Chikankari is an ancient from of white floral embroidery, intricately worked with needle and raw thread. It is known for its exquisite style and fine needlework and is unparalleled when it comes to refinement. Chikan Embroidery is one of the finest and unique embroidery one cannot find anywhere else in the world. For centuries, this fine white tracery on transparent white fabric has delighted the heart of king and commoner alike. Chikan work is completely handwork and done mostly by female artisans. It is centered mainly in the northern heartland of India, namely Lucknow, the capital of a large state, called Uttar Pradesh. It has survived the loss of royal patronage, suffered deeply at the hands of commercialization, lost its way sometimes in mediocrity and yet stayed alive, is a tribute to the skill and will of the crafts persons who have handed down this technique from one generation to another. All Chikankari products are 100% handcrafted by needle embroidery and pre -washed , ruling out any shrinkage. Chikankari is totally hand-woven, which implies each piece and the design is unique and no two pieces are 100% identical. Lucknow surely enjoys undisputed supremacy in producing India's finest chikan embroidery. Today, Lucknowi Chikankari is synonymous with fashion and is worn by almost every celebrity at least once. Chikankari has never gone out of fashion. The new generation of Lucknow craftsmen are producing newer designs and patterns that have led to its popularity not only in India but also all over the world.
Process of Chikankari
There is an elaborate process that goes into creating the magnificent and extremely intricate piece of Chikankari. Each artisan specializes in the task he/she performs.
Stages involved in making process are:
1. Block printing- the fabric is cut by the tailor into the required garment shape, after which the basic pre-embroidery stitching is done so that the correct shape is available to the block-printer to plan the placement of the design. Hand-carved wooden blocks are selected in three different sizes for different parts of the cloth. These wooden blocks are stained with easily washable indigo ink to print a pattern on the cloth that will later be embroidered. The imprints will provide the basic outline for the embroiders to work with.
2. Embroidery work- once the printing is done, the cloth is ready. It is tightly fitted on a circular wooden or cloth frame that holds the cloth in place. This enables the needle work to be done neatly with ease and speed. The artisan creates traditional patterns using different techniques. Different types of stitches can be made in one product.
3. Washing: Washing is the final stage of production process. The washing is done in a bhatti (Furnace) to remove the indigo color imprints and after washing the garment is then starched and ironed to obtain stiffness. The final product is now ready for the market. The whole cycle can take from one to six months.