I was fortunate to be able to visit a modern workshop in Noida, about an hour from Delhi, that embroiders for large international clothing chains. I wasn't quite sure what type of place I was going to before my visit, but it was fascinating to see all these old techniques still being used in service of brands we'd wear today. Samples are produced in the workshop from designs provided by the fashion houses. It's then a matter of getting a similar outcome in the most cost-effective way. Once the fashion house signs off on the sample, the work goes to a production house further out of Delhi in the countryside.
On my last day in Delhi I went to the National Museum to see their small collection of textiles. The pieces are all behind glass, so my photography isn't great, but at least photos were allowed here, unlike the National Crafts Museum. The collection at the craft museum is simply mind-blowing. They have a huge range of textiles from all over the country. I couldn't help myself and went back for a second visit. It's a shame however, that the textile gallery has almost no lighting – I'm sure it's to protect the pieces and they don't have the money to do it any other way – and very little in the way of labelling to describe what you're looking at. Despite this, if you can find a guide who knows what they're talking about and can take you there, it's so worth seeing. Actually even if you don't have a guide it's still worth seeing!
Anyway, let's get on to what I can show you. The first, is an example of phulkari embroidery. It's from the Punjab region, and literally means 'flower work'. Most of the examples I saw were in orange and hot pink, sometimes with white included. I've added other pictures of all the types of work I'm showing you to my 'Textile Travels – India' Pinterest page if you want to check out more examples.
While the kani are usually the more highly prized shawls, it's the embroidery, rather than the weaving, that I really love.
Such a tiny taste of Indian embroidery… I think all it's done is made me want to do another trip so I can learn more!
So many textile traditions, so little time.