On my Indian trip in February, we visited a village near Jodhpur where all the women in one extended family were producing very fine hand-embroidered fabrics. The pieces made were mostly large and very intricate, many taking weeks to complete. Learning a little about how these women produced such neat and painstaking work was very interesting.
Most embroidery was done on cotton cloth, ranging from moderately heavyweight fabric to the finest semi-transparent muslins. Silk is also used to a lesser extent. Stitching was mainly done using gold, silver and white threads. Most of the fabric used was white in colour but some work is also done on bright materials. On many pieces they also stitched sequins into the design, while some other work featured intricate beadwork. Most of the embroidered fabrics are sold for use as bedcovers, though some tourists want them as curtains or wall hangings.
The big secret to their process was that the fabric is first printed with very faint guidelines which the women then embroider over. The printing is done from woodblocks made by one of the men from the same family. The women did a lot of the work with the cloth stretched between two bars on a horizontal frame and worked on one small section at a time. They gradually rolled the cloth from one bar to the other so that they could reach all parts of it.
Another product the women were making was hand-embroidered uppers for traditional Indian slippers. Slippers of this type are widely seen but the embroidery work produced by these very talented ladies was particularly fine.
Below is a slipper of the type being embroidered (this one was embroidered by someone else.)
Related posts (Crafts of India): Rug Weaving; Block Printing; Fabric Dyeing; Papermaking.