Once you are enamored of something, everywhere you look you will find that one thing. It is happening to me now. I am in love with Chikankari embroidery and I can see it everywhere. On shawls, skirts, tunics, bedspreads, quilts, sheer curtains.
My younger one peeping on the screen says, yes, I love chicken too and I can smell chicken curry everywhere. Well, my child, this chikan is the exquisite work of skilled artisans and not your gluttony, I tell her off.
When you find chikankari fabric worked all over with meticulously done motifs, you cannot but marvel at this embroidery technique; and the time and patience it would have taken to complete each set. When does this kind of work change from passion to grind. I have no idea because I never get to that stage. Patience is not my virtue and hence I am all the more appreciative of those craftsmen who do this work so diligently on the sheer fabric that it is done.
Here I have given 5 motifs of chikankari which does not tax my attention deficit brain. But for those who are blessed with more sangfroid, here is an overview of the commonly used motifs in chikankari
The basic chikankari fabric has floral designs with double lines. These lines are worked with the reverse herringbone stitch from the face of the cloth. You can find more details of the stitches used in chikankari in the post , like satin stitch, stem stitch, reverse herringbone stitch, buttonhole stitch, eyelet stitch- Chikankari embroidery tutorial.
In the olden days some 40 different stitches are said to have been used in this work.I am talking about the time when the Mughal court of Emperor Jehangir favored this embroidery. Since then the stitches used are a lot lesser.
In the inexpensive chikankari fabric you will find that, these reverse herringbone stitches are done far apart. Whereas in more expensive chikankari fabric the work is done more closely so that the shadow of the reverse herringbone stitch is beautifully and sharply apparent from the face of the fabric. More intricate motifs which are knotted and of the raised stitch/ textured variety are also added to this outline of vines and flowers like phanda flowers, murri motifs and the jali work ( pulled thread embroidery work creating window/net like appearance). The work is done so finely that you will think that the stitches are a part of the fabric – even that, it is a part of the fabric weave.
Most of the Indian embroidery motifs mimic life and the common objects around the rural life. In chikankari work too the common objects find their way in the designs. The most common motif is the creeper / vine with many types of flowers thrown in. Grains of different types and Other motifs like the coriander leaf stalk, grass stalk, mango designs, elephant, fish are also popular. I rarely find white on white chikankari work anymore, but once that was the only way the work as done. Now vivid colours / contrasting colours are common in chikankari, not just pastel colours.
Mango design in chikan work
The paisley or Mango is one of the most recurring design in chikan work. Make the outline and fill the paisley motif with more designs.Checkout the post on Paisley pattern and different ways to embroider a paisley motif for more details
When you reach curves the stitches on the outer curves should be longer than the ones on the inner curve.
Fishbone stitch is used in chikan to fill the designs like the leaves here. Checkout the tutorial for fishbone stitch here
The reverse herringbone when worked from the back is another way to fill the designs in chikankari ( The cross stitches on the back will now appear on the front). I guess you can use the herringbone stitch as well. Checkout the tutorial for reverse herringbone stitch in the chikankari tutorial post; or the herringbone stitch tutorial
Palm leaf motif
This is an imitation of the paisley motif with a stalk and leaves.
I donot think this is a recurring pattern in chikankari but it looks so attractive that I added it here. You may find the post on fabric patterns interesting if you like to look at patterns like this.