Exquisite embroidery and crafted leather footwear, saddlery, and home décor products were produced in northern Gujarat during the rule of the Solanki kings in the 10th-13th century CE.
The men of the Chavda community of Tharad living in northern Gujarat create leather footwear with elaborate chain stitch embroidery. This remarkably exquisite embroidery is known as mochikaam, named after the cobbler community, and also ari/aarikaam, named after aar/awl, the tool used in making the embroidery.
The most essential tools for leather crafts in India are hammer, aar/aari/awl and raapi/skiving knife. Aari is a hooked needle that pulls the thread for sewing and embroidering. The raapi drills, cuts, slices, carves and shapes the goat, buffalo or camel hide.
Cotton yarn is used to sew and embroider the leather. Safed soot/white cotton yarn is used for the construction of footwear while colored cotton yarns are used for embellishing leather. When the cotton yarn of the sole wears out, the layers still remain intact due to the natural grease of the leather that holds on to the embedded cotton yarn. Thus, the cotton yarn has great significance.
Due to the lack of rural clients in today’s globalized times, the crewel embroidered leather craft of the Gohil of Rapar, Banni Meghwal and Chavda of Sabarkantha and Banaskantha is slowly diminishing. Transfer of such skills onto new applications is the need of the hour to save this craft.