Chikankari & Cotton Tales #AtoZChallenge 2017


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No, you didn’t get it wrong. This post is not about Chicken Curry that India is so famous for. It is about chikankari  that Awadh is famous for. Awadh, that kingdom of a rich cultural heritage evokes memories of fine muslin cloth embroidered with delicate stitches of shadow work and stem stitch. The Lucknowi chikankari  kurta is  a staple of almost every Indian’s wardrobe either as a man’s or woman’s upper garment.

For me, I always associate chikankari with my mother . I still recall the smell of her starched chikankari saris mingling with the fragrance of 4711, her favourite cologne. I hear the swish of her saris in  pastel shades of baby pink, light lemon and sky blue .  And I remember the magical flowering creepers and paisley that wandered all over the sari.

Around 36 different kinds of embroidery  stitches are used in Chikankari .  The price of a piece depends on the complexity of the stitches and the design. Chikankari which uses a variation of French knot ( mori) is rare and more prized than the commonplace shadow stitch that  typifies chikankari.

The common motifs are paisley, flowers , and vines and leaves. Today this decorative hand embroidery is used for garments ( including necks of men’s kurta’s), table mats and table cloths as well.

Evolution and change

The gorgeous chikankari in mulmul or muslin gradually gave way to chikankari on organdie and organza. And the white threads also gave way to coloured thread to produce a different effect.   Chikankari  that decorate the necklines of men’s kurtas spread to the silk, terrycotton and even printed kurtis of the women! And with today’s craze for georgette means you can find  chikankari work on this diaphanous, flowy fabric too.

Apart from garments, chikankari is also used to embroider table cloths and table mats

[Tweet “Mughal Emperor Jehangir patronised chikankari  to please his beloved empress Noorjehan who loved it so!”]

The magic of chikankari that was once confined to the workshops of Awadh,  has now spread far and wide.  But what remains unchanged, however,  is the fine stitches that are patiently worked by hand.

Acknowledgements :


Cotton Tales

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No story of Indian textiles is complete without mentioning the humble cotton.  It is the very fabric of this country. This fine material that is worn throughout the length and breadth of this land, clothing kings and beggars alike.

India’s cotton has been legendary. People say its muslin was so fine that an entire sari could be pulled through a small ring. And Indian weavers were so skilled that none could surpass their skill. It was the advent of textile mills that spelled the death knell of this indigenous industry.


Some amazing facts about King cotton

  • It is a cash crop that contributes almost 19% of India’s GDP
  • 51 % of India’s arable land is used to grow cotton
  • India contributes 18% of the world’s cotton production
  • When Britain lost its American colonies, it shifted its focus to sourcing cotton from India!

Cotton is undoubtedly the most breathable, easy to care for fabric. I just can’t get enough of it.

Disclaimer : I am neither a textile manufacturer nor a historian . I am just passionate about textiles and fabrics. I have gathered all my information from the Internet. Please excuse any errors and omissions.

Join me and hundreds of other bloggers participating in the #AtoZ Challenge 2017

I do hope you are enjoying reading about the fascinating traditions of Indian textiles….

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Author: Bellybytes

Proud Mumbai gal who always sees the humour in life. The mum who made banana fritters when all the other mums made cupcakes.

45 Comments on “Chikankari & Cotton Tales #AtoZChallenge 2017

  1. Chikan kurtas are my favourites since my college days. I then used to shop for them at Santacruz which was Chikankari paradise for me. I recently bought 2 kurtas – a white and a dark bottle green one. They never go out of vogue.

    I will be back to read your other posts.
    Lata Sunil recently posted…Peeking into childhood #MondayMusingsMy Profile

  2. You are so right; its there in almost every wardrobe by default in some form or other as its certainly most coveted all the time!

    I didnt know about the 36 stiches being used in this- shadow / herringbone / kantha and french knots is what I remember I noticed in it.
    Loving your textile threads a lot – kudos!!!

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  3. Chikankari is the most beautiful creation in our country. I love them not only for their elegance but also because they are extremely comfortable during blazing summers

  4. This reminded me of the chikankari dress material my aunt brought for me when she lived in Lucknow! It was a light pista green color and I loved it so much!
    Swathi Shenoy recently posted…CrushesMy Profile

  5. I always adored Chikankari as a child and wanted to get my kurta stiched in its classic way! And yet, I haven’t got it done yet! I’ve worn chikan kurtas but the one I have in my mind is yet to take form!

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  6. I love wearing cotton too….best material for our hot and humid Indian weather… I love the lucknowi prints… They come in light shades rt?

  7. When my aunts used to marvel about Chikan work in sarees, I used to wonder what on earth was Chicken work! 😛 But yeah, that was when I was a kid. I adore them now!
    Shalini R recently posted…DhoklaMy Profile

  8. Your post reminded me of my mother’s.sarees – starched, in pastel shades of blue, lemon and pink, embroidered in the chikankari designs. The way she drapes those starched sarees makes it all look so easy and classy! And the chikankari gives it the extra classy touch!
    Years ago, I owned salwar suits in chikankari in every shade available. I too would starch them and wear them with pride, thinking of mum all the time!
    Cotton is my most favoured fabric for the simple reason that it allows my skin to breathe. And I too remember mum regailing me with the story of how a mulmul saree cold pass through a ring!
    Loved this post too! I was looking for it since morning.

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