Brief note on Kutch Hand Embroidery

The folk hand embroidery of Kutch is done in cotton thread on cotton cloth. Yellow, saffron, white, purple and green are favourite colors. The work is done with darning and herringbone stitches and the motifs include those named above along with the sunflower, mango shoots and creepers. Glitter is produced by liberal use of mirrors in various shapes arranged in different ways. Neatness is achieved by pulling out a single thread and using that as the base. The stitches are made by carefully counting the threads of the ground material to produce an immaculately precise appearance.

In Northern Kutch the best work of hand embroidery is done by the Jats of the Banni tract and the Lohanas of Khavada. The former immigrated here from Baluchistan and their work retains the small intricate geometric patterns of their country of origin. Their embroidery is generally done on gajji (satin like material) and is ornamented with small pieces of mirror cut into shapes of flowers and petals. The original geometric patterns, over a period blended happily with the indigenous Kutchi floral ornamentation. Their dress is different from the ghagra, choli and odhni of the rest of the area. The long dress (aba) of the women is worn over ankle-length salwars which are embroidered at the lower part of the legs visible under the aba. (The aba was worn by itself in Kashmir but in recent years the salwar has become an integral part of the dress of the area). The aba is embroidered at neck, sleeve and hem. There is a pointed yoke- panel at the front of the bodice which sometimes extends to join a floral medallion below the waist The back is also often ornamented.

The Lohana work of Kutch Hand Embroidery is in chain stitch and open chain stitch and is liberally embellished with small mirrors. A large octagonal motif, composed of a number of floral butis, dominates a ground composed of small motifs. This is very similar to the veils and sarees decorated with tie and dye motifs used in Rajasthan. The embroidery done on silk was fine but the work done on cotton for bed spreads and garments was much bolder with a distinctly folk flavour.

The Kutch Handicraft workers produces items that are for everyday use. The covering for the backs of bullock are even more gorgeously embroidered than are clothes worn by people. Then, there are tasseled covers for the animals’ horns and covers for the forehead, face and the muzzle so that only the eyes remain unadorned. The pataras(huge wooden boxes) used for storing clothes and valuables have special embroidered covers made for them as have blankets and quilts.

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