Sunday, 19 April 2015

Embroidery 2 : Shadow Work

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Shadow Work / Chikankari Embroidery 
on Organdy Saree

Extreme Close-up of  part of  motif
Time to take a mini break from blogging about tatting :-p 
Please excuse the poor quality of photos. These were taken 2 years back when my photography skills were worse.

Pattern : Original Source unknown. Modified patt C from Plate #56 below (my own collection).
Fabric : Plain Lilac coloured Organdy saree 6 yards (bought from Hyderabad, India. Semi-stiff quality)
Thread used : Anchor Embroidery Threads (Anchor cotton floss) in brown, dark purple, & 2 shades each of green, yellow, orange, blue.
Strands used : 2 strands.
Stitches used : This is in the style of Lucknow Chikan embroidery or Chikankari, also called Shadow work or Shadow stitch. It appears like a parallel row of Back Stitch (or Double Back Stitch) in the front, & Closed Herringbone Stitch when seen from the reverse side.
Back stitch
Eyelet Stitch / cutwork (with couching) 

Single Motifs

I altered the original pattern just a tad, moving & realigning the lower left flower to the top, so as to get a continuous trellis when repeated. 
Thus each motif consists of 4 flowers lined up in decreasing size.


In the pallu area, each motif is used separately, with a different colour (yellow, orange, blue), 
in sequence. (This sequence was maintained throughout the saree)
I think I did 3 motifs per row, with a phase shift between rows, & 4 rows in all.   
For the pallu edging, I added a very simple scalloped braid using purple shadow work

For some shading, since there was no variegated or shaded thread, I used 2 solid colour shades (light & dark) in some petals.


The same motif was mirror-imaged & alternated to create a long trellis of 4 repeats. 
Flower colours are alternately used, within each repeat (yellow, orange, blue).
Flower colours also alternated between trellises. So if one trellis started with a yellow flower at base, the next trellis started with an orange & the 3rd with a blue, repeating this sequence. I made 7 or 8 such trellises, with these motifs climbing up to ¾th the width of saree, at a slight angle .

TIP While embroidering a colorful pattern/design, use multiple needles, each with required colour, for quicker & easier work.
I even separate the skeins & cut out the desired lengths beforehand, knotting them at one end & winding them around a piece of cardboard/bookmark with a slot at one end to keep the threads from flopping around & getting all entangled !
Added a tiny cutwork area in centre of large bottom ring, surrounded by purple thread. I did this in the Lucknow Chikankari style/stitch or the Eyelet Stitch, not blanket stitch, using only a single strand of thread here, with very close stitches couched over a running stitch.
Upper end of one Trellis
I used Back stitch, instead of Stem stitch for the stems, to keep the work in sync 
with the shadow work (double back stitch) outlines.
Everything was embroidered from the front side .

View from the Rear !
Extreme close-up of reverse side
I actually prefer the reverse side of shadow work to the front side ! As it is, if asked to choose a single favorite, my all-time go-to filler stitch would be the closed Herringbone stitch.
Pics from reverse side show how I went about the 'shaded' effect. using only single-shade threads. 
And I like to keep everything neat - front & back ;-) 
After each knot, I tuck/weave the thread under some of the stitches to keep it neat And durable.......
Even after 2-3 years’ usage, none of the thread ends have slipped out. Neither are the thread ends & knots visible.
I tried to avoid long crossing-over threads for fear they might show on the right side, 
as well as to prevent accidental snagging. 
If it was necessary, then usually the thread was woven back through stitches, 
to a point where the ‘carryover’ would be a much shorter distance. 
This can be accomplished easily enough : study the motif carefully & decide on the best place 
to start with minimal carry-over threads & smooth flow of embroidery between petals.

What I could not capture in my limited prowess with photography, was the pale purple/lilac of the saree & the rich elegance of the thread.
I love Anchor threads ! These are colourfast, retain their elegant, understated sheen even after long usage & many washes (these pics are after 2-3 years’ usage), easy to work with. Have been using them since the day I learned to embroider, with no complaints whatsoever !

This sari, a gift to my MIL, was embroidered almost 5 years back when I still had normal vision ! 


  1. That's so lovely muskaan! Thanks for showing us.

  2. That's wonderful! I wish I had such skill st embroidering. A great gift for your MIL.

  3. Wonderful I love chrysanthemums, and you are very skilled at embroidery, I know this when you turned your work over :) the sign of true artist :) great tips too!

  4. Thank you all so very much for your lovely comments :-) Appreciate each one ...

  5. This is really beautiful and your skills are amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Lovely work and well documented too

  7. Thank you Helen & Bernice :-) Appreciate it :-)

  8. Carla & Jenn, thank you so much for the sweet words :-)

  9. This is what I have been waiting for .. from you..
    Is this a new one you made or brought out the pics for the tut?
    All my eyes on the neat work .. both at the rear and the front.. shades are so wonderful.

    1. Hi Usha, no this is the old one. No new embroidery to show, especially not fine or intricate.
      Trying to publish all the piled up old stuff ... but still too slow.
      My MIL loves bright colours, hence the choice. Yet, in the end, they were still a bit subdued (I just can't seem to brighten them up beyond a point!).
      And yes, I like to keep things neat ... Thanks for stopping by :-D

  10. So many hours of work went into this sari. It's a beauty. I am very impressed at the front and back sides, which are both so neat!

    1. Claire, thank you so very much for your lovely comments :-)
      True, many Happy hours & weeks were spent on it , & I do like to keep my work as neat as I possibly can

  11. hello, This blog is mindblowing ever, very interested work out you have done in your blog.. Keep it your great work at all. thank You.
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