Start a Chikan Garment Business


(308). Start a Chikan Garment Business
Chikan Embroidery is a form of hand embroidery with patterns of different designs stitched using untwisted white cotton or silk (or rayon) threads on the surface of the fabric. In Chikan work, there is a fixed repertoire of stitches and it is usual for several types of stitched to appear on the same piece of embroidery (thereby enhancing it's intricacy and beauty). The different types of Chikan work done today are Taipchi, Bakhia, Phunda, Murri, Jaali, Hathkati, Pechni, Ghas Patti, Chaana Patti etc. Chikan  is a traditional embroidery style from Lucknow, India. Literally translated, the word means embroidery. Lucknow in India grew into a international market for its renowned Chikankari work. The name Chikan has been derived from the Persian word Chakin or Chikeen meaning a cloth wrought with needlework.



Creation of a chikan work  piece begins with the use of one or more pattern blocks that are used to block-print a pattern on the ground fabric. The embroiderer then stitches the pattern, and the finished piece is carefully washed to remove all traces of the printed pattern.
The patterns and effects created depend on the types of stitches and the thicknesses of the threads used in the embroidery. Some of the varieties of stitches used include backstitch, chain stitch and hemstitch. The result is an open work pattern, jali (lace) or shadow-work. Often the embroiderer creates mesh-like sections in the design by using a needle to separate threads in the ground fabric, and then working around the spaces. It consists of 36 different Stitches in which the major stitches are called in Lucknowi language as "Bakhiya" "Fanda" "Murri" "Bijli" "Pechni" "Ghans patti" "Ulti Jali


The chikan industry has five main processes namely cutting, stitching, printing, embroidery, washing, and finishing. Cutting is carried out in the lots of 20-50 garments. The layouts are done to minimize wastage of materials. Then comes stitching. Stitching may be ‘civil’, done exclusively for higher priced export orders or ‘commercial’, which is done for cheaper goods.
Printing is carried out by the use of wooden blocks dipped in dyes like neel and safeda (which are washed out after the embroidery has been done).
The last process, which is washing and finishing, includes bleaching, acid treatment, stiffening, and ironing.

The main flat stitches with their traditional names are:
Taipchi: Running stitch worked on the right side of the fabric. It is occasionally done within parallel rows to fill petals and leaves in a motif, called ghaspatti. Sometimes taipchi is used to make the bel buti all over the fabric. This is the simplest chikan stitch and often serves as a basis for further embellishment. It resembles jamdani and is considered the cheapest and the quickest stitch.
Pechni: Taipchi is sometime used as a base for working other variations and pechni is one of them. Here the taipchi is covered by entwining the thread over it in a regular manner to provide the effect of something like a lever spring and is always done on the right side on the cloth.
Pashni: Taipchi is worked to outline a motif and then covered with minute vertical satin stitches over about two threads and is used for fine finish on the inside of badla.
Bakhia: It is the most common stitch and is often referred to as shadow work. It is of two types:
(a) Ulta Bakhia: The floats lie on the reverse of the fabric underneath the motif. The transparent muslin becomes opaque and provides a beautiful effect of light and shade.
(b) Sidhi Bakhia: Satin stitch with criss-crossing of individual threads. The floats of thread lie on the surface of the fabric. This is used to fill the forms and there is no light or shade effect.
Khatao, khatava or katava is cutwork or appliqu? - more a technique than a stitch.
Gitti: A combination of buttonhole and long satin stitch, usually used to make a wheel-like motif .
Jangira: Chain stitch usually used as outlines in combination with a line of pechni or thick taipchi.
The bolder or knottier stitches include the following:
Murri: A very minute satin stitch in which a knot is formed over already outlined taipchi stitches.
Phanda: It is a smaller shortened form of murri. The knots are spherical and very small, not pear shaped as in murri. This is a difficult stitch and requires very good craftsmanship.
Jaalis: The jaalis or trellises that are created in chikankari are a unique speciality of this craft. The holes are made by manipulation of the needle without cutting or drawing of thread. The threads of the fabric are teased apart to make neat regular holes or jaalis. In other centres where jaalis are done, the threads have to be drawn out. In chikankari, this is not the case. Names of jaali techniques suggest the place where they originated from --- Madrasi jaali or Bengali jaali ---- or possibly the place of demand for that particular jaali. The basic manner in which jaalis are created is by pushing aside wrap and weft threads in a fashion that minute openings are made in the cloth. Shape of openings and the stitches used distinguish one jaali from another.

The production process of a chikan garment, assuming it is a kurta, goes through several processes. In each process a different person is involved. The final responsibility is, however, that of the person ordering the manufacture, who is also usually the seller. Chikan work involves several stages. The fabric is cut by the tailor into the required garment shape, after which the basic pre-embroidery stitching is done so that the correct shape is available to the block-printer to plan the placement of the design. The design is printed on the semi-stitched garment with fugitive colours, and the embroidery of the garment is then begun. After completion, the article is checked carefully since most defects can be detected at first glance. However, the finer flaws surface only after washing. The washing is done in a bhatti, after which the garment is then starched and ironed. The whole cycle can take from one to six months. Originally, chikan embroidery was done with white thread on soft, white cotton fabric like muslin or cambric. It was sometimes done on net to produce a kind of lace. Today chikan work is not only done with coloured threads but on all kinds of fabrics like silk, crepe, organdie chiffon, and tassar.

Chikankari is a delicate and artfully done hand embroidery on a variety of textile fabric like muslin, silk, chiffon, organza, net etc. Though it originated as a court craft, today it is a practiced tradition and an important commercial activity. White thread is embroidered on cool, pastel shades of light muslin and cotton garments. Lucknow is the heart of the Chikankari industry today (Lucknawi chikan).
The design is decided upon on the chosen fabric. The stitches are decided according to the design to be used in the embroidery.
The pattern is then engraved on a wooden block or at times sketching it manually.

Block Printing
Once the block is ready then the printing is done on the fabric. Printing is carried out by the use of wooden blocks dipped in dyes like neel and safeda to make a pattern.
The printed fabric then reaches the craftsmen who get to work with the cloth stretched by a wooden frame or Karchop. They do the enriching embroidery using a variety of stitches.
Washing & finishing
After the embroidery, the fabric reaches the laundry and is thoroughly washed and given the finishing touches. This includes bleaching, acid treatment, stiffening or starching and ironing.

The art of chikankari, today is flourishing and enriches both the domestic and export market.

Today, there a handful of craftsmen and women who practice the true chikankari, but they are almost a vanishing breed. The central and state government is making valiant efforts to sustain their craft by opening workshops where chikankars are trained to produce quality work, if not exactly reproduce the earlier aesthetic glory of chikancraft.’ State government organizations like the U.P. Export Corporation and the U.P. Handicraft Board are trying to ensure fair wages to the chikan workers, and prevent the exploitation of the chikankar but their efforts do not cover the entire gamut of the chikan workforce.
After independence in 1947, the U.P. Government tried to revive Chikancraft by setting up government schemes and government centers where chikan is taught, free material made available, infrastructural facilities provided free of cost and finally the product marketed by the government agencies so that the chikan worker would benefit economically and chikan itself would improve qualitatively.
In the last twenty five years the central and state government has made a conscious effort to revive chikancraft. It has done tremendous work to organize the chikan work force, ensure good wages and encourage proper marketing and ultimately produce a good quality chikan. The history of the revival of chikankari would be incomplete without a reference to Ms.Sahni, who sought to change the lives of many chikan workers. There are other agencies, like SEWA, the Self Employed Women’s Association, who have played a major role in reorganizing chikan craft and giving it a new life force and direction.
Today, many top designers are involved in reviving chikankari. They have managed to give chikan global recognition and acceptance.
There are small units that are doing highly specialized work and have played a major role in giving the chikankar the dignity that is due to her. The mood is upbeat. Chikancraft has a global presence, albeit a very slender one. It requires a great deal of economic interest and thrust to metamorphose it from a small but significant cottage industry into a commercially viable international enterprise, wherein the beauty of the craft is not sacrified.
Today the Chikan workforce, made up largely of women, are adequately compensated for their efforts and for their aesthetic spirit of the beautiful whispering whites which they have restored to some semblance of their former glory.

Chikan Kurtis

Chikan work has carved a niche for itself in the saree and salwar world. In the recent past, the success story has passed on to kurtis as well. The simple thread work with elaborate designs has always been a timeless classic and a winning formula. Readymade kurtis have been enhanced by the application of pleasant pastel shades and Chikan kurtis have started to make their presence felt.

One important advantage of wearing a Chikan kurtis is its sober appearance. Readymade kurtis with chikan work are often in subtle shades that are pretty and yet are not distracting. A home maker feels comfortable with a chikan kurti because she could go around wearing it to do some shopping and other domestic chores and errands feeling confident and cheerful at the same time.
Chikan kurtis employ the traditional chikan work that never fades in its beauty. Simple white thread work into interesting traditional patterns is never ever boring and Readymade kurtis sporting chikan work are always fascinating. Chikan work has the rare virtue of being simple and yet converting any fabric into a classic piece of art. Designers are using more chikan work in tunics as the art form is getting more desirable globally. Readymade kurtis with chikan work are also being widely exported to other countries to NRIs as well as people of other ethnicities. Chikan kurtis have become attractive to small girls as well. These kurtis in their pastel shade spread an air of bliss around the woman wearing the fabric with the timeless classic thread form
Chikan Sarees & Suits

Fabric in Chikan Saree

  • Cotton
  • Chiffon
  • Georgette
  • Crepe
  • Silk
  • Rayon
Chikan Sari

Colours of Chikan Sarees

Generally, the sarees are light earth colours and pastel shades. Traditionally, the threads used are in the same colour as the fabric. The self color embroidery looks rich on every age group and color. Nowadays, you also have chikan sarees with contrast colours in the body and the embroidery.

Designs of Indian Chikan Sarees

Patterns and effects created depend on types of stitches used and the thickness of the threads used in embroidery. The variety of stitches used are back-stitch, chain stitch and hemstitch. The major type of Chikan work done today are Taipchi, Bakhia, Phanda, Murri, Jali, Hatkati, Pechni, Ghas Patti, Chaana Pati etc. The chikan embroidered sarees with their incredible embroidered patterns are collector's items.
A traditional art of embellishing the cloth, Chikan Work, has enthralled royal ladies, from the days of yore. Sarees and punjabi suits that ooze out sensual elegance, are perfect specimens of intricate chikan work. One can choose from the wide range, from bordor & pallu to all over embroidery in white or coloured thread on the coloured sarees. In suits, a similar pattern can be maintained with identical embroidery on front and back, replete with full dupatta with jaal work or work on dupatta margins with butis in between. The effulgent collection ranging from daily wear in Voil, kota, net to an exclusive range in Chiffon, georgette, Crepe, silk etc. brings to the fore, the artistic opulence of the dexterous craftsmen. A wide range of hand embroidered saree, Zari saree, Saree with beads and sequin work, Saree with mirror work, Suits in georgette, ladies suit in chiffon, Ladies hand embridered salwar suits 
Ladies Cotton kurtis, & Ladies Tops, Men's Chikan Kurta