Phulkari is a popular style of embroidery from Punjab. “Phulkari” literally translates to floral work, although the embroidery uses geometrical patterns as well. Artisans of this craft are skilled at making a variety of embroidery stitches on shawls, cardigans, scarves, table covers, cushions, and bedspreads. The embroidery of Punjab involves making intricate designs on fabrics using various coloured threads. A key characteristic of the Phulkari is the use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cotton cloth with coloured silken thread.
The motifs and patterns of Phulkari are primarily floral designs and motifs, symbolising spring-time and the blooming of flowers. The artisans use vivid and vibrant colours to highlight the floral designs, which can be found in almost all traditional garments. Punjabi embroidery is performed on handspun khadi fabric, as is custom. Pat, an unspun silk floss thread, is used to make simple darning stitches. This process requires a lot of delicacy and intricacy.
Traditionally, Punjabi embroidery, especially Phulkari embroidery, was done on odhnis. The traditional Punjabi embroidery became heavier and more complex over time. The heavily embroidered odhnis were called bagh, which means “garden.” The embroidery in this style covered every inch of the base material, making the fabric almost invisible.
In this embroidery, the artisans use a few motifs such as Satrangas, which are seven-colored motifs, and panchrangas, which are five-colored motifs. The most popular and motif used in Punjabi embroidery is based on wheat and barley stalks, which grow all over Punjab. Chope is a red cloth with Phulkari on the borders and edges created by artisans in Punjab who work in embroidery. Just before the wedding, a bride’s grandmother will present her with this sort of fabric.