Jun 25

EST. Reading time : 4 minutes

Embroidery is a widely practiced art form that represents textile, leather, or fabric embellished with stitches and decorated with unique designs with the help of a sewing needle and thread. This ancient art form has a history that dates back to 30,000 B.C. In addition to that, other ancient embroidery work has been predominantly found in India and China, consisting of chain stitches on Silk.

People who do this art are called embroiders and they have full freedom to create either flowing pictorial compositions or linear patterns, the thread and needle are not bounded by a geometric foundation like many other art forms. The embroidery designs are done based on the texture of the fabric and stitch. The fundamental stiches of this craft are running stich, chain stich, cross stich and satin stich. From ancient times embroidery wasn’t just limited to clothing rather it was also used as a medium to immortalize history, an example is the oldest embroidered tapestry the “Bayeux Tapestry” which is 70 meters long embroidered representation of the battle of Hastings. In those times the embroidery work was also a symbol of class and these patterns were incredibly valuable. The rich and powerful people used to wear embroidered clothes to show off their social status.

Travelling from ancient history to the modern world we can find embroidery in almost every culture in different parts of the world. Pakistan also has great potential in this art form and their embroideries are one of the richest and finest in South Asia. The embroideries of Pakistan encompass many traditions which represent the diversity of Pakistan’s population. It is also said that Pakistani embroidery patterns are a mixture of embroidery techniques from four countries; Afghanistan, Iran, China, and India. The embroidery work done in Pakistan is a tool for the women of a particular culture to represent their thought processes and ideas with their skill. They portray everything on a piece of fabric with colourful attractive motives which varies from floral depictions to geometrical patterns.

In Pakistan, many types of embroidery techniques are used to create beautiful art pieces which are not only famous in Pakistan but are appreciated and loved internationally. The elegant embroidery work in Pakistan has been used in different forms, for example; wedding dresses, lady’s handbags, bed sheets, and pillow covers, table runners, tea coasters, and many more. The embroidery style in Pakistan varies from region to region and the people produce unique and distinctive artwork pieces based on their region’s culture.

Chitral valley lies in the northern part of Pakistan and it has its own beautiful and unique culture which they represent through different art forms. The Chitrali handicraft also includes embroidery and it is deeply rooted in the local culture. The traditional embroidery in Chitral is done using silk thread and needle, it is believed that silk was first introduced in Chitral by the Chinese. This art form is carried out by the skilled craftswomen and the items which they make include; wedding gifts, dowries, and many other decorative household items. There are many types of stitches done by the Chitrali artisans but the most common ones are cross-stitch and satin stitch. The designs used in the embroidery work portray the narratives from the everyday lives of these craftswomen. This art form is a medium of storytelling by the artisans of Chitral which are based on their family, the environment of their area, folktales, or even depiction of their dreams and aspirations.

With time this art form was going to fade away because the new generation was not interested in learning this skill set rather they used to consider it a skill for the people who are not educated. But over time, this art form got more attention when it had a touch of innovation from the artisans. People started making items that were used in daily life; like the designs for female shirts, handbags, wallets, waistcoats, and many more. This attracted many people towards embroidery and people started learning this skill and also made it a medium to be economically independent. A market was created for the traditional Chitrali embroidery work and people started earning through this skill. It got attention on international platforms and even there was a fashion show in Milan Italy which showcased the Chitrali embroidery designs on their dresses. Now the female population of Chitral who are skilled with the traditional embroidery art is using it to be independent and empowered in their society.