The technique of applique, which originated from Pipli, Odisha (Orissa), incorporates small pieces of fabrics, of various contrasting colours as well as textures stitched onto a large base fabric. Traditionally, in textiles, applique was a way of recycling unused or leftover fabric. The craft quickly became highly regarded by kings and noblemen who patronised the textile art, leading to its prominence in religious traditions. In Pipli appliqued canopies, which are often large, such as those seen on the sizeable chariots during the Rath Yatra festival, the base fabric is often stitched to a backcloth in order to support heavy elaborate motifs.
Large Pipli appliqued canopies have been synonymous with religious festivals for centuries
The most common forms of stitching that artisans use to embellish motifs of fabric and small ornaments on the base fabric are,
Ancient Sewing Technique - Chain Stitch (Chikana)
This is regularly used in Pipli applique and is a type of embroidery stitch. The small pieces of fabric are stitched unturned onto the large base fabric by means of looping the thread, creating a chain-like effect and securing the embellishment. The chikana is also used on motifs to create a textual or ornamental effect.
Textural motifs and the ornamental effect are created by means of the chain stitch
This form of stitching is used to gather fabric to create floral motifs such as the mogra or malli, jasmine.
A craftsman gathers fabric in preparation for creating jasmine motifs using the ruching stitch
Hem Stitch (Taropa)
This form of stitching requires the edges of fabric motifs to be turned in before being sewn onto the base fabric. The taropa stitch also provides a neat finish to the product and is concealed under the motif.
A craftswoman stitches Pipli appliqued fabric hem
This form of stitching is mostly used to embellish round objects onto the base fabric, usually small mirrors or rings, known as mudia. Two variations of the buttonhole stitch, kitikiia and baiganomangia kitikitia, incorporates an extra half-stitch to secure motifs.
The buttonhole stitch is used to embellish small round mirrors in Pipli applique, featured alongside embroidery work
The Ganthi Stitch
This style is similar to the buttonhole stitch and is used to create the most elaborate embroidered motifs.
Elaborate motifs in Pipli applique are created using the ganthi stitching technique
Stem Stitch (Bakhia)
This is a type of simple running stitch that is used to keep embellishments in place. These are temporary stitches that are removed when the embellishments are finally stitched to the base fabric.
Pipli applique artisans are able to create unlimited designs with a huge array of motifs and combinations using these forms of stitches. Motifs may be stitched flat onto the base fabric, or may be texturised as a result of the types of fabrics and the stitching method used. The time consuming technique of stitching layers of fabric and ornaments atop one another results in unique breathtaking applique work.
Images: Durgapuja Online, D'Source, The Colour Caravan, My Learning