The Em­broi­dered Silk Fi­esta

on the fes­tive silk gar­ments

Apparel - - CONTENTS OCTOBER 2018 -

One trend that re­mains sta­ble in the choice of fab­rics for the fes­tive sea­son is silk. Come what may, the al­lure of the soft silk fab­ric is never-end­ing. What adds to the beauty of the fab­ric is its ex­cel­lent dra­pa­bil­ity and the ex­pan­sive amount of work that can be done on it. The hand-wo­ven silk is well known with its reper­toire in mul­berry, tus­sar, eri and muga. How­ever, the mill made silk fab­rics also add al­lure to a gar­ment. Light­weight and with ex­cel­lent fall, silk can be draped in innumerable ways. What stands out this sea­son is its use in plains, printed and fur­ther em­bel­lished with em­broi­dery, tas­sels and other de­tail­ings. The col­lec­tions call it ‘prêt’, ‘mass’ or ‘cou­ture’; it is rich with the use of metal em­broi­dery. With In­dia’s ex­ten­sive tra­di­tion of gold em­broi­dery, there is plenty of scope for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Walk into any ex­hi­bi­tion cater­ing to the fes­tive sea­son, al­most ev­ery piece of ap­parel has the ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence of metal em­broi­dery. The colour of the metal may vary from gold, sil­ver, cop­per to an aged bronze look, but the em­bel­lish­ment is om­nipresent. The fab­rics are sheer, with lay­er­ing thrown in, and the ma­te­rial rang­ing from pure silk, chif­fon and geor­gette to crushed crepes. Silk is avail­able in plenty and pro­cured from both In­dia and China.

Walk down the lanes of anyny shop­ping mar­ket in Delhi–they are filled to thee brim with clothes, and top­ping the list is the glit­ter-worked ap­parel. Along with it are avail­able a host of adorn­ments which can be added to the clothes, rang­ing from small purses, pil­lows, cute ends, tas­sels, beads, lit­tle bits of metal and more. The colours are metal­lic, from pure gold to dull un­der­stated cop­per an­tique fin­ishes.


What has emerged over the last few years is that very fine work is be­ing done and crafts­men are get­ting a good price for their work. Sev­eral forms of metal em­broi­dery which did not make it to the fore­front are to­day much sought after. Words like ‘ mar­odi’ and ‘ mukke ka kaam’ which were a part of the vo­cab­u­lary of a few is to­day oft re­peated. What stands out is that zari em­broi­dery can be seen through­out the coun­try, from Ker­ala to Kash­mir. The Mughal in­flu­ence led to the in­cor­po­ra­tion of metal into em­broi­dery across the coun­try. It is done us­ing an awl and nee­dle, with a va­ri­ety of small bits of gold in var­i­ous shapes.

In the use of em­bel­lish­ments for the silk gar­ments, one can see a dis­play of nearly all kinds of hand em­broi­dery from In­dia, in­clud­ing zardozi, kal­a­battu doozi, tilla dori from Kash­mir, mukke ka kaam, danke ka kaam, mar­odi, makkaish, etc. Zardozi is the com­mon­est of the forms. It is heav­ier metal work which is done on heavy silks and vel­vets. It em­braces in its fold a num­ber of tech­niques which use metal in var­i­ous forms and man­ners. This is only a min­i­mal sim­plis­tic de­pic­tion of zardozi, done us­ing the nee­dle and awl. Zardozi in­cludes many tech­niques and ma­te­ri­als crafted out of pure gold or sub­sti­tutes. A lot of semi-pre­cious and paste stones are used in the em­broi­dery to­day, which is teamed with tas­sels, purses, etc.

While zardozi is done on the heav­ier silk fab­rics, it is kam­dani which is done on lighter fab­rics such as chif­fon and geor­gette. In light­weight silk fab­rics, kam­dani cre­ates a beau­ti­ful vi­sion of glit­ter which is present, yet is very sub­tle and re­fined. It is not jar­ring, but so­phis­ti­cated and un­der­stated. How­ever, to­day crafts­men do heavy work on light­weight fab­rics as well. The tech­nique of kam­dani us­ing the badla metal wire or strip is very in­ter­est­ing. The badla wire is at­tached to a nee­dle, which is plied onto the cloth to cre­ate minute stitches on the mo­tif. This cre­ates mo­tifs which are worked on both sides of the fab­ric. The mo­tifs are em­broi­dered upon us­ing the badla wire with a nee­dle. The mak­ing of the badla wire is an in­ter­est­ing process. This is used aplenty on the gar­ments. Zardozi in its realm en­com­passes sev­eral styles, one of them be­ing Fardi ka kaam. This is also known as makkaish in Pun­jab and badla in Gu­jarat. Here the sil­ver wires are worked into the fab­ric such that they cre­ate small dots across the fab­ric. A silk du­patta, shawl or sari done with this kind of work looks mar­vel­lous. The small bhut­tis or tiny dots sim­ply sprin­kle on the fab­ric like a thou­sand stars, mak­ing it seem as if a host of stars have de­scended on the fab­ric.

An­other lan­guish­ing craft which has come into the lime­light re­cently is danke ka kaam. It can be seen very com­monly on Ra­jasthani fab­rics. The em­broi­dery uses flat metal pieces which are very finely in­te­grated into the de­signs and mo­tifs. It is a very beau­ti­ful craft prac­tised by the Bohra Mus­lim com­mu­nity of Udaipur. The work was ini­tially done us­ing real gold bits. Now sil­ver bits plated with gold are used. Thin sheets of gold are elec­tro­plated us­ing gold in larger strips, which are cut into con­i­cal shapes and then af­fixed on to the pat­terned back­ground. It is a very te­dious and painstak­ing work and is known very lit­tle out­side the area.

Mukke ka kaam, again a very lit­tle known craft, is prac­tised in the Barmer re­gion of Ra­jasthan by the Megh­wal com­mu­nity. Very fine em­broi­dery is done us­ing the couch­ing tech­nique such that the base of the fab­ric is hardly vis­i­ble. The mukka thread, which is sil­ver or gold thread, is kept on the mo­tif and couched into place us­ing plain cot­ton thread. This lasts and gives the fab­ric a new look. Tra­di­tion­ally, this is done on thicker fab­ric.

Sim­i­lar is the tilla dori or gold em­broi­dery from Kash­mir, which is done on al­most every­thing, from pash­mina shawls, stoles and kur­tas to sari bor­ders, woollen saris and pher­ans. It is again done us­ing the couched tech­nique. The work is ex­tremely fine and del­i­cate and

done with pre­ci­sion. Mar­odi em­broi­dery from Gu­jarat is an­other spe­cial­ity from the by-lanes of Ahmed­abad, done with an awl. It is in­tri­cate gold work done us­ing aari on gajji silk or satin cloth.


Sev­eral de­sign­ers like Asif Shaikh have been ex­per­i­ment­ing with us­ing real gems and real gold zari in their em­broi­dery work. Asif Shaikh has got the spe­cial aath maasi zari recre­ated through hered­i­tary pat­tern draw­ers in Benares. Pure zari or gold thread is used in weav­ing, but it does not find a place in the em­broi­dery work. It took Asif Shaikh sev­eral meet­ings to be able to get a crafts­man to make fine gold zari thread for em­broi­dery. Shaikh was par­tic­u­lar about the qual­ity and size of the thread and worked re­lent­lessly till he got the fi­nal re­sult. He has also used real ru­bies and pearls in em­broi­dery. The use of pre­cious gems goes back to the Mughal pe­riod.

The fes­tive sea­son is re­plete with fine em­bel­lish­ments on silk ghaghras, cho­lis, du­pat­tas, shararas, skirts, saris and more. The bridal wear, of course, cel­e­brates these fine em­bel­lish­ments with some in­no­va­tive colour com­bi­na­tions. The var­i­ous types of gold work done in In­dia are mind-bog­gling. The sub­tle­ness varies from com­mu­nity to com­mu­nity. From the roy­alty to the com­mon man, gold em­broi­dery does glit­ter in In­dia. So it is not sur­pris­ing to see it still in fash­ion and sur­viv­ing well. It is the de­sign­ers who have given this em­broi­dery a con­tem­po­rary twist. It is thanks to their in­ter­ven­tion that some very fine work is be­ing ex­e­cuted. Since there is a mar­ket for it and price re­al­i­sa­tion is pos­si­ble, many of the crafts­men sur­vive on it and well. And with the fes­tive sea­son at our heels, these silk em­broi­deries are surely in de­mand and en vogue!

h S @ t t r s c . k m

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