Sindhi Hand Embroidery

The Sindhi hand embroidery work shows a delicacy and refinement that can only be the result of court patronage.

Even though Sind is no longer a part of India, no work on Indian embroidery can be complete without mention of the hand works done in Sind. Sindhhas absorbed many influences which are naturally reflected in embroidery. It was conquered by the Arabs and has geographical proximity to Baluchistan, Punjab and Kutch. The interlacing stitch worked over a laid foundation of threads is widely used in Sind. This stitch appeared very early in Germany and the Middle East from where it was probably brought to Sind by the Arabs who were great dis-seminators of culture. The influence of Baluchistan is also easily discernible in the juxtaposition of colors and the use of stitchery to produce abstract pattern often outlined in black and white. The Baluchi work is finer but the Sindhi embroiderer shows great vigor and creates fantastic effects by working on a background made up of a variety of patterned cotton fabrics joined together. The Sindhi hand embroidery is sometimes done on printed material or tie-dyed cloth. In such cases the background and Sindhi embroidery complement each other being used in different proportions to produce the desired effect. In other cases, however, the ground material is almost completely covered by the hand embroidery. In some pieces the stitches are pulled so tightly that the surface becomes firm and hard almost as if backed by stiffened material. The overall effect is heightened by the use of tiny mirrors, cowrie shells, silk tassels, glass beads, and silver spangles.

The Sindhi hand embroidery work  is done in silk and cotton thread on cotton or silk. The colors used are of various shades of red, orange, yellow, violet, green, black, white, indigo, brown, pink, turquoise, and blue. The stitches used are satin, straight, back, chain, open chain, buttonhole, interlacing, couched straight, laid threads, couched, crossed herringbone, oversewing (for edges), stem, fly and darning. The interlaced stitch is used around a central loop for affixing mirror discs. Chain stitch is often decorated with cross stitch to imitate couching. The darning stitch is some-times as much as an inch in length. Leaves and flowers are brought into sharp relief by the use of a tight buttonhole stitch.

The Sindhis who settled in India after the partition of the country brought their embroidery tradition with them and it is now as much a part of Indian embroidery tradition as any other.

Sindhi Hand Embroidery work upon silk probably evolved from the leather embroidery produced by the mochis (cobblers) of Sind. What is interesting is that these same artisans, using a refined version of the same tool (an) switched over to embroidering garments and other silk articles thus relinquishing their age old profession of producing leather goods. Others who took up the work were Kunbis and Ahirs, cultivators and cowherds, who also turned away from their caste occupation to adopt an entirely different trade.

The Sindhi hand embroidery designs are large and flat done in one or two basic colors to which are added lines of other colors to provide details, such as the veins of leaves, the pistil of flowers and the varied hues of the peacock.

The basic work is done in chain stitch, although borders can be finished with rows or couching or herringbone stitch with chain stitch motifs between the lines. Occasionally, pieces of mirror or mica are introduced to give a touch of glitter to the work.

The Sindhi embroidery motifs are employed are peacock, elephants, fans, parrots, canopies, arches, flowering shrubs, flowers, leaves, human figures, and butis (polka dots). Large sized polka dots are known as Nadir Shahi butis.