturally dyed cloth normally of a reddish brown colour, using a silk floss in yellow, white, pink or orange.
Phulkari’s are made for family use. They are often started at the birth of a new baby. After a ceremony to welcome the child the grandmother will begin to embroider a shawl, which will be used at that grandchild’s wedding.
Phulkaris either feature geometric designs or like, the one above motifs, in this case peacocks, from everyday life. I love the mix of colours in this example.
When a shawl is completely covered in embroidery so that you can’t see the backing fabric, like the one above, it is known as a bagh (garden). The geometric patterned shawls skilfully mix horizontal and vertical stitches to create a beautiful shimmery effect as you can see above. It’s incredible to think that this entire piece has been worked from the reverse.
Two very different styles of phulkari embroidery. Which one do you prefer?