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Prints and Patterns III: Embroidery in colorful states!

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-By Simi Sahota

Two of the most colorful states in India are our next stop on my prints and patterns tour! We know that the northern Indian states offered a wide and beautiful variety of handcrafted embroidery and the western states are no different. Utilizing unique and intricate techniques, the vibrant west creates gorgeous one-of-a-kind embroidery not found anywhere else in the world. To recap, embroidery is the art of decorating fabric using needle and thread to create patterns, motifs, or other abstract designs, sometimes using sequins, beads, and other decorative materials. Many of the different embroidery traditions have been passed down from generation to generation, creating a highly skilled pool of artisans that work throughout India today. While there a large number of embroidery practices throughout India and within each state, we will focus on only a few here.

Our first stop is the western state of Gujarat, home to a rich and colorful embroidery method called Banni or Heer Bharat embroidery. Incorporating intricate designs and mirrors, Banni embroidery originated in Gujarat and is now practiced all over the country. This technique utilizes a silk floss thread to create the pattern and a mirror is usually placed in the buttonhole to emphasize the design. Of course deviations are allowed and increasingly, mirrors are placed around the embroidered design. The result is both eye-catching and impressive.

Our next stop is north of Gujarat, the state of Rajasthan. Primarily practiced in the city of Udaipur, Danka embroidery is over 400 years old and is characterized by its use of metal. The danka is a small square plate made by electroplating smaller polished silver sheets together. These are cut into manageable strips and hammered to resemble a specific motif. These pieces are fastened to satin, chiffon, or silk with a sharp needle that is able to pierce through the metal. The results are breathtaking and absolutely one-of-a kind. Until recently, there were only two remaining artisans practicing this craft, but efforts were undertaken to organize workshops and seminars to identify and train the next generation of artists. It is now safe to say that we will all be enjoying danka embroidery for many years to come.

We’ve only touched on some of the most popular and interesting embroidery techniques found in India. There are so many more to discover! I encourage you to look at some of your favorite garments to see if you can identify how that gorgeous embroidered design was created. Don’t have a piece you love? Don’t worry! At In-Sattva® we aim to bring to you garments that reflect the rich history of India and the commitment of generations of artisans. Check with us regularly to find the piece that’s right for you. 

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