Indian subcontinent

Indian subcontinent

A gouache on mica painting now in the Victoria and Albert Museum shows a male embroiderer of scabbard cases, from Varanasi (Benares), in North India, around 1870. The painting is one of forty paintings of contemporary life in the Indian subcontinent. It measures 18 x 13 cm.

The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is a trade union in India of approximately 1.2 million members. SEWA is working with the United Nations Women’s Department to organize home-based women workers throughout South Asia.

The SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre (SEWATFC) is a non-profit company in India that was founded in 2003. It is the commercial arm of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). The women are the company shareholders and suppliers. SEWATFC helps women to develop and market products throughout India and internationally from two centres, in Ahmadabad and New Delhi (India).

A drawing now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, shows a group of embroiderers and piecers, around 1870, working on the production of Kashmir shawls. The drawing was made in Amritsar by John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911), father of the novelist Rudyard Kipling.

Shisha work is a type of applied decorative needlework that is characterised by small pieces of reflective material that are sewn onto a cloth ground material. This technique is also known as mirror embroidery. It is popular in many parts of Asia. The term derives from (Persian) shisheh for 'glass'. In parts of India this type of work is also known as Abhala Bharat (Hindi).

Shrujan is a non-profit organization (NGO) founded in 1969 by Ms. Chandaben Shroff. Shroff had just visited the Kutch area in Gujarat, India, in order to help with famine relief after a severe drought. Realizing that many of local women were excellent embroiderers, she began an income-generating project with women producing up-market embroidered saris. This decision resulted in Shrujan.

The Siddis of western India and southern Pakistan are descendants of early African immigrants and of enslaved Africans brought to western India by the Portuguese and other groups from the sixteenth century onwards.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London houses a woman's skirt and top designed by the Indian designer, Manish Arora. The garments date to 2014-2015. They are heavily decorated with appliqué, embroidery, and crystal beads and sequins.

The Clive Museum at Powis, Powys, Wales, houses an important collection of objects from India collected from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries by the Clive family, including Robert Clive and his son, Edward Clive.

Sozni (or suzani) embroidery is a style of embroidery from the Jammu and Kashmir region in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. The motifs are created in satin stitch and are worked identically on both sides of the cloth, but sometimes in different colours (for example, the dominant colour may be red on one side and blue on the other). This type of work/stitch is sometimes called Dorukha.

Suf embroidery is a form of counted thread embroidery practiced nowadays in the Kutch region of Gujarat, western India, and beyond. It is characterized by a type of economy stitch worked from the back. The patterns are generally based on a triangle or ‘suf’, and are geometric, symmetrical and very detailed.

Surayia Rahman (1932-2018) was an artist, designer and kantha-maker from Bangladesh who initially painted pictures and designed dolls, but later promoted the development of kanthas, traditionally made for private use, into an art form for public display. A documentary film about her life and work is entitled Threads: The Art and Life of Surayia Rahman, directed by Cathy Stevulak (first shown in 2016).

A temple banner from Nepal. dated to the fifteenth century, is housed in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The banner measures 40,5 x 32 cm. The cotton banner is embroidered with silk thread and shows Vishnu and his consort, Lakhshmi, positioned on the eagle, Garuda.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London houses a cotton temple panel from Nepal, dated to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, embroidered with silk, using brick, satin and chain stitch. The embroidery illustrates a mythological scene.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York houses a quilted fragment of tent lining from eighteenth century India. It has a cotton back material and silk thread embroidery. It measures 170 x 142 cm. The embroidery shows the characteristic Mughal motif of a flowering plant in an arched niche.

The British Library houses a photograph of three embroiderers from Jammu and Kashmir in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. The photograph was taken in the 1890's. The craftsmen are embroidering tablecloths, bed-spreads or other types of coverings, using a needle, rather than an ari hook. The designs include fruit, flowers, or other forms, including geometric patterns.

A drawing (35.6 x 25.7 cm) now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, shows three men working at an embroidery frame. The drawing was made in Delhi in November 1870 by John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911), father of the novelist Rudyard Kipling. They are working a gold thread embroidery, using scissors, spoon, needle and thread. 

A turban band was a highly decorative cloth and/or metal band that went around a Mughal-period turban in India. It was designed to embellish the turban rather than having a purely practical function. Such a band was often worn with other items of jewellery, such as a feathered aigrette and/or a turban brooch.

Photograph of two embroidery salesmen (?) in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The photograph was made in 1891. The text on the photograph says "embroiderers", but this may be wrong.

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