Embroideries of Kashmir

Kashmir is the place of immense talent and skill when it comes to craft and handloom. Kashmir gained international recognition for its unique embroidery styles. Embroideries and exquisite sewing have been a cardinal part of the culture and economy of the paradise state. Embroiders manifest their artisanship in various accessories and garments, including sarees, shawls, salwar kameez, jutis and jackets.  

 According to historical records, the art form was first recorded in the 3rd century BCE. It later flourished at a broader scale under the 8th sultan of Kashmir- Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin. By the end of the 17th century, the brilliance of the embroideries of Kashmir was thriving in Asia, Europe, and beyond. 

Many historians argue that embroidery came to Kashmir from the Central Asian region via the silk route. Owing to this, there are various types of embroideries in Kashmir. Each is having minute deviations.
1) The Aari Embroidery 

Aari embroidery is one of the many forms of embroidery, originated in the Mughal era. Aari work is a type of embroidery work that is done by stretching the fabric tightly over a wooden frame. A pen like needle, that resembles a crochet needle is used to do the intrinsic Aari work.

Nature and scenic beauty are the constant inspiration for embroidery patterns and motifs. The list of motifs is wide-ranging. Although, the most common ones include cypress cones, almonds, lotus, and chinar leaves. Geometric designs, paisley patterns, and bird motifs are also prevalent in shawls and sarees. 

In most cases, the designers outline the motifs with a darker thread, sewed along with the sujini stitch. The accustomed types of stitches involve Zalakdosi (chain stitch), Vatachikan (buttonhole stitch), and Do-rookha (double-sided stitch). Stem stitch and Herringbone stitch are some other stitching techniques used for designing and illustrating the borders.

2) The Crewel Embroidery 

It is a surface embroidery technique famous in the Kashmiri handicraft industry. It is also called Aari Embroidery as it is the main tool used  by embroiderers. Zalakdozi is the local name of Crewel embroidery. 

The oldest piece of crewel embroidery is the Bayeux tapestry, dated about a thousand years old. The embroidery became famous in 17th century England and France as well. 

3) The Sozni Embroidery

The Islamic saint Shah Hamdan introduced the Sozni embroideries in Kashmir in the 14th century. This is a  sophisticated form of needle embroidery. It is solely practised in Kashmir. Pashmins and high-quality raffal are the only cloth types designed with this embroidery.  

The satin stitch motifs of this embroidery take one’s breath away. The principal design involves stitching identical patterns on both sides of the fabric. The pattern motifs commonly consist of abstract geometric designs, paisley patterns, and stylized flowers, and the designs are sober with no more than two to three colours. 

4) The Tilla Embroidery 

The use of gold and silver makes it a royal embroidery style. The threads used are exclusively silver or golden. The beautiful embroidery designs are famous on the world stage for their royal and serene look. Embroiderers design the traditional Kashmiri dress, Phiran with this embroidery. However, nowadays, we can find the designs on shawls and sarees. 

In the medieval times, the artists used real gold and silver for the design work.However now, they have shifted to the use of silver and golden colour threads instead. The detailed and extensive work takes up to a whole month. 

5) The Kalamkari Embroidery

 It is yet another type of embroidery famous in Kashmir. This form of embroidery got its name from an amalgamation of two words- kalam, meaning pen and Kari, meaning work. This is also a colourful embroidery type. The colours used are all-natural dyes. 

The artists tend to follow a strict 20 step methodology to reach the desired outcome. They use bamboo pens and natural dyes to paint over the shawls.

6) The Amli Embroidery 

Amli embroidery is the multicolour embroidery type. It is the latest from among the embroideries of Kashmir. Seen mainly on Kani and Jamevar shawls, this embroidery has made a special place in the market with its vibrant look. The artist works on the irreversible patterns on the obverse side of the cloth. 

The designs of Amli embroidery include far more variety than the other types. It expands its expertise to include motif designs depicting scenes, animals, human figures, flowers, etc. 

7) The Papier-mache Embroideries

Papier-mache embroidery is known as the bolder variant of the Sozni embroidery. The multicolour satin threads beautifully embroidered to form intrinsic designs and motifs are the speciality of this form of embroidery. To give the design a protruding look, the artists outline the designs in dark or black colour.