Indian fiber-art

Be different


Over 2 millennia ago trade routes were established that allowed Indian textiles to reach China, Mesopotamia and the even the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, most surviving artifacts are from the 15th century and later. Over the sub-contient today the indigenous crafts display numerous embroidery arts, printed textiles, and simple to complex painted fabrics all used to produce merchandise ranging from curtains to shawls. Bolts of material from the mills of Uttar Pradesh have been used in such unique settings as the ancestral homes of England and when made up into curtains are truly spectacular and sell for thousands of dollars.

Even today the fly-shuttle loom, throw-shuttle loom, pit loom and loin loom are all used to make Indian textiles. The techniques are ancient and those in use produce a variety of types of textiles. Here we show images of some of these work-shops and their products.

Indian looms

Traditionally, the fiber art of India is a localized, home industry that can be classified as micro-economics. For example, we purchased our Chikan embroidery from a friend who is a wonderful example of a woman helping the previously impoverished women of her community. Although she is Hindu she has organized a group of Muslim women to produce beautiful Chikan embroidery.

Our friend, the manufacturer, selects and oversees the design of the wooden blocks that are the initial phase of fabric design. These wooden blocks are then dipped in ink and the design embedded in the wood is stamped onto fabric, which is then passed to the stitchers. A single person specializes in producing a single style of stitch and works on the fabric until all of the stitches of one kind are complete. The fabric is then passed on to another stitcher for the next type of stitch, that will be embedded into the fiber-art. Between each set of stitches the piece of fabric is checked, by the manufacturer, for stitch-quality-control. If the work does not pass her visual inspection it is sent back to have the offending stich-work redone. The quality-control for such work is extremely tight, and indeed fabric produced from this particular work-shop was used to produce a dress worn by a female winner of an Academy Motion Picture Award. For this work she pays her workers more than the local rate but with the understanding that she will not tolerate a poor product.

Embroidery styles

Chikan embroidery can produce particularly fine examples of Indian fiber-art. Chikan consists of 32 different types of stitches, usually done on fine fabric, which create a shadow or lacy effect. The designs are printed on the fabric using hand-carved wooden blocks. The result is a fabric ornamented with stiches.

Phulkari embroidery develops geometric patterns with a horizontal and vertical darn-stich up to 0.25" long. Variant stiches include stem-, satin-, herring bone- and chain-stiches.

Bagh embroidery has stitches so dense that a double layered fabric is produced.

Ikat is a weave design determined by tie-dying the original thread. In single Ikat only the warp or the weft is tie-dyed. In double Ikat motifs are achieved by a juxtapositioning of similarly dyed shades on equal lengths of warp and weft.

Brocade embroidery had additional threads placed in between the regular warp and weft. Silver and gold thread will produce a raised ornament, or zari brocade, which may be so dense that the background silk is almost invisible: this is called kinkhab brocade.

Jamdani fabric has silver, gold or colored thread added along the warp.

Mashru is a fabric with a silk warp, and a cotton weft, probably originally woven for Muslim men. The word is derived from permitted meaning in this case a permitted cloth.

Pashmina produced from the wool of Himalayan goats provides in its finest form the thread for the fabled shahtoosh shawl, reputably the finest of all weaves, which in its normal form can be drawn through a finger ring. Legend has it that the finest ever made was drawn through the eye of a needle! Collectors are willing to pay large amounts of money for old fine shahtoosh shawls.


Although double Ikat is perhaps the most sophisticated of the tie-dyers art there are many others farics where tie-dying produces spectactular effects. Bandhni textiles use numerous tiny dots produced by tie-dying with a continuous thread.

We are able to get many kinds and sizes of fabric and textile for interior designers: bedspreads, tablecloths and curtains. Our method of operation is the send designs displayed as attached images sent to you via eMailwhilst we are on a buying expedition. You simple then tell us to the quantity and item[s] you wish us to buy for you.

Additonal examples of the types of fabric-arts available from India are shown below. Some of this material is indicated for sale but it is possible for us to purchase similar material to that which is not for sale. Contact us with your ideas.

Chikan: applique work from Lucknow

On synthetic fabric. 32 inches wide, 92 inches long.
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These Chikan table, place and tray cloths are embroided on very fine cotton. They are very delicate and beautifully worked. These are normally produced in three sizes. The standard size has 8 table napkins, the large 12 table napkins, and the extra large 24 table napkins. The table cloths can be made even larger and used as a beautiful bed cover as we illustrate below.

Shawls and Saris

Chikan fish design on synthetic fabric. 32 inches wide, 92 inches long.

Tie-dye cotton shawl from Andhra Pradesh. 96 inches by 40 inches.

Tie-dye cotton shawl from Andhra Pradesh. 96 inches by 40 inches.

Silk embroidery on cotton saris from Andhra Pradesh. Each sari a unique piece of art, 45 inches wide and 200 inches long.

Tie and dye silk scarfs from Gutaraj. 40 inches wide by 78 inches long.

Modern designer fiber-art

Fabulous chain stitch work from northern India

Curtaining fifty-four [54] inches wide. Sold in 45-55 meter bolts.

Wool on cotton

Chain stitched curtaining

Chain-stitched curtaining

Chain-stitched curtaining

Pillow cases

Tea cozy

All wool chain stitched carpet from Lucknow.


Ethnic tribal work

Each item is totally unique and an example of tribal fiber handicrafting

Frieze, Orissa

Hand crafted chain stitched with tribal designs. 18 feet 3 inches long.

Price: $450

Frieze, Orissa

Hand crafted embroidered chain stitched with tribal designs. 13 feet 7 inches long.

Price: $300

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