Materials for Hand Embroidery
The materials used for Hand Embroidery in India includes cotton, silk, tusser, wool etc.
Wool has been traditionally used as hand embroidering material both for garments and rugs and carpets. Such work was done in Kashmir where craftsmen covered the whole surface of the material with embroidery stitches to produce article of beauty. The pastel coloured chain-stitches rugs and the more sturdy gabbas and namdas have enjoyed world popularity and add a touch of glamour to any decor.
Although woolen garments have been used in India quilted ones have been more popular, perhaps, because of being comparatively inexpensive. Quilting is done in many parts of India either to hold together cotton wool between two layers of material or to bind various layers of cotton cloth together. It is used for various garments such as full, half sleeved or sleeveless vests, coats and even pyjamas. Quilting has also been used among others, for quilts, curtains, book covers, small rectangular pieces for holding babies. Quilting is done with small running stitches in thread of the same colour as the material, the design being achieved by varying lines of stitching to produce geometrical or floral designs or by using coloured threads and embroidering the surface that will show when the article is in use.
Cotton and woolen threads have to be spun while for silk spinning is unnecessary. Gold and silver threads are made by wrapping an extremely fine strip of gold or silver spirally around a silk thread. The threads achieved in this way were laid on the material for hand embroidery and stitched on with very fine stitches. For other work the fine metal strips were threaded into the needle and used to pierce the material like ordinary thread. Tiny metal spangles with a hole through the centre are used to embellish the design. In very expensive hand embroidery material the gold used was genuine while in less expensive ones silver-gilt was used. As in other countries, so in India pearls, coloured beads, semi-precious stones, pieces of mica and mirror, spangles of various shapes and sizes have all been traditionally used to aid the embroiderer to achieve the desired result.
A great many of the embroidered pieces that exist are severely damaged because of the exigencies of the climate, ravages of white ants and other insects, the natural wearing out of the material and just plain neglect. As in the case of gold and silver jewellery, which was melted down in times of financial stress or just to procure metal to be fashioned in new ways, the precious metal was extracted from embroidery and melted down. Thus there are very few families where the sumptuously decorated garments and articles of daily use that formed part of practically every well-to-do girl’s trousseau have existed for even two generations.