The production of Zardosi work is a very elaborate process and may require several days for craftsmen to complete a single garment. First, silver, gold or even copper wires are made by pressing the material through perforated steel sheets. These are then drawn into wires of the requisite thickness. When out of the furnace, they are drawn around on a core yarn, usually of pure silk, art silk, viscose, cotton, nylon, polyester or P.P. (mono/multi filament wire) to form a zari. Currently, 'real zari' is made from flat silver wire that is electroplated with gold.
L: Traced design ready to be embroidered
R: Beads to be used for embellishments
In order to ensure tension in the fabric, it is mounted on a wooden frame. This serves as a working canvas for the Zardosi artisans, as well as ensures ease of hand motion. A hooked needle, called ari, is used for embroidery, though a stitching needle works equally well. A pair of scissors is handy for the workers, too. The ari needle, though easy to use and less time-consuming, can cause easy unravelling of the embroidery. For this reason, garments made with the more time-consuming stitching needle method, are more durable and accordingly more expensive.
L: Artisans working on a mounted frame
R: An ari needle in use
In the initial stages, the design is chosen and traced first on tracing paper, and then on the fabric using a mix of kerosene and Robin Blue. This fabric is then stretched on the adda or the khatia. On an average, five to seven workers can work on one frame. The workers patiently embroider the whole pre-traced design, one small section after another, to create the final garment. Evening dresses, coats, purses, handbags, belts, shoes, badges, cushion covers, wall hangings, table covers and boxes are the Zardosi embroidered items commonly produced.
Blue zari detail in Zardosi embroidery
Image: Thea Oz