Just so you know, all the beautiful blouse designs above are latest maggam work blouses. Maggam work is one of the most popular and preferred embroidery art forms in the contemporary fashion scenario. Let us take a look at what maggam work is and how it is done.
WHAT IS MAGGAM WORK?
India has a rich heritage among the best textile traditions of the world. From centuries past, Indian cotton and silk have been the material of choice for royalty and the rich and the famous. Hand in hand with this evolved the art of making clothes beautiful, and embroidery continues till today as one of the most popular means of adding beauty to clothes of all kinds. Almost every region of India boasts of its own, unique style of textiles and embroidery styles.
One of the most popular types of embroidery is Maggam work or Aari embroidery. Once the preferred embroidery style of the mighty rulers of the Mughal line, it has widely spread across India and goes by the name Maggam work in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states. Ornate and delicate designs inspired by nature are brought to life by skilled artisans with precise stitches and the gentle gradations of the color of the thread. Maggam work requires a tight frame to hold the cloth, and this frame is designed with the same principles as that of the traditional Khatla found in most Indian villages even today. This work, is hence also called Khatla work. Maggam work/ Maggam embroidery is done using an eponymous hooked needle. These needles are similar in design to crochet needles, but only finer. Some needles are also shaped like an awl, but with a small hook at the end of the needle.
The origins of this style are shrouded in the mists of time. Some say it originated in Barabanki in present day Uttar Pradesh in India. Another fascinating story is that this style was popularized by the men of the Mochi cobbler caste. It is said that the basic chain stitch used by these cobblers adorned skirts, blouses and temple hangings. Whatever it’s story, this style enjoyed royal favor in the Mughal courts and was the preferred choice of these kings.
Many parts of central and western India are renowned for this work even today. The Kutch region, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh still have a thriving tradition, albeit with designs more tuned to contemporary sensibilities.
Maggam work/ Maggam embroidery requires its specialized set of tools. Here is a detailed list of things you need.
- Zari /Thread: Zari or metallic threads are usually used for Maggam work. Colored threads can also be used instead of zari.
- Needles: A special, hooked needle is the first thing you will need. These may resemble an awl or a crochet needle, with a hook at the tip.
- Maggam / Frame: The cloth needs to be stretched on a tight frame or maggam so that it does not move when the embroidery is in progress. Of course, one can improvise with a smaller version of the embroidery frame rather than looking for a traditional Khatla frame.
- Embellishments: Many artisans use sequins, pearls, beads and other traditional embellishments to add to the appearance of the embroidery.
- Scissors: A pair of good scissors are handy to cut the thread / zari used.
Design & Tracing
The work starts with the design being traced on to the fabric. The artisans may choose to draw the design directly on the fabric with a lead pencil. Normally, the design is first drawn on tracing paper. Next, a needle is used to put holes all along the edges of the design on the tracing paper. The paper is then positioned on the cloth and a mixture of kerosene and blue dye (like Robin Blue) is applied over the paper. The blue dye seeps through the holes and transfers the design on to the fabric. This is then used as the template for embroidery.
Maggam / Frame
The area of the fabric to be embroidered is stretched out tight by fitting it on to the frame. The traditional frame used for this is adjustable and can fit a large piece of cloth. For working on a small area, a normal embroidery frame or metal frame can also be used.
The Basic Chain Stitch
After this setup is completed, the embroidery begins! Maggam work looks very similar to a chain stitch and here is a step by step guide to creating the stitch.
1) The hooked needle is inserted from the top at a chosen starting point of the design traced on to the cloth.
2) A small loop is made with the zari or thread and held just beneath the point where the needle is inserted through the fabric.
3) The hooked end of the needle is used to pull the loop back up through the fabric.
4) Once again, the needle and the loop are pushed down through the fabric.
5) A loop is once again held ready below the fabric.
6) This time, when the loop is pulled up, it is pulled straight up through the previous loop to create the first chain stitch.
7) This process is repeated to create the pretty chain stitch characteristic of Maggamembroidery.
8) Beads, pearls, sequins and other embellishments can be added to add a sparkle to the design.
This process can create fine stitches and intricate designs. Expert artisans can create these stitches at a faster pace. Sometimes, a whole bunch of artisans work together on a piece, since the job can be quite tedious. Some of the group members may be amateurs learning the craft and are allowed to do only the simpler designs and the borders.
The entire pattern and the threads /zari is flattened down using a small hammer and anvil. The wooden anvil is held with one hand under the fabric and the hammer is used to beat down the thread. This way, there are no threads or stitches protruding from the fabric and the patterns melds into the fabric. This adds to the delicate look of the finished product.
After this, the design can be incorporated into any other final product, be it cushion covers, wall hangings, bags and purses, or even as the highlight of a pretty kurta.
Maggam work enjoys a wide range of popularity thanks to Indian fashion designers who showcase this in their international and national clothing lines. A sari with Maggamor Zardozi work fetches good price in the market. A quick search on the Internet shows there are many fans of Maggam across the world who are keen on keeping this tradition alive and well.