With its ability to nurture deserts, rivers, and fertile farmlands, Sindh brews a rich concoction of culture and history within its borders. This diversity and abundance of land, cultures and communities have woven a colourful history of the region evident in its unique garments, fabrics and traditional embroidery. From the golden history of the Indus Valley Civilization to the conquests of Alexander the Great, Sindh has boasted its stories of resilience and sacrifice in its intricate embroideries, detailing the tales of communities, climate and vegetation that have sustained the region for over 7000 years.
In this episode of discovering land through its fabric, we delve into the different types of traditional Sindhi embroidery and patterns popular in different areas of the region and their significance within their communities.
Pakko Bharat is a style of embroidery popular in Kutch and Sindh, known primarily for its tightly packed chain and buttonhole stitches creating dense floral and geometric patterns on the fabric. ‘Pakko’ meaning permanent is the primary basis of all Sindhi needlework in which mirrors and ornamentations are embellished. The embroidery starts with a chalk drawing and is filled in with mostly red, green, yellow and gold embroidery while outlined with the signature black border. Patterns are densely packed to create birds, flowers and geometric Sindhi threadwork that indicate the region in which the embroidery work was done. Pakko Bharat has multiple subcategories popularised by individual communities like Neran; where the embroidery is focused around geometric patterns that start from the centre and Aari work, in which the fabric is stretched onto a frame and a fine chain stitch is woven from light to dark to achieve a painting effect.
Sindhi Mirror Work
One of the most popular elements in embroideries from Sindh is the heavy use of small circular or diamond-shaped mirrors in their clothes. Regions in Sindh such as Tharparkar and Kutch often incorporate small mirrors into their traditional handwork as they believe it wards off evil eyes and keeps them safe. Apart from this mirrors reflect sunlight keeping their clothes and body cool in the dry scorching desert. Not only mirrors but seashells, beads, coins and colourful pom poms are also seen accompanying mirrors as decorative elements in this type of handicraft. With Sindh’s increasing popularity in the fashion industry, mirror work is not only limited to clothing but has become popular in home textiles such as Cushion covers and Table runners.
Patchwork or Ralli
Patchwork design is another growing industry due to its approach towards sustainability and waste reduction. Though Sindh has been practicing Patchwork patterns and designs for over 1000 years. Sindhi Patchwork has gained a large following due to its colourful and innovative use of leftover fabrics to create new garments. Traditionally used in quilt making and home textiles, Patchwork designs use leftover scraps or smaller fabric pieces and stitch them together to create a new piece of cloth. Sindhi patchwork, popularly known as Ralli is similar in this use of leftover fabric but instead of stitching two pieces together, the cloth is layered onto each other and stitched to create interesting patterns. Historically the technique was used as a way to layer and thicken fabric to protect it from the dry winters of the desert but has now been used as a decorative and sustainable element to reduce fabric waste.
Sindhi Embroidery and textiles have firmly stitched themselves into the fabric of the region’s history and tradition as communities showcase their garments to show pride in their land and family. This rise in popularity and knowledge of craft has made Sindhi textiles and handicrafts extremely sought after in local and international markets. Due to this, the market is now flooded with mass-produced machine work, however, online platforms and cultural markets are still keeping the craft of handmade alive. Websites such as Tarz.ae have dedicated their business to sourcing exclusively handmade pieces from remote locations in Sindh to get customers access to rare and exclusive handmade work across the globe. Showcasing intricately designed patterns and motifs, these textiles weave stories of love, land and beauty, displaying the colourful and bountiful lives they live in the barren deserts and fertile agricultural lands of Sindh.
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