The Art of Kutch Embroidery

Kutch embroidery is a vibrant, elaborate art form tracing back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Named after the Kutch District in Gujarat, India, Kutch embroidery draws inspiration from multiple sources such as architecture and animals, and it often includes human and romantic motifs. This centuries-old tradition—which boasts many distinct styles featuring intricate mirror work, beads, and vivid colors—is traditionally worked in silk or woolen thread on cotton or silk fabric.

Knitwear designer Uma Padu learned to embroider as a young girl and seeing how this art form enhances a project continues to inspire her. Uma’s passion for embroidery stems from watching her paternal grandmother embroider the borders of saris. Uma loved to study her grandmother’s process of meticulously sketching out the patterns in pencil and then embroidering by hand for hours.

“As a young girl, I was inspired by all kinds of embroidery since it enhances the attractiveness of a knitted project.”

In college, Uma learned Kutch embroidery from her neighbor—an expert in the traditions of the technique—by practicing on little scraps of cotton fabric. Uma remembers saving a piece of scrap fabric they worked on because she thought that, someday, she could make use of it. “Little did I realize that I would try it on knitted (and not woven) fabric,” she says.

“The vibrant orange, red, and yellow colors of Kutch draw their brilliance and origin from natural elements such as fire, or agni, the Sanskrit word named after the fire god of Hinduism,” she says. “This inner fire empowers and inspires us and drives creativity, symbolically speaking.”

With this lifelong inspiration in mind, Uma designed the Oxidation Mitts using a Kutch embroidery motif to decorate the simple stockinette fabric.

kutch embroidery

Oxidation Mitts by Uma Padu

It can be challenging to work embroidery into knitted fabric, with its large holes, but it adds a special, personal touch. Kutch-style embroidery works well on knitted fabric because it doesn’t require the needle to pierce the yarn, resulting in less puckering.

See the Kutch embroidery tutorial in Knitscene Summer 2019, knit the Oxidation Mitts, then add a touch of Kutch-inspired embroidery to future projects!

This article originally appeared in Knitscene Summer 2019.

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