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?
A post on Shisha or Abhla bharat, the name given to the mirrorwork embroidery from Gujarat, Pakistan and Afghanistan, today. It’s a style of indigenous embroidery which has been used for generations. Tiny pieces of abhla, or mirrored glass, are sewn into the overall embroidery design, using a sickle stitch, creating a sparkly, jewel-like effect. The use of these mirrors in traditional dress, wall hangings and coverlets isn’t purely a decorative device, it has a practical purpose too. Mirrors were used in Islamic architecture to reflect the light and in the same way mirrors on fabrics within the home are used to reflect sunlight and candlelight at night.
Ceiling detail from the Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Palace, Amer Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan, built in the sixteenth century
Interior of a Bhunga, a traditional mud hut, which I visited in a village near Bhuj, Gujarat. The furniture, constructed from mud, and the storage jars are studded with mirrors in different sizes to reflect the light. In some Bhungas the walls are also adorned with mirrors.
Details from some of the vintage shisha embroidery we have in our store:
Shisha embroidery in geometric designs
Shisha embroidery in floral designs
Check out our range of beautiful,vintage, cushions and wall art containing shisha embroidery, www.maudinteriors.com/product-category/textiles/hand-embroidered-tribal-cushions.
A snapshot of four different embroidery styles from the region comprising the barren, desert lands of Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat to western Rajasthan and the Thar Parkar district of Sind in Pakistan, which has been described as the world’s richest source of indigenous embroidery. From the bold flamboyant style of the nomadic Rabaris, to the delicate geometric patterns of the Rajput, to the intricate embroidery of the Jats, to the figurative style of the Kanbi, each tribal group passes on its own style, colours, range of stitches and motifs from generation to generation yet each piece is unique. Each piece was painstakingly embroidered by a prospective bride for her dowry or a mother or wife for her family or her home and each piece reflects not only tribal traditions but also the individual artistic interpretation and abilities of the embroiderer.
Detail from Nagina in the Maud collection, originally part of a Rabari saddle bag, Kutch, Gujarat
Exotic patterns from the nomadic Rabari camel breeders, cattle herders and shepherds. Bold, vibrant, designs in pink, orange, blue and green thread featuring abstract motifs, like the stylised parrots in hot pink in the centre.
Detail from a Rajput chakla (a square wall hanging), Saurashtra, Gujarat
A subtle geometric style from the Rajputs a ruling cast of farmers and herders. Their work is characterised by square and diamond patterns, open chain stitch and shisha or abla (pieces of mirrored glass). I love the mix of colours in this piece which will be available in our store soon.
Detail from the bodice of a Jat choli (traditional backless blouse), Kutch, Gujarat
Abstract florals and geometric patterns are characteristic of Jat embroidery, known for its intricacy and density. The embroidery is set out in a grid like structure with rows of round or pear shaped shisha or abla (mirrored glass work) and the pattern will typically cover the fabric.
Detail from a Kanbi chakla (wall hanging), Saurashtra, Gujarat
Figurative embroidery from the Kanbi, a farming caste. The Kanbi is known for its wall hangings depicting images of Ganesh, the elephant- headed God, the remover of obstacles to happiness. This piece will be available in the Maud collection soon.
We would love to hear what you think about these different styles.