Why is Crewel so sought after?
Crewel embroidery in Kashmir
In Kashmir, crewel embroidery has been a timeless art, mostly done by skilled craftsmen in the valley of Kashmir. The elegant art form specializes in uniform and consistent stitches done patiently with fine thread knots.
Kashmir crewel embroidery is essentially a child of landscape and bountiful nature and is, therefore, as varied in its richness, as superb in its beauty… the embroidery designs are so overwhelmed by nature’s riotous beauty that they are caught up in its alluring embrace. The floral motifs with their inexhaustible display of colours, variegated birds, luscious fruits, majestic trees and wild scenes all find a place in Kashmir crewel embroidery. Crewel embroidery is now the most common form of embroidery in Kashmir. It is remarkable even today because of the beauty of its design, technique, colour and texture. Stunning designs, glowing colours and lavishing patterns are the essential attributes of this form of embroidery. It is known under three different names – Crewel, Chain stitch and Ari work.
Kashmir a state in northern India is one of the most beautiful natural areas in the world. Surrounded by mountains the valley reflects them in innumerable placid lakes and paddy fields. Every hundred feet of elevation brings some new phase of climate, flora and fauna.
How crewel embroidery came to Kashmir. Crewel work has a rich history, stretching at least as far back as the early medieval period. Influenced by exotic flora and fauna, this form enjoyed popularity in the Jacobean era, in Europe and America during 17th and 18th centuries. With elaborate designs and patterns, this art was common during the reign of King James I of England in the late 1500s. It is said that crewel embroidery came to Kashmir when traders from Damascus (Damascus is a city situated at the centre of the Silk Road lay at the crossroads of two trade routes, one from India Came to Kashmir in 13th century.
Hand Embroidery in Kashmir flourished when the ruler, Zain-ul-Abedin Shah invited artists from Iran to train the local people into a wide range of crafts. Successive rulers continued to give encouragement to the workers and the Mughals, who were enchanted with the area and spent the summers there, extended their informal patronage to the valley and turned all its crafts into arts. This patronage, combined with the natural artistic aptitude of the people, gave a firm basis to the crafts which, through the centuries have flourished as a cottage industry producing objects of unmatched delicacy and elegance.
All these shapes and colours are, naturally, reflected in the crafts of the area. Surrounded by so much of nature’s bounty the craftsman does not have to look elsewhere for his designs. The chenar leaf and the tall, tapering cypress dominate Kashmir designs. Among the birds the kingfisher is a great favourite followed by the magpie, the parrot, the woodpecker and the canary. The designs are always evenly balanced and even show numerous flowers, leaves, fine stems and curving stalks, a sense of restraint is always evident keeping the decoration well under control and never allowing it to overflow the boundaries of good taste. Shades of red, pink, blue, yellow, mauve, green and white are used but these reflect the natural colours of the objects depicted and are always subtly blended to avoid garishness.