The first step of applique production involves the shaping of the base fabric, usually square, rectangular, circular or oval. Traditionally a means of recycling unused or leftover fabric, artisans then begin skilfully cutting and sewing the fabrics together to produce breathtaking motifs of energetic colours.
L: Stitching of embellishments and mirrors
R: In the reverse applique technique fabric is stitched under the base fabric rather than the top
Needless to say, stitching is an important component of applique that incorporates many forms:
a) Chain stitch or chikana is an ancient sewing technique that applique most frequently utilises. The small pieces of coloured fabric are sewn unturned onto the base fabric using loops, creating a chain-like effect that secures the embellishment.
L: Motif appliqued using chain and running stitches
R: Close-up of a chain stitch
b) Running stitch or guntha is a basic form of stitching. The needle passes in and out of the fabric, with equal-sized stitching visible on the topside of the fabric.
Running stitch used to secure different fabrics to the base fabric
c) Ruching stitch is vital in the craft of applique to gather a strip of fabric in order to create a motif such as the jasmine, malli.
d) Hem stitch or taropa is as the name suggests. The edges of embellishments are turned in before being sewn to the hems of the fabric, providing a neat finish.
Taropa stitches on the borders of traditional costumes
e) Buttonhole stitch is utilised in the sewing of round objects to large canopies, usually rings known as mudia and small round mirrors. The needle catches a loop of thread on the surface of the base fabric before being passed back through the fabric. There are two variations of the buttonhole stitch that involves a half-stitch to secure motifs, kitikiia and baiganomangia kitikitia.
Buttonhole stitches to secure small mirrors and embellishments
f) Ganthi is similar to the buttonhole stitch, though are less consistent compared to the latter. It is used to create eye-catching embroidered motifs.
g) Stem stitch or bakhia is a primary stitch that keeps the embellishment in place. These stitches are taken out upon the insertion of the main stitches.
These different forms of stitching are used to secure motifs to the base fabric, and alongside embroidery, form aesthetic designs or scenes.
Images: Indian Heritage, D'source, Wikipedia, Youth Face, Wandering Threads