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4.0 out of 5 stars Indian Embroidery Odyessy ... Complete with Chikankari, 9 Aug. 2014
This review is from: The Techniques of Indian Embroidery (Paperback)
Anne Morrell's scholarship and local knowledge combine to good effect in this very readable embroidery tour of India. The author describes the history and geography of the country with special reference to its embroidery and textile traditions and features many photographs of various beautiful embroidery techniques. Considering that this book was published prior to the digital photography age, both the B&W and colour images are exceptionally clear and of a high quality for readers interested in analysing the embroideries in close detail. Morrell focuses on eight different techniques; describing and illustrating these with the photographs and stitch diagrams. I particularly appreciated these clear diagrams and the stitch-sample photo sequences which demonstrate how to work many of the stitches found in the photographed embroideries.

I am primarily interested in regional whitework techniques, and the information presented in Chapter 4 is a very useful complement to the more comprehensive study of Chikankari by Sheila Paine. Unlike Paine, the author does not give the Indian names of the stitches, but her analysis of how they are formed is very helpful in understanding the correct working method. The stitched samples give a good indication which fabrics, thread weights and needles are suitable for the embroidery. Using clear photographs, she teaches nine different Chikan stitches including the formation of eyelets and one pulled thread filling. This filling stitch also appears as a diagram in the stitch glossary. The Phanda knot (which Morrell describes as buttonhole stitch) is shown as well, but this is less easy to follow. However, I was pleased to see a demonstration of the Chikan applique technique with photographs showing both the face and the reverse of the work.

The photographs of the Chikan embroidery samples featured here are excellent. I was delighted to find that two of these were greatly magnified details of embroideries also featured in Paine's work. These were especially helpful in seeing how some of the pulled thread stitches and applique are worked. Also included are some Chikan fabric samples from the John Forbes Watson collection. These look to me a little more like the Indo-European hybrids described by Paine, but they are nevertheless very interesting.

Naturally, this chapter is not an extensive study of Chikan embroidery, but it is a valuable guide to the stitch techniques. If you are interested in further information on Chikan embroidery, the stitches and traceable design motifs, then I can recommend `Chikan Embroidery: The Floral Whitework of India' by Sheila Paine and 'Traditional Chikankari Embroidery Patterns of India' by Pradumna & Rosalba Tana. If you can get hold of a copy, Issue 61 of the Australian magazine `Classic Inspirations' also features a Chikan project and some excellent stitch diagrams.

Incidentally, the John Forbes Watson fabric sample collection, which has been digitised by the Harris Museum & Art Gallery (Preston - UK), is available to view online with high quality, full colour images. The samples (which are well worth viewing in even closer detail than this book allows) can be found by navigating to the Costume & Textile page in their Collections and clicking on the link there.
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Location: Wales

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