Chain stitch is a rather new addition to the Kashmiri handicrafts. It is a type of embroidery where-in a continued stitch is done with a hooked awl-called aree locally, on hand woven cloth. Abdul Mohamim Bhat reports.
The products like wall hangings, floor coverings, embroidered rugs that look like paintings are some examples of chain stitch. “Chain stitch has its roots in wool fabric called tweed which was meant for local use,” says Haji Alakaband a yarn dealer.
The invention of chain stitch was not done in one day. It was a gradual process, which saw many transformations. The tweed was initially used as a blanket, then a pheran and with its cloth getting worn out it was changed into a rug. Calico prints (used for dying) transformed tweed into a gabba rugs.
Soon fine embroidery using aree and woolen yarn was experimented on tweed and this emerged as chainstitch work.
The base material was later changed to cotton from tweed. And embroidery yarn changed from wool to Pashmina, staple yarn and art silk.
Haji Gulzar Ahmad Teng, one of the exporters of chainstitch explains that the technique to use the aree on textiles is same in Gabba work, crewel, or any other cloth, but what makes the chain stitch unique is that whole of the base cloth is embroidered over with different patterns including both flora and fauna as well as geo metric designs covering it.
“It is difficult to see what material is underneath as the embroidery hides it all,” says Teng.
Made to order merchandise is supplied as per demand and the designs are also innovated using the latest computer technology.
Those who translate the work into reality are predominantly skilled woman who have achieved mastery over this handicraft. The sizes can start from small decorations rugs to very large sized ones.
Prayer rugs are also manufactured using this technique with most being exported to Middle East countries,
The base material that is mostly cotton or ‘doosoti’ is tailor made for chain stitch work hand woven by artisans on wooden looms here.
A chaap or rough layout is laid on the cloth which is the passed on to workers with instructions on use of different colour yarn for the designs after which proper washing and packing is carried.
The process involved in Crewel works is similar to that of chain stitch; the only difference is that the designs are spread over with extra bit of spacing in between, contrary to chain stitch where the whole piece is embroidered over.