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Stitches from Kutch

Juanita Kakoty, April 26, 2015, 22:07 IST

Folk craft

A creative touch A colourful display of Kutch embroidery. PHOTO by Author
In a corner of the courtyard at the recently concluded Design Haat by the Apeejay Institute of Design in New Delhi, 40-year-old Keshav Bhai sat in his stall displaying all sorts of embroidery from Kutch — patka, chaupar, khatri. Intricate embroidery with glasswork, made with threads of vibrant colours, enchanted visitors at the stall. Gorgeous bags, quilts in patchwork and apparel were on display.

“Weaving has been a family tradition,” Keshav said as he laid out beautiful kanjaris before me. Kanjaris are long backless blouses which are heavily embroidered, traditionally worn by the women of Gujarat’s Kutch region. “These are only worn by married women,” he thus spoke of the kanjaris.

“And they stitch it themselves for their wedding and to wear thereafter. By the time a girl is eight or 10 years old age, she learns to stitch; and when she is about 20, she would have stitched some eight to 10 of these kanjaris for herself.” For contemporary fashion, he said, kanjaris could be used in kurtas as embellishment.

Sitting next to him, 35-year-old Umra, wearing a stunning kanjari, was teaching a team of Chinese students a few stitches. These students were working out some Chinese designs with these stitches. “This is in tandem with the spirit of the Apeejay event, the Design Haat that is being organised,” said graphic designer Ashit Sarkar, who has been working with the Apeejay Institute of Design for the past 15 years. “The intention is to facilitate the exchange of ideas whereby the traditional crafts could be taken on to the level of contemporary expressions, which would attune them to modern markets.”

“I learnt these stitches from my mother and aunts when I was a little girl,” Umra said. Referring to the kanjari she was wearing, the talented artiste revealed that she had stitched it as a young girl, before she got married. “We get a lot of demand for our embroidered bags and quilts, which we make through appliqu and patchwork,” Keshav explained. “Appliqu and patchwork have been traditionally used by women in Gujarat to create bags, quilts, dresses, etc. from worn and torn pieces of cloth.” These techniques have been especially used in the region for making quilts for domestic use, he emphasised.

Laying out a quilt in front of me where little patches of geometric-shaped fabrics were sewn together, Keshav said, “This is patchwork. Traditionally, this technique was used by women to create quilts with used pieces of fabric.” Appliqu, on the other hand, he said, is the art of decorating a piece of textile by applying fabric on fabric with the edges sewn down. “We cut the fabric in some form or shape and then stitch it on the surface of the textile. Appliqu is one of the oldest crafts of Gujarat; the women have used it to create quilts, wall hangings, and dresses by using different patches of fabric and piecing them together.”

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