FabricTalks: The Beautiful Art of Chikankari

The ancient art of chikankari embroidery from India produces some of the most exquisite and finely worked textiles in the world. Let's take a closer look at this fascinating traditional craft and also learn the chikankari meaning.

What is Chikankari?

Chikankari refers to a type of embroidery from India that involves creating elaborate designs by making hundreds of tiny hand-worked white-on-white cotton thread stitches. The word "chikan" comes from the Persian word "chikeen" meaning sort of wrinkle or rough texture.

This embroidery style originated in the city of Lucknow during the era of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. Legend has it that when Nur Jahan, the wife of Emperor Jahangir, saw the unique embroidery, she was so fascinated by it that she had royal patronage granted to the artisans. From there, the chikankari craft flourished and pieces were worn by royals and the wealthy elite.

The Chikankari Process

Creating chikankari fabric is an extremely labour-intensive process done entirely by hand. First, a pattern is drawn on the fabric with a wooden pen dipped in keemkhab or zinc oxide solution. Then skilled artisans use thin bamboo sticks to painstakingly embroider the pattern with thousands of tiny stitches using soft, untwisted cotton thread.

There are over 30 different stitches and techniques used in chikankari work, such as the bakhnawa stitch that creates a woven design effect. Pieces can take weeks or even months to complete depending on the intricacy. When finished, the fabric has a slightly raised, off-white texture with an elegant feminine lustre.

Uses for Chikankari Fabric

Traditionally, chikankari artisans created luxurious pieces like sarees, dupattas, chikankari kurtas, and fabric hangings. Today, designers incorporate chikankari embroidery into a wide range of garments and home goods like dresses, scarves, cushion covers, and bedspreads.

The fine, lightweight cotton base fabric makes chikankari suitable for hot Indian summers. Yet the dense embroidery provides enough texture and coverage for cooler months too. Clothing made from chikankari is both breathable and elegant.

Unique Facts About Chikankari

  • Jama Masjid in Delhi has intricate chikankari-inspired work adorning the interior walls and roof
  • Each artisan specialises in only a few types of stitches which they practise for years
  • Multiple artisans work on one single chikankari piece, passing it from hand to hand
  • There are regional variations like kamdani chikan from West Bengal and sujani chikan from Bihar

Why Shop Chikankari at Fabric by Singhania's?

If you want to experience the beauty of authentic chikankari pieces, you can definitely look into Fabric by Singhania's.Their carefully curated collection showcases the very best of chikankari's elegant floral patterns, delicate threadwork, and timeless Indian style. Fabric by Singhania's offers quality pieces to cherish.

Browse their online chikan collection and experience the magic of this 400-year-old craft tradition today. An investment in chikankari fabric is an investment in wearable art!