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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

Image for raw cotton

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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A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!

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45 Responses

  1. Tina says:

    I love chikankari the designs on pastle shades look so elegant. I have to fish out mine and wear today only. Perfect for summer
    Tina recently posted…Chocolate Tart with Strawberry – No-Bake Easy Tart RecipeMy Profile

  2. Lata Sunil says:

    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

  3. 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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  4. 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

  5. Parul Thakur says:

    I love chikan work. It’s elegant and classy. Makes one look good. I have a saree that I love.Perfect for summers
    Parul Thakur recently posted…C for Can I do it? #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

  6. Sreesha says:

    Like you, I too associate chikan work saris with my mum. She has a collection of those – her favorite kind.
    Sreesha recently posted…Call Me When You’re Sober | #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

  7. 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

  8. Shilpa Garg says:

    I ♥ Chikan Kurtas. I love the white kurtas with embroidery in a different colour especially. During my last visit to Lucknow which was last month, I bought a lovely chikan top. And they are perfect for the hot summers!
    Shilpa Garg recently posted…Child Abuse #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2ZMy Profile

  9. Kalpana says:

    Loved the play of words on chikankari and chicken curry. I have so much chikankari and yet couldn’t resist buying one more saree on sunday.
    Sometimes I think we don’t know how lucky we are in India.

    Confusion or Clarity #Lexicon of Leaving
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  10. Geets says:

    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!

    Geets recently posted…C- Candy CrushMy Profile

  11. Neha says:

    My MIL loves chikan and she cares for them as if they are her babies. Lovely read


  12. Jaishvats says:

    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?

  13. bushra says:

    i’m big fan of lucknowai chickan suits. As I leave, I come across various designs of chickan pieces
    Beautifully penned, covering all aspects
    Thanks for sharing
    Care for!! What to expect during the First trimester of Pregnancy Part 2
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  14. sheela says:

    I enjoyed reading this post a lot because I am from the place of Chikankari. Thanks for sharing this information. Best wishes!
    sheela recently posted…Ceaseless Continuance #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

  15. Sheethal says:

    I love chikankari. They’re super comfy to wear.
    Sheethal recently posted…Create your CreationMy Profile

  16. Kaddu says:

    Chikankari used to be one of my favorite works to wear in summers when I used to wear salwar suits etc on a regular basis. It looks very pretty.
    Happy AtoZing!
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  17. Oooohh i love chikankari work especially pastel colours..So perfect for summer and very light on the skin.

    Launching SIM Organics
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  18. Eva says:

    Cotton may be humble, but sometimes is just the best. Thanks for your interesting posts.

    EvaMail Adventures

  19. Amrita says:

    its great that you are spreading awareness about such Indian fabrics.I love chikan work too!So dainty

  20. Shalini R says:

    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

  21. Shilpa Garg says:

    I ♥ Chikan Kurtas. I love the white kurtas with embroidery in a different colour especially. During my last visit to Lucknow which was last month, I bought a lovely chikan top. And they are perfect for the hot summers!

    PS : Trying to comment again!
    Shilpa Garg recently posted…Domestic Violence #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2ZMy Profile

  22. Shilpa Gupte says:

    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.

  1. June 5, 2017

    […] the statistics, it would seem that the most popular post was Chikankari & Cotton Tales ( with a mere 81 views). The one I enjoyed writing most was Ritu Kumar and the Design […]

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