Gujarat Kutch Embroidery – Sewing colors onto fabrics

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What do you and I do when we have to pass time? Books, magazines, internet, games, music, conversations …?

Here is an account of what tribal women of Kutchh do, they ‘create’ symbols of their culture and custom…

The women of Kutchh carry out embroidery on products that are used at home – wall hangings, quilts, wedding couture, skirts & blouses (ghahgra choli), for children’s clothes, on shirts (kurtas) worn by their husbands, on scarves… basically anything and mostly everything. Some handmade pieces take them months to complete as they also need to tend to household chores and farming.

Broadly there are 7 types of embroideries done in Kutchh – Jat, Soof, Kharek, Rabari, Aahir, Pakko and Mutwa. Let us give you an account of each for better appreciation…

Jats are pastoral communities who migrated from western Asia to India centuries ago. The Jat women generally use cross stitch embroidery to cover the whole of fabric in a pre-planned geometric design. They also extensively use mirrors in their work

Jat embroidery Kutchh Gujarat 1

Jat embroidery

Soof embroidery is done by the Sodha, Rajput and Meghwal communities of Kutchh. The designs by them are largely geometric patterns developed using satin stitch from reverse side of the fabric. Keen eyesight, knowledge of mathematics and geometry are a must to produce Soof work. Soof motifs include rhythmic patterns from lives of artisans like peacocks, mandalas, etc. and are used to create articles like garments, bedspreads, wall hangings, quilts, torans, cradle cloths, animal trappings and cushion covers…

Soof embroidery Kutchh Gujarat 1

Soof embroidery

Kharek embroidery is done by Sodha, Rajput and Meghwal communities. Artisans outline geometric patterns on a fabric and then fill in the spaces with bands of satin stitching that are worked along warp and weft from the front.

Kharek embroidery Kutchh Gujarat

Kharek embroidery

Rabari embroidery is done by Rabari communities of Kutch which are predominantly pastoral nomadic communities that rear cattle. The designs produced by them are bold and usually derived from mythology and daily lives. The outline on fabric is made in chain stitch and then filled closely using buttonhole single chain, herringbone stitches. Usually black colored base is used for Rabari embroideries.

Rabari embroidery Kutchh Gujarat 1

Rabari embroidery

Aahir embroidery is done by outlining freehand designs on a fabric using square chain stitch and then filling using closed herringbone stitch. Mirrors are extensively used in this form of embroidery as well.

Aahir embroidery Kutchh Gujarat 1

Aahir embroidery

Pakko embroidery is done by outlining using square chain stitch and tightly filling geometrical patterns using double buttonhole stitches. This embroidery is done by Sodha, Rajput and Meghwal communities of Kutchh.

Pakko embroidery Kutchh Gujarat

Pakko embroidery

Mutawa embroidery is practiced by Muslim herders of Banni grasslands in northern Kutchh. They tiny patterns of Mutawa embroidery employ combinations of square chain, buttonhole, chain, satin, herringbone stitches.

Mutawa embroidery Kutchh Gujarat

Mutawa embroidery

Indeed, when creations reflect essence of cultures and colors of life, it is bound to create magic – thanks to the tribes of Kutch.

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Kutchh textiles – Magic of weaving threads

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Exploring arts of Kutchh is by itself an invigorating experience. It allows you to immerse in journey of this land through time. Flanked by Arabian Sea on its west this corner of India has seen an influx of cross border migrations; existence of trade ports here lead to exchange of cultures and traditions over centuries. The varied colors of  creative crafts produced by this transition is what you witness and experience in Kutchh. Pastoral communities and nomadic tribes settled here for decades inhabit this zone and hence – flourishing grounds for native arts!

Each and every pocket of Kutcchh is endowed with traditional arts rich in their own flavor, valued for their own distinctiveness. Bhuj is the central location in Kutchh from where one gets to access these  pockets of art treasures.

Suswagatam

Suswagatam

Land of cotton and textile weaving, Gujarat has been known for its handicrafts from decades. It is here where we get to explore weaving of extraordinary fabrics. Bhujodi  is a small village located at a distance of 9 kms east of Bhuj where this tradition is being practiced by the Vankars – descendants of traditional Meghwal weavers. Children of these families are taught this craft from a very early stage. Weaving is carried out in the workshop areas where large hand looms are placed. Craftsmen weave from morning till dusk breaking only for lunch in between. The process of setting the weaving threads into the machine itself takes 2 laborious days.

Yarn

Yarn

Rolling threads into rolls for use on loom

Rolling threads into rolls for use on loom

The threads have to be placed on the loom as per the desired design. Once set up is done, the threads are interwoven into fabric with the help of synchronized movements of hands and feet. So  placement of threads on  loom and  movement of hands and feet pulling these threads together accomplish the final fabric design. The type of yarn used determines texture of the fabric.

Loom

Set up of loom

Magic of threads

Magic of threads

The threads used for weaving can be either cotton, silk, or wool (natural wool gives the finished product a thick texture and is extremely warm; a lighter version is woven with artificial wool but it certainly does not match former’s authenticity).

In each of the villages, one form of craftsmanship is carried out extensively, but other art forms also do co-exist – the synergy of which is seen around. For instance, woven fabrics are passed through tie & dye process and then embroidered upon to enhance its appeal.  Weaving is done by Vankars, then the cloth is passed over to  Muslim Khatris who carry out an extensive tie & dye (bandhani) procedure on the fabric. Once retrieved, the dyed fabric is passed on to the Rabari community of the village. Rabaris are pastoral communities known for their fine detailed embroidery on fabrics. All these activities together add to the richness and texture of the final fabric – hence creating a remarkable piece of beauty.

Rabari embroidery on tie & dyed handwoven fabric

KalaCafe supports local artisans and craftsmen practicing native forms of art in Kutchh.

Video – Kutchh textile weaving, Guajarat, India by KalaCafe

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