Intricate stitches: Weave tales of tradition in Indian appliqué.


In the Kutchi language the word ‘Dhadki’ means ‘pieced together’. These are cover-ups or quilts handcrafted by women in Kutch by stitching together the pieces of old fabrics acquired over time.  Continuous stitches and contrasting colors are the characteristic property of Dhadkis. These are an integral part of the Kutchi way of life.

Dhadkis’ are primarily used as quilts to help endure the harsh desert cold. They also have ceremonial importance and are given as dowry.

Old clothing is often used to make these quilts, to enable them to be softer. In this manner, old cloth is put to use and there is little wastage. However, for the quilts made for dowry, old cloth is not recycled.

To make the Dhadki more vibrant, patches of different colored clothes are placed around the central region and stitches to form a unique composition, a form of appliqué or Katab work.

Applique ~Pipli

Pipli village a few kilometres from Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa, is a village where all houses and shops along the roads have one thing in common: beautiful appliqué work, in the making or on display, all giving out a loud burst of colour.  Established by the King of Orissa for accommodating the craftsmen who made appliqué umbrellas and canopies for the annual Jagannath Yatra.

Chhati (umbrella), Tarasa – a heart-shaped wooden piece covered by appliqué cloth and supported by a long wooden pole, and Chandua – an umbrella-shaped canopy are usually seen during the processions. ‘Jhalar,’ another popular item, is a sort of frill used as a border to canopies and also independently as a decorative piece.

Puri Rath Yatra has great significance, and two main crafts involved in making the chariots are one woodcraft (to build the strong working structure) and two applique (to cover the structure and give a unique identity).

The colour scheme of the three covers is predetermined, green and red for the chariot of Balabhadra, black and red for that of Subhadra and yellow and red for Lord Jagannath’s chariot.

Another traditional item is ‘Sujnis’ or embroidered quilts. For contemporary use today products, like hanging lamps, big umbrellas, a variety of bags, cushion covers, bed sheets, file folders, etc. are also made.