Kashmiri Embroidery in Pakistan


*This post was edited on December 28th, 2018. Please respect the tragic past of Kashmir as it has been part of a 30+ years fight with Hindustan aka India’s perspectives on what established or disputed borders should be. This 5th province of Pakistan has been threatened & part of forest fires lit by Hindu arsons and Indian army (?). California can attest to how devastating this is for a state/country’s resources & pride. 

Hi Guys and a happy Monday to you again! I hope you all enjoyed my first blog post of the day even though it wasn’t planned. This one is the “planned” post in my Sub-Continent Embroidery Week so I am very excited to share it with you and hope you learn something. Today, I am focusing on Kashmiri embroidery.

Kashmir is a province bordering Northeast Pakistan. Even though it is considered a disputed land because of Google (haha), all Kashmiris feel proud to call this region their home and country. I thought to highlight Kashmiri embroidery aka Kashida work today because it is quite popular on garments such as shawls and pashminas in Pakistan during the winter season.


When I was little, I knew Kashmir is known for its colorful embroidery work on all kinds of apparel and fabrics – shawls, jackets, sarees, shalwar kameez suits, etc. It still holds true today. While Pakistan embroidery focuses on embellishments such as metal wires, muted threads, sequins, and stones to embellish their clothes, Kashmiri embroidery is popular because of its silk or other types of thread-work. Kashmiri embroidery is especially known for the skilled execution of a single stitch, which is often called the Kashmiri stitch and comprises of the chain stitch, the satin stitch, the slanted darn stitch, the stem stitch, and the herringbone stitch.

The stylized motifs draw inspiration from nature. Birds, blossoms and flowers, leaves, mangoes, lotus, and trees are the most common themes. The entire pattern is made with one or two types of embroidery stitches and mainly chain stitch on a base of silk, wool, and cotton fabric. The color is usually white, off-white, cream or black, but nowadays one can find stoles and salwar kameez suits in many other colors such as brown, deep blue, sky blue, maroon and tea pink. Apart from clothes, Kashmiri embroidery is found on home furnishings like bedspreads, sofa and floor cushions, and pillow covers.

Types of Kashmiri Embroidery:

1. Crewel embroidery: This is done using pointed crochet (locally called “Aari”) and is worked on cotton, wool, silk, and other fabrics. Crewel embroidery uses woolen or art-silk threads on cotton, organza, velvet, linen and jute ground fabrics suitable for making drapes and upholsteries. This work also finds use in making pillows, throws, and bedding. I have even seen it personally on winter shawls in Islamabad and Lahore.


2. Needlework embroidery (locally called “Sozni”): Done using a needle, “sozni” is worked on pashmina shawls, woolen shawls, jackets, salwar kameez, and sarees. Work done on pashminas is much finer than the crewel embroidery.


3. Silver and gold embroidery: Locally called “tilla”, this type of embroidery work is found on ladies cloaks, shawls and salwar kameez. It is done using imitation gold and silver thread. This is the Kashmiri sister to Mughal’s zari/zardozi and kamdani/mukaish embroidery.


How To Style It

People in Pakistan love to buy Kashmiri work for their homes. You can find tapestries, pillowcases and even table covers and placemats with Kashmiri embroidery on it. However, in all my trips to Karachi, I haven’t found many bazaars or designers dealing with this work for garments. It’s not impossible, but certainly rare. I think your best bet would be to go to Northern cities like Muree, Islamabad, and maybe Lahore to get your hands on these delicate, yet warm garments at affordable prices.

Honestly, you can try to modernize Kashmiri embroidery with designer accessories. I think you can totally pair an embroidered shawl or pashmina with an Agha Noor Kurta. Elan came out with their newest collection, which stands apart from the colorful and vibrantly busy staples in a Pakistani woman’s wardrobe. How about keeping warm in their designer suits with a crewel shawl or even make it more party-appropriate with some resham tilla-worked shawl? I can only imagine how expensive an entire Kashmiri-embroidered outfit would be. Get a shawl stitched in a straight kurta silhouette and trousers and with some close-toed pumps, you are ready for a winter affair.

Well ladies, I hope I have inspired you all to look into this embroidery further and I don’t know maybe I will spot one or two of you sporting these at a wedding, party, brunch soon.

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