EMBROIDERIES OF INDIA / PHULKARI WORK / HISTORY
- Phulkari literally means working with flowers, an embroidery technique using floral themes, earlier restricted to decorating only shawls and Odhani / Odhni (head scarves), today encompassing large canvases like the saree, chudidar kameez.
- Its first mention is in Punjabi folklore of the romantic protagonists Heer and Ranjha. Some scholars feel that the art of Phulkari came from Iran where it is known as “Gulkari”. Some feel it came from Central Asia along with Jat tribes who migrated to India and settled in Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat.
- There is reference of Phulkari in Vedas, Mahabharat, Guru Granth Sahib and folk songs of Punjab. In its present form, phulkari embroidery has been popular since the 15th century.
- Phulkari, which literally translates into ‘flower work’, has a history etched in the culture of Punjab. Spun from the charkha this spectacular style of embroidery is patterned on odhnis, shawls, kurtis and chunris.
- In the days gone by, the art had complete freedom of creativity. Motifs used were a representation of the dear and sundry values of Punjab. Essentially a community activity, colors and shades were somewhat run-of-the-mill, however, women loved the task and became experts in Phulkari that made mediocre - looking fabrics, look exquisite.
- Khaddar being a tough cloth, thick and coarse, getting the delicate silk floss through and forth was a telling task since it was prone to knots and tangles if not done carefully.
- It was believed like in some oriental countries, the embroidery work was always done pointing the needle's tip in the direction opposite of the embroiderer. This gesture, as well as the energy that was injected into the work, had to come from the heart and go towards others.
- Darning stitch was the most commonly used technique to make phulkari and the quality of a piece could be measured according to the width of this stitch. The narrowest was the stitch, the finest was the piece.
- In order to create an unusual design or to border the khaddar, some other stitches like the herringbone Stitch, Holbein stitch, running stitch, buttonhole stitch are now occasionally used.
- Phulkari exclusively adorns the wedding and festival salwar kameez of Punjabi women, but has also in trending times stormed the market for fashion fabrics with a new appeal in fusion.
- Fabrics like odhni, the head cloth or shawl that forms part of a routine Punjabi woman’s attire apart from the salwar and kameez, are generally the canvas for Phulkari.
- Phulkari has evenly distributed motifs and exquisite panel borders embroidered on the fabric. Thread by thread, each motif is created in a geometric grid, which has a peculiar technique for coming up with a curvilinear final output.
- Long and short darn stitches have been put to clever use in creating horizontal, vertical and diagonal thread work, inspired by designer ideas.
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