Chikan Embroidery, funny name, wonderful technique.

Whilst in India, I came across Chikan embroidery and my friend Anju, helped me understand it a little.

Chikan is a traditional embroidery style from Lucknow, India. Literally translated, the word means embroidery. Believed to have been introduced by Nur Jehan, the wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir, it is one of Lucknow’s best known textile decoration styles. The market for local chikan is mainly in Chowk, Lucknow.

The technique of creation of a chikan work is known as chikankari.  Chikan is a delicate and artfully done hand embroidery on a variety of textile fabric like muslin, silk, chiffon, organza, net, etc. White thread is embroidered on cool, pastel shades of light muslin and cotton garments. Nowadays chikan embroidery is also done with coloured and silk threads in colours to meet the fashion trends and keep chikankari up-to-date. Lucknow is the heart of the chikankari industry today and the variety is known as Lucknawi chikan.


Chikan embroidery is mostly done on fabrics like cotton, semi-Georgette, pure Georgette, crepe, chiffon, silk and any other fabric which is light and which highlights the embroidery. The fabric cannot be too thick or hard, else the embroidery needle won’t pierce it.


The piece begins with one or more pattern blocks that are used to block-print a pattern on the ground fabric. The embroiderer stitches the pattern, and the finished piece is carefully washed to remove all traces of the printed pattern.The process of chikankari includes following steps:


  • Design
  • Engraving
  • Block printing
  • Embroidery
  • Washing and finishing


The patterns and effects created depend on the stitches and the thicknesses of the threads used. Some of the stitches include backstitch, chain stitch and hemstitch. The result is an open work pattern, jali (lace) or shadow-work. Often the embroiderer creates mesh-like sections by using a needle to separate threads in the ground fabric, and then working around the spaces. It consists of 32 stitches.



I’m not a huge embroidery fan, but I found this technique fascinating, and I thought you might like to see it too.

I bought two cotton blouses hand embroidered chicken style and they are so comfortable. I love them.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. anneharrison says:

    Such beautiful creations, always wonderful to find something made by hand, with so much experience behind it . Enjoy your blouses.

    1. Pam Holland says:

      I love them, 100% cotton is super anyway.

  2. xritoma says:

    Chikan is extremely comfortable to wear too. My mum has a few kurtas. Imo, white on white is the most elegant.

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