Chikankari-The age old heritage and its craftsmanship

Chikankari is definitely a very age old nascent craft rooted in from the very bylanes of Lucknow and forms the base of Awadhi heritage. It definitely beholds the quintessential charm that captivates and beholds the viewer and enthralls the general masses. No doubt the workmanship and craftsmanship involved is really laborious and time consuming making it all the more worthwhile and expensive too.

Who introduced Chikankari in Lucknow

Lucknow is the abode of art, culture and its rich and varied heritage, besides being famous for its rich history, Lucknow is famous worldwide for its Chikankari work. Chikankari, in its most primitive sense means embroidery. is derived from the Persian word ‘Chakin’ which is also pronounced as ‘Chikan’. It is a perception or belief that Noor Jehan, wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir introduced and brought this art of Chikankari in Lucknow. Keeping the traditional Lucknow Chikankari alive in its finest form, Ethnava Chikan has carried forward the legacy of this timeless and priceless craft and is empowering the craft of Chikankari.

For all those who love chikankari as much as we do, let’s take on the journey of the making of chikan embroidery.

chikankari process

How is Chikankari work done

There are three basic stages involved in making chikankari namely block printing, embroidery work and lastly washing. Fore mostly, the design to be worked is printed on the plain fabric. The wooden block is dipped in the color solution and then the same is engraved on the fabric which can be a cotton fabric, georgette, nylon or viscose depending on the fabric washing is done which is the final stage of production process.

Below is a detailed summarization of the same

Cutting and styling of fabric– The foremost step is cutting and styling of the fabric in which the tailor cuts the fabric into the desired and required shape. After cutting, the tailor gives a running stitch to the garment .

 

Forming of wooden blocks for design– Different patterns of wooden blocks are created like floral, butis or borders more commonly called as motifs as per the design of the garment which can be anything from a chikan kurta, chikan saree, chikankari dress to a chikankari suit. The wooden block is dipped in the color solution which is made by mixing glue and indigo.

Printing of Intricate designs on Fabric– The designs are printed on the semi-stitched garment with blocks of different designs dipped in dye. The printer dabs and soaks the block in the color and places it on the fabric which is spread on the table.

 

Needle Craft or Embroidery of Chikan Stitches– Craftsmen and artisans create embroidery over the printed fabric using needle, thread and frame in which the cloth is placed and the needlework begins as per the designing that has been inked. Different types of patterns like motifs or butis are created with a variety of chikan stitches like Bakhiya, Phanda, Keel Kangan, Pechni etc.

 

Washing and Finishing– After the embroidery is completed, the fabric is soaked and dipped in water and then washed to remove the block printed blue color. The stiffness which you see on a chikan product is obtained by starching and ironing of the cloth which is then ready for the commercial use.

Quality Check– The next step is quality checking of the product, which is taken care at each stage of production. If the product surpasses the quality standards then only it is made available for delivery to the customers.

Final sale of the garment– After going through all the above processes the garment is then sold in retail in the form of chikan kurta, chikan saree, chikankari dress, chikankari suit in various fabrics be it cotton, georgette, etc.

Why is Chikankari so expensive

A regular day-to-day  kurta or a pair of kurta set of Chikankari can cost you anything between Rs.1200 and Rs.5000. Beware of duplicacy and cheaper versions ranging between Rs.200 and Rs.500, as they are mostly made using machines, and don’t have the precision and neatness of hand embroidery. Chikankari is usually expensive due to the amount of time and labor that goes into making out the entire product right from its initial stage to the final output, since all the material is hand embroidered therefore it takes time as well as efficient labor an so justifies the expensive factor.

How can you tell real Chikankari

 An original chikankari garment is checked for precision and neatness, before it is ready to be sold. So, a garment with uneven stitching, loose threads indicates that no machine has been used in the production whereas machine made products uses paper foam at the back or reverse of the product for the consistency, neatness and even stitching which is absent in Chikankari products. So, next time beware of this fraudulent tactics and do not be befooled in any way.

One of the main things and a debate for long as to how to identify which is chikankari and which is machine work? Many a times the customer ends up being fooled by the shopkeeper and is in a dilemma of sorts as to identify between an authentic Chikankari garment and fails to differentiate with a machine work product. The answer is to identify with the neatness of the work and obviously with the thread work.

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