CHAPTER I . EMBROIDERY
The identity of every Kutchi community and person is woven in the stitches of these colourful embroideries.
FROM MOTHER TO DAUGHTER
In the Gujarat state of India, the Kutch region is renowned for its fine folk, colourful and mirrored embroideries. Traditionally stitched by village women, for themselves and their families, to create festivity, honor deities, or generate wealth, this craft has passed on for generations from mother to daughter.
While embroideries contributed to the substantial economic exchange required for marriage and fulfilled other social obligations (which required gifts - unlike most crafts) they were never commercial products.
ONE COMMUNITY, ONE STYLE
Each community in Kutch, due to historical, socio-economic and cultural factors, has a distinct tradition, its own and unique style of embroidery, different motifs, combination of stitches, patterns and colours that give them a visual identity. Even a person’s social status can be identified through the embroidery he or she wears.
The identity of every Kutchi person is woven in the stitches of these embroideries. Things seen in daily lives: flowers and bushes, peacocks and camels, women doing household chores and men tending to cattle, all these are inspirations for these beautiful designs.
Trying to respond to the current trends, the traditional styles have evolved over time though.
Some communities have lived in Kutch for centuries, others have migrated to the region bringing distinct embroidery skills, from regions beyond the Northwest frontier with Pakistan.
Today, in Kutch there are more than 17 distinct types of embroideries, being the most recognized ones the Sindh-Kutch regional styles of Suf, Khaarek and Paako; and the ethnic styles of Rabari, Jat and Mutwa :
Suf is a painstaking embroidery based on the triangle, called a "Suf ."
Suf is counted on the warp and weft of the cloth in a surface satin stitch worked from the back.
Motifs are never drawn: each artisan imagines her design and then counts it out in reverse!
Skilled work thus requires an understanding of geometry and keen eyesight. A Suf artisan displays virtuosity in detailing, filling symmetrical patterns with tiny triangles, and accent stitches.
Khaarek is a geometric style also counted and precise. In this style, the artisan works out the structure of geometric patterns with an outline of black squares, then fills in the spaces with bands of satin stitching that are worked along warp and weft from the front.
Khaarek embroidery fills the entire fabric. In older Khaarek work, cross stitching was also used.
Paako, literally meaning "solid", is a tight square chain and double buttonhole stitch embroidery, often with black slanted satin stitch outlining.
The motifs of Paako, sketched in mud with needles, are primarily floral and generally arranged in symmetrical patterns.
Rabari embroidery is unique to the nomadic Rabaris. Essential to Rabari embroidery is the use of mirrors in a variety of shapes.
Rabaris outline patterns in chain stitch and then decorate them with a regular sequence of mirrors and accent stitches, in a regular sequence of colors. Rabaris also use decorative back stitching, called bakhiya, to decorate the seams of women's blouses and men's kediya (jackets).
The style, like the Rabaris, is ever evolving, and in abstract motifs Rabari women depict their changing world.
Garasia Jat work "belongs" specifically to the Garasia Jats, Islamic pastoralists who came from outside of Kutch region.
Garasia women stitch an array of geometric patterns in counted work based on cross stitch studded with minute mirrors to completely fill the yokes of their churi, a long gown.
This style, displaying comprehension of the structure of fabric, is unique in Kutch and Sindh.
The Mutwas are a small culturally unique group of Muslim herders who inhabit Banni, the desert grassland of northern Kutch.
The exclusive Mutwa style comprises minute renditions of local styles: Paako, Khaarek, Haramji and Jat work, though these are known by different names.
Though technique varies, Mutwa style is uniformly fine and geometric.