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Phulkari Shawls from Punjab….Guest Blogger : Penny Peters

June 10, 2017

I was recently able to add a fragment of a traditional Bagh Phulkari Shawl to my collection of textiles.  The word Phulkari literally means “flower work”, and phulkari shawls were produced in the Punjab region (now northern India and Pakistan) by families for their daughters from at least the 15th C onward. The fragment pictured here is about 15 inches wide.  A shawl would usually be three strips wide (about 45 inches).  The woven strips would be sewn together before embroidering. There are four main varieties—Bagh, Chope, Darshan Dwar and Sainchi. The surface of the Bagh (garden) Phulkari is usually covered entirely with pattern darning stitches worked from the back of the fabric in different directions so that the untwisted soft floss silk thread reflects the light.  The examples pictured here are Bagh Phulkaris.  The Chope type uses double running stitches in counted geometric patterns.  The Chope and Bagh Phulkaris are traditional for Muslim communities.  The Darshan Dwar and Sainchi types often contain figures of humans and animals and are traditional for Hindu communities. In addition to pattern darning and double running stitches, sometimes herringbone, stem, satin, cross, back, Cretan, and open chain stitches can be found.  The traditional ground cloth is usually even-weave hand-loomed Khaddi cloth which is naturally dyed a reddish brown color.  In 19th and early 20th C a limited range of colors was used for embroidery. Today rayon floss is often used in a range of almost fluorescent colors unless a more subdued color scheme (known as ‘elegant color’ to sales staff) is desired, but alas, contemporary shawls are no longer embroidered by families.  The Phulkari shawl has become a commercial endeavor as the Indian economy shifts away from its traditional lifestyle.

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Vintage Phulkari Shawl Fragment, Silk Floss on Handloomed Cotton–in the collection of Penny Peters

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Detail, Vintage Phulkari Shawl Fragment, Silk Floss on Handloomed Cotton–in the collection of Penny Peters

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Reverse detail, Vintage Phulkari Shawl Fragment, Silk Floss on Handloomed Cotton–in the collection of Penny Peters

Phulkari Coat, Partition Museum,  Amritsar, India

Phulkari Coat, Partition Museum, Amritsar, India

Detail, Phulkari Coat, Partition Museum,  Amritsar, India

Detail, Phulkari Coat, Partition Museum, Amritsar, India

Partition Museum,  Amritsar, India

Partition Museum, Amritsar, India

Resources for further study:

Indian Embroideries in the Collection of the Calico Museum, Ahmedabad, Vol 2, Part II, Anne Morrell,  Traditional Indian Textiles by John Gillow and Nicholas Barnard (Thames and Hudson)     Google: Antique phulkari shawls for additional images

 

One Comment leave one →
  1. Barbara Fox permalink
    June 11, 2017 3:08 am

    Very interesting story about the two who met again and married. Amazing, might I say, exquisite embroidery on the cloths and the coat. Thank you for sharing these lovely pieces.

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