Indian subcontinent

Indian subcontinent

The Rabari (Rebari) are a nomadic group living mainly in the semi-desert Kutch parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan, Northwest India. Traditionally, the men followed their cattle, camels and sheep, while the Rabari women lived in permanent villages. Rabari women are famous for their embroidery skills, which are passed from mother to daughter, with the latter often spending several years embroidering clothes for their dowry.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London houses a boy’s jacket that has a densely embroidered bodice and sleeves. The lower white, frilled skirt is decorated with a red band along the lower edge. The jacket is of the type worn by Rabari boys in Kutch, in the state of Gujarat in western India (see Rabari embroidery). The garment is 46 cm long, and has a width (including outstretched sleeves) of 117 cm. It is made from white cotton.

A ralli is an appliqué quilt traditionally made in southern Pakistan and beyond. They were originally made of pieces of material cut to the size and pieced and sewn together by hand. The resulting cloth is decorated with dense stitching, appliqué and cotton tufts. The word is derive dfrom the local ralanna, which means 'to mix' or 'to connect'.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York houses a chamba rumal (Hindi for handkerchief or covering; Chamba is the historical name for part of the province of Himachal Pradesh) in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. It is made of cotton with silk, tinsel and metal thread embroidery. It measures 66 x 63.5 cm and has been dated to the eighteenth century.

The Raven Crown is the name of the royal crown worn by the King of Bhutan. The design of the crown dates to the late nineteenth century and was developed for the father of the first king of the Wangchuck dynasty of Bhutan (Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, 1862–1926), who came to power in 1907.

A sari is a woman’s garment made out of a long length of cloth. It is particularly associated with Hindu women living in the Indian subcontinent and among the Indian diaspora. A sari can vary in length from 4 – 9 metres and may be between 60-120 cm wide. This variation is due to regional differences in form, as well as differing methods in how it is worn (depending on the social group of the wearer, daily or ceremonial occasions, dance, etc).

The Textile Research Centre in Leiden, The Netherlands, houses a remarkable set of a printing block and two embroidery samples. The printing block and the two samples, including the sari band, illustrated here, originate from India and they date to the early 21st century. The other sample, or test piece, was worked with the help of the printing block.

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.

The Swat Valley Guild is an organisation working in the Swat Valley north of Peshawar, in northern Pakistan. It supports artisans to retain their craft and help develop their access to the global market.

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