A Step-by-Step Guide to the Chikankari Embroidery Process

Chikankari Embroidery is one of the oldest art forms in India. It dates back to the Mughal period and is a part of India’s rich history and culture. Chikankari is a delicate embroidery technique with intricate patterns and fine stitches. It has captured the hearts of many people for centuries.

The art of Chikankari involves skilled artisans creating mesmerising chikankari hand embroidery designs on fabrics. Each stitch adds texture and beauty to Chikankari pieces. From traditional clothing to modern fashions, the Chikankari style has changed over a period of time, demonstrating its versatility and timeless appeal. 

In this guide, we will explore the history, stitches, cultural significance, and types of chikankari embroidery.

Chikankari Embroidery History 

Chikankari’s historical background dates back centuries ago to the time of the Mughals, when it was a symbol of luxury and elegance. The art form is believed to have been introduced by Noor Jehan, the wife of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who brought the Persian embroidery tradition to India. 

Chikankari flourished under the patronage of Mughal emperors and their noble families. Chikankari came to be seen as a symbol of luxury and elegance. During the 18th-19th centuries, the Nawabs (lords of Awadh) commissioned skilled artisans to craft Chikan garments for noblemen and the royal court. 

The cultural significance of Chikankari embroidery over the years, has become a beloved art form, combining tradition and modern fashion trends. The motifs, initially inspired by elements from nature such as flowers, leaves, and birds, have since incorporated influences from Persian and Turkish designs.

Chikankari was given the GI status in 2008 which recognises and protects the origin of Chikankari and its special characteristics. This means that only genuine Chikankari made in the designated geographical area can be labelled as such, protecting the traditional craft from imitation.

Chikankari Fabric Embroidery Process

Chikankari embroidery, a captivating art form, involves creating intricate designs on fabrics through stitching and embroidering, showcasing a vibrant array of colours that make it truly unique. 

The process of chikankari embroidery begins with cutting and styling the fabric into the desired shape, followed by running stitches. Wooden blocks with various patterns, such as florals, butis, or borders, are then dipped in a colour solution made by mixing glue and indigo, and the designs are printed on the semi-stitched garment. 

Skilled craftsmen embroider over the printed fabric using needles, threads, and frames, crafting motifs and butis with a variety of Chikan stitches, such as Bakhiya, Phanda, Keel Kangan, and Pechni. 

After the embroidery is complete, the fabric is soaked in water and washed to remove the block-printed blue colour. Chikan products are stiffened through starching and ironing, and each garment undergoes a rigorous quality check before being made available for delivery.

Types Of Chikankari Embroidery Stitches

Here are the main types of Chikankari embroidery stitches. Each one is unique, elegant, and handmade to perfection to get the beautiful embroidered patterns found in Chikankari fabrics. 

Phanda: A small, circular knot stitch is used to embroider the centres of flowers in Chikankari motifs. It resembles a French knot, with phanda being millet-shaped and murri being rice-shaped.

Jaali: A delicate lattice or net-like pattern created by carefully drawing out threads in the fabric to form a grid structure, which is then embroidered with fine stitches to create intricate designs.

Tepchi: A simple running or darning stitch worked on the right side of the fabric, forming a line by taking stitches over four threads and picking up one. It provides the base for further stitchery and simple shapes. 

Bakhiya: Also known as double back or shadow stitch, Bakhiya is worked from the other side of the cloth in a herringbone style. The thread's shadow is visible on the right side, creating a three-dimensional effect. 

Hool: A detached eyelet stitch where a hole is punched in the fabric, the threads are teased apart and then held in place with tiny straight stitches all around , with one thread on the right side, it often forms the centre of a flower. 

Khatau: Mirroring the shape of a paisley, the Khatau stitch is typically used for floral motifs. When applied from the inside of the design, the edges of the motif superimpose over the stitch, creating a layered effect. 

Murri: Similar to a rice grain in shape, the Murri stitch is often used in the centre of flowers, enhancing the intricate detailing and depth of the floral motifs in Chikankari artwork.

5 Interesting Facts About Chikankari Embroidery

Did you know that Chikankari is an amalgamation of two words: “Chikan,” which means embroidery, and “Kari,” which means work? Let's learn more about some of the interesting facts about Chikankari embroidery. 

  1. Chikankari embroidery is one of the oldest art forms in India that dates back to the time of the Mughals in Lucknow and is believed to date back to the 3rd century BC. Chikankari is known for its intricate designs and delicate embroidery.
  1. Chikankari was well-received by Mughal rulers and Persian noblemen, and it is said that it was popularised in India by the emperor's wife, Noor Jehan.
  1. Chikankari embroidery motifs have more than 30 stitches, including Raised / Embossed Stitches, Flat Stitches, Open Trellis Stitches, often with Mughal architectural motifs.
  1. While Chikankari was originally made with white thread on white fabric, it has since expanded to include coloured threads and fabrics, keeping pace with current trends while maintaining its classic style.
  1. Chikankari embroidery designs have gained international recognition for its sophistication and skill, making it a beloved Indian craft with a rich chikankari embroidery history that continues to drive modern fashion trends. 

Ending Line

From its humble origins in the time of the Mughals to its status as one of India’s most beloved handicrafts, the Chikankari brand has had a lasting impact on the fashion and design world. Many Bollywood celebrities have been spotted wearing Chikankari kurtis from House of Chikankari, and you can, too. 

House of Chikankari offers genuine Lucknow Chikankari clothing, preserving the traditional art in every stitch. Their products are made by skilled artisans infusing passion into their work. We offer a diverse collection of Chikankari kurta sets, dupattas, kaftans, gowns, and more, catering to various styles and occasions. 

FAQs- Process of Chikankari Embroidery

1. Why is Chikankari fabric expensive? 

The intricate handwork and time-intensive process involved in creating Chikankari make it a labour-intensive and exclusive art form, hence its higher cost.

2. How can authentic Chikankari work be identified? 

Look for fine, evenly spaced stitches, delicate motifs, and the absence of machine-made perfection in Chikankari work, as these are hallmarks of genuine Chikankari.

3. What is the significance of Chikankari embroidery motifs? 

Chikankari motifs often carry symbolic meanings, reflecting cultural beliefs, nature, and traditions, adding depth and storytelling to the embroidered designs.