Embroidery, without doubt, is one of the oldest methods to decorate cloth. Dating back to the 3rd century BC in China, the art of embroidery is believed to have emerged from sewing. The oldest surviving varieties are the chain stitch, buttonhole or blanket stitch, running stitch, satin stitch and the cross-stitch. These are still the basis of today’s machine embroidery techniques.

Until the industrial revolution, embroidery was largely considered a handicraft. Machine embroidery emerged in the initial days of the revolution, to successfully mimic traditional hand embroidery techniques – especially in the case of the chain stitch. Thread and yarn are the fundamental materials used; beads, metal strips, pearls and sequins are also used extensively. The most striking characteristic of this decorative art is that the materials and techniques have not undergone any drastic change in centuries!

Related : Top 20 Embroidery Designs to liven up your Salwar Kameez & Sarees

Elaborately embellished clothing has been believed to be a mark of wealth and status in many cultures like China, India, Persia, and Baroque Europe etc. In India, embroidery as an art flourished under the Mughal rule. Zardozi, Gota, Ari, Chikan etc became household terms in the country. Agra, Fatehpur, Lahore, Ahmedabad etc have been centers of excellence in embroidery craftsmanship, since the Mughal period.

Let’s take a look at some popular embroidery designs techniques :

Cutwork: Also called Venetian or Roman embroidery. Small shapes are cut out of the cloth and the edges are embroidered. Used extensively on a variety of clothing and accessories including home furnishing like table linen, curtains etc.

Zardozi: The most ornate and tedious type of Indian embroidery uses metallic threads instead of the usual silk or rayon. The fabrics used are also rich –like velvet or silk. Stones and beads are used to complete the embellishment.

Related : Embroidery Designs & Borders to Brighten up Your Life

Applique work – This kind of work is tailor-made for kid’s clothes and quilts or bed linen. Applique work is a technique where a design is formed by attaching smaller pieces of cloth to a large, contrasting fabric of a different shade or pattern.

Ari: Looks like Zardozi embroidery, the difference being here the fabric is stretched out on a frame and intricate designs are embroidered with a long needle. Beads, stones and other embellishments are used too.

Zardozi embroidery, cushion

Kashida: Kashmiri embroidery is inspired from nature and uses more than one type of  stitch. Primarily done on canvas with crystal threads – but also uses Pashmina and leather threads. Mostly used on bedspreads, cousin and pillow covers.

Phulkari: The Phulkari work from Punjab literally means ‘flower craft’. It is popularly found on shawls and headscarves. Geometric patterns and motifs from everyday life like wheat stalks are used, esspecially since Punjab is a predominantly agrarian state.

phulkari-Embroidery Designs & Embroidery Patterns
Manish-Malhotra Dresses
phulkari-Embroidery Designs & Embroidery Patterns

Chikan: Traditional embroidery from Lucknow, believed to have been introduced by NurJahan – Mughal emperor Jahangir’s wife. Chikankari is traditionally done with white threads on light pastel shaded fabric like muslin, chiffon, silk etc. Today, coloured and silk threads are also being used.


Mirror embroidery: A Gujrati speciality, which is believed to have originated in Persia. It is always done in combination with other embroidery types. Embroidery originating in Kutch is especially popular.

Embroidery Borders
Embroidery Borders

Embroidery Borders: Pre-stitched, ready embroidery borders are available to decorate your clothing and accessories. These can be used on Sarees, bedspreads, dupattas, handkerchiefs etc. These pre-stitched embellishments can help you spend your free time constructively. Just stitch them on.

This pattern can turn an otherwise plain dupatta into a statement piece. Stitch it on to your saree border and you won’t have to spend time thinking about jewellery.

This simple embroidery design can add colour to your white bedspreads or pillow covers. These can also be used on curtains and cushion covers.

This delicate yellow and brown pattern would be perfect for a saree.

If you do not want to cover the whole border with rich embroidery, but just want to add a few detailing elements on the body – try these colourful butti’s. These can be stitched easily on to any kind of fabric.

This delicate floral design can be used on bedspread corners, table linens or even on a handkerchief.

Use this multi-coloured butti on a white salwar suit or saree. You can stitch it on to bedspreads too.

This intricate Indian design will look stunning on a pastel shaded salwar suit or dupatta.

Try this multi-coloured butti on a pastel-hued saree or kurti.

This floral embroidery pattern can incorporated on pillow covers, kurtis and salwar suits.

Nowadays, embroidery designs and patterns are not restricted to clothing and accessories. You will find hand-embroidered bags, hats and even shoes. Embroidery designs have also made it to stationary like book covers. Leather belts and bags can also be found with embroidery patterns. There are no limits to the adaptability of embroidery. Conventional and innovative application goes hand in hand when it comes to embroidery designs.

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