'Aari work' refers to an intrinsic form of artwork done with the shape of a pen-like needle resembling a crochet needle. In this artwork, beads and muthia are imprinted creatively by a sharp edged needle, which gives rise to a chain stitch kind of texture. With its delicate and finest threadwork, this work enhances the essence of hand embroidery.
The Mughal era witnessed the beginnings of Aari embroidery while being fascinated with floral motifs exclusively and by architecture, paintings, and murals as a whole. Natural fabrics with close weaves underwent an artistic influence for the first time. Aari improved the look of a plain fabric and took it to a new level.
Aari work is done by stretching the fabric tightly over a wooden frame to remove uneven folds of the weave and is known as thread work that enhances the gravity of the piece. A craftsman does everything from collecting the finest raw material to selecting the thread that is best suited for the required fabric count. The higher the count, the finer the yarn is and the more exquisite the embroidery would be. The craftsmen primarily follow the time-honored designs which are long stamped into the minds of the people. These designs have an influence on the culture of the land and the flavor of the mood of the crafter as well.
Aari embroidery is primarily known as khatla work. The embroidery is done on a wooden frame that is based on the design of the local khatia or cot. Aari embroidery is believed to originate from Barabanki. In the Kutch region of Gujarat, the Rabari tribe practices a variant of Aari. This too is with the Aari or hooked awl that is generally used by cobblers. The embroidery is in fine chain stitches.
Materials used in aari work
Zari, or the golden metallic thread, is a popular and widely used material in aari work. Multiple colors of good quality cotton or silk yarn threads are also used. This fine embroidery is embellished with Kallavattu, Sitara, Moti or Salma, Dabka, Nakshi, Aara and Gota, beads, sequins, etc.
Few tools are required for this special art. First is the four-cornered frame resembling a cot known as the 'adda' over which the fabric is tightly stretched and bound tightly at the corners. Several skilled workers can sit at different corners and individually work on the design spread on the 'adda'. This speeds up the work and allows early completion. Second is the Aar / Karchop or the needle. It is similar to the one used in crochet work. A pair of scissors to time and again cut the loose hanging threads, after the knots are made.
Aari work process
Tracing is the first step in the process. First, the design that will appear on the fabric is drawn on fine tracing paper. A drawing pin is then used to make small holes all along the lines of the design. The mixture of kerosene and robin blue is rubbed on all parts of the design, keeping it on the desired portion of the fabric. When the mix seeps through the pin holes onto the fabric, the design is now visible. Free handers are able to do it spontaneously with a light marking pencil on the fabric.
The fabric is then tightly drawn over the frame and kept taut on all sides. There is equal tension on both sides. The tightening of the fabric can also be done with a small metal frame if the fabric is smaller.
Afterwards, a needle with a hooked end with zari (gold or silver) or cotton or silk is pushed through the fabric. The result is a chain stitch. Again the needle is pushed through the fabric. The thread is pushed into the hook from behind so that when the needle is pulled up again it comes up with a loop. As the needle is pulled up again it comes up with a loop because the thread is pushed into the hook from behind. This completes a fine small stitch. When the needle goes through the loop and comes up with another loop, it's through the previous loop.
Aari work tends to be fine and intricate. Additionally, beads, sequins, or small spirals of gold or silver colored wire can be used to add sparkle to the dress or fabric. Aari work is fast because it can be completed simultaneously across a stretched piece of fabric. People who are skilled can handle the detailed motifs, and those who are less skilled can tackle the simple motifs or borders. The zari threads are flattened after the embroidery is completed, using a wooden mallet from the top and a wooden anvil from underneath the fabric. The threads then settle. It gives the worked portion a fuller appearance.
Other decorative features
Aari work also uses beads and a special needle called muthia, which is similar to a crochet needle.The muthia is used with the main zari embroidery to trap kallavattu, sitara (sequins), Moti (pearls), and Salma. As soon as that is done, the embroiderers are free. The remaining persons involved then complete the finishing work of the garment.
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