The Art of Chikankari

11 September, 23

5 min read

Beige Paisley Sarees By Taneira

All About Lucknow's Exquisite Embroidery Tradition

A traditional embroidery art that originated in Lucknow, Chikankari dates back over 400 years. Introduced to our country during the reign of the Mughals, it flourished in the City of Nawabs. The word ‘Chikankari’ comes from the Persian word ‘Chikan’ meaning embroidery. The rich Chikankari history has made it an iconic embroidery style today and people from all over the world have fallen in love with it. Taneira’s handpicked Chikankari saree range brings you up close and personal with the elegance of this artform.

The technique involves artisans spending hours creating intricate threadwork designs on various fabrics like Cotton, Muslin, Silk, Organza and more. The motifs in this embroidery art form range from florals, paisleys, birds and animals to more contemporary geometric patterns.

Chikankari Work: The Technique

Wondering how the Chikankari work of Uttar Pradesh comes to life? At Taneira, we put our heart and soul into collaborating with artisans who use their intricate needlework to bring to life this ancient craft in the form of daily wear and occasion wear sarees.

While Chikankari art was initially done with white thread on white fabrics, it has evolved over the years to incorporate various colour palettes, especially pastels. The beauty of this incredibly intricate embroidery art is such that the thread motifs would stand out on the fabric of the same colour, yet merge seamlessly with the base. Chikankari art is a form of tonal embroidery where different shades of a single colour create depth in the design, as can be seen beautifully portrayed in many of our Lucknowi sarees.

White Chikankari Sarees By Taneira

Chikankari is a time-consuming and intense creative process which first involves block printing the patterns onto the fabrics, followed by stitching. The embroidery motifs can vary and are often made using multiple stitches to give the fabric depth and texture. Once the embroidery is complete, it goes into the finishing stage where the loose threads are trimmed and the fabric is washed, starched and ironed.

Stitches of the Seamless Chikankari Art

The highly skilled art of Lucknowi Chikankari uses various stitches. Some of them are as below:

Tepchi or Running Stitch: This is a long running stitch made using multiple threads, and is often used as a base for creating the main pattern in Chikankari work.

Bakhiya or Shadow Work: As the name suggests, the shadow stitch is done on the back side of the fabric. The criss-cross thread loops on the back side create a neat outline stitch on the front of the fabric.

Ulti Bakhiya or Herringbone Stitch: Ulti Bakhiya stitch is yet another common stitch in Chikankari work. It is used to create the criss-cross thread loops of the shadow work on the front side of the fabric to give it a texture.

Keel Kangan or Stem Stitch: Keel Kangan is used to create the floral patterns, vines and stems that are the true essence of any Chikankari piece.

Hool or Eyelet Stitch: The Hool is used to create fine round/oval eyelet holes in the fabric. These holes are often used to make the centre of the flower motifs, which are commonly seen in Chikankari work.

Murri and Phanda or French Knot: Murri (rice-shaped) and Phanda (millet-shaped) are stitches that the artisans use to create knots. These are typically used as the centres of flowers or as tips of paisley leaves in Chikankari work.

Jaali: One of the highlights of Lucknowi embroidery, the Jaali stitch requires great expertise. The artisans work around the fabric and remove certain threads (instead of pulling threads through the fabric) to create the desired pattern, giving it a lattice-like look. This specialised technique results in Chikankari patterns that look alike from the front and the back. They can be further embellished using other stitches like the Hool, Murri or Keel.

Taneira collaborates with master craftsmen with a lineage of skill and artistry to use various other delicate stitches and create exquisite Chikankari embroidery patterns. They are Rahet, Bijli, Ghaspatti, Janjeera, Sazi, Makra, Hathkadi, Karan, Khatau and Darzdari, to name a few.

The Versatility of Chikankari Embroidery

The combination of various stitches and the exceptional craftsmanship of the artisans makes Chikankari work truly timeless. Over the years, Chikankari embroidery patterns have evolved to employ embellishments like sequins, mukaish, mirrors, pearls and more. This has further expanded its appeal and heavy Chikankari work has now become a popular choice for festivals and special occasions.

The fact that Chikankari work can be done on many formal fabrics like Silk, Georgette and Organza has made it a go-to option for brides-to-be as well. While bridal lehengas with Chikankari work are becoming popular by the day, brides-to-be also love to include Chikankari sarees as part of their trousseau. Taneira’s Chikankari saree collection boasts of something for every occasion and every taste - be it work wear or occasion wear. What’s not to love!

Green Chikankari Sarees By Taneira

The Chikankari of Uttar Pradesh and Its Cultural Significance

Deeply rooted in the Indian culture, and especially belonging to Lucknow, Chikankari is not only a form of livelihood but a tradition that has passed on from generation to generation. And so has the love for this art, making it an integral part of heirloom collections.

While the beauty of various types of Chikankari art is incomparable, it is also reflective of our rich cultural heritage. It stands for the workmanship and artistry from hundreds of years ago, something that Taneira is committed to bring to the fore as it brings together communities today as well. The placement of stitches, creation of textures, choice of motifs and combination of colours make each Chikankari embroidery piece a unique work of art. Yet, what binds it all together is the age-old tradition, its classic techniques and a sense of connection to the past.

Own a Very Special Chikankari Work Outfit? Here’s How You Can Care For It

Here are some tips to help you care for your Chikankari work saree and ensure their longevity:

  1. Handwashing with a mild detergent or dry cleaning your Chikankari outfits is highly recommended. Do not use bleach.

  2. If you wash the garment at home, do not wring or line dry. Simply wrap it in a clean towel and let it be for a while until the water is absorbed.

  3. Chikankari garments should always be ironed on reversed. This protects the embroidery from direct heat. Also, do not steam iron as the moisture can damage the threads.

  4. If you own a heavy occasion wear Chikankari outfit, do not iron on embellishments.

  5. While storing, it is recommended that you roll your Chikankari garments and keep them in a cool, dry place. This ensures minimal creases, thus helping the embroidery to stay intact.

As goes without saying, a Lucknowi Chikankari saree is an epitome of elegance. The many types of chikankari embroidery have made their way into festive, work and daily wear wardrobes of women across the globe. Be it traditional sarees for family gatherings, a subtle saree for office wear/gifting or heavy Chikankari outfits for newly weds, this art has undoubtedly captured a special place in everyone’s hearts.

If you’d like to add a handcrafted saree with beautiful Chikankari work to your wardrobe, your search ends here. Shop for a wide range of Chikankari saree for every occasion at a Taneira store near you. You can also explore Chikankari work sarees in pastel colours (like peach, sky blue, baby pink, mauve and pista green) from the comfort of your home at our online store.