Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chikan embroidery

If you are interested in whitework embroidery you may, like me, have come across a mention of chikankari or chikan embroidery.  It is often mentioned in conjuction with discussions on shadow work and Dresden Lace embroidery because of the similarities between these types of embroidery.

Chikan originates from India and continues to be produced today, centred largely around Lucknow in the northeast. Dresden Lace is of European origin and is named after Dresden, Germany which was the centre for its production in the mid 18th century when this form of embroidery was at the height of fashion.

Both chikan and Dresden Lace are worked on very fine, sheer fabrics like muslin or voile. The transparency of the fabric is key to the delicacy and beauty of the embroidery because it shows off the shadow work to best advantage. Shadow work uses double backstitch or reverse herringbone stitch. It is  found on both Dresden Lace and chikan and it forms a gentle contrast to the open lacy look of the pulled work embroidery that is worked along side it.

Dresden Lace uses a large variety of pulled work stitches and pulled work stitch combinations and it is this which creates its distinctive character. The small fragment below of an 18th century Dresden Lace neckerchief (or shawl) shows: chain stitch which has been used to outline the motifs; shadow work petals; and four different pulled work areas. Two of these areas are made up of combination pulled work stitches quite typical of Dresden Lace.

Dresden Lace (Photo with kind permission of the owner D. Langham)
Chikan on the other hand generally includes a smaller variety of pulled work stitches but it has a wide range of surface stitches to complement the shadow work. Many of the surface stitches in chikan work are unique to Indian embroidery and are not seen anywhere else.

Recently Anita, of the blog artisticfingers, organized a chikan stitch along and I have signed up for it to learn more about this beautiful form of embroidery. So far I have found some cotton voile fabric and traced the design onto it. Below you can see the design pinned underneath the voile ready for tracing off and it gives you some idea of how sheer the fabric is.

I won't be doing much stitching in the next few months while my daughter and family are visiting, but I will post my progress on the SAL if and when I make any. In the meantime to all the other embroiderers taking part in the chikan stitch along, Happy Stitching!


  1. Lyn , You've come up with an interesting comparison.I enjoyed reading this and am looking forward for more information as you work chikan embroidery.Thank you.

  2. Hi Anita, Thanks for your kind comments and also for the opportunity to join your stitch along and learn more about chikan embroidery. I've enjoyed reading your posts so far even if I don't have any time yet to stitch.

  3. Lyn,thank you for this informative post!!Now I have to look up more about Dresden lace. :)

  4. Hi Deepa. Thank you for letting me know that you enjoyed the post. Happy stitching!

  5. Very interesting post. I love reading about various laces. It is amazing how different yet the same some of them are.

  6. Lovely to hear from you Connie, thanks for your comments. I find it fascinating that Dresden work and Chikan use many of the same stitches and techniques yet the end results are so very different.