Several months ago, we at Maya decided to take a look at embellishment on sarees as an exercise to create a spiced-up product, yet not deviating too much from tradition that Kanjivaram is. Embroidery was the chosen flourish. We explored several options – Kuch work from Gujarat, Kantha from Bengal, Chikankari from Lucknow and Kasuti from north Karnataka. First three are most popular and seen in most exhibitions and websites. There were not many places in Bangalore which could produce these, so Kasuti was the answer. We found an excellent source for right here in Bangalore.
Kasuti is a hand embroidery genre from north Karnataka, that is believed to be dating back to the Chalukya period (6-12 Century). The name Kasuti is derived from the words Kai (meaning, hand in Kannada) and Suti (which means cotton). In northern states of Karnataka, sarees embroidered with Kasuti were once a part of the bridal trousseau. The light woven Ilkal sarees were preferred for this, especially the black sarees with red border. It is but natural that embroidery on black gives high contrast.
Kasuti work involves embroidering very intricate patterns like gopura, chariot, palanquin, lamps and conch shells, flowers, birds, animals and more – all things from one’s daily life. Kasuti generally has patterns and motifs created with short lines (like dashes) in straight lines, right angles or at a 45-degree angle. There are no curved lines.
There are different types of stitches to obtain different patterns. Some of the stitches are
Gavanthi (from Gantu, in Kannada meaning a knot) is a double running stitch used for marking vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. Murgi is a zig-zag stitch which appears like ladder or steps. Negi (from the word neyge in kannada, meaning weaving) is an ordinary running stitch, also known as the darning stitch or the weaving stitch in long & short straight lines. The appearance of this stich is similar to the extra warp / weft designs done in handloom. Menthi (fenugreek in kannada) is a cross stitch. Often, two or more of these stiches are combined for proper depiction of a motif.
Quality of a Kasuti work is noticed in how uniform the stiches are and how accurately the 90 or 45-degree turns are executed. Also, a good Kasuti work looks identical on front and back of the fabric with no overlapping stiches. The embroidery yarn used is estimated carefully before starting a pattern or motif so that the completed motif is finished without any knots.
Maya is a brand dedicated to Kanjivaram, which by itself is a complete and amazing genre for sarees. For this particular project, we chose plain bodied silk sarees with a small, single color, korvai temple border (without any zari), and simple contrast pallu. The entire design scheme was planned and conceived making sure the position of the pleats, pallu, and the front-drape layer. Yarn colors and types were chosen to create just enough contrast for visibility. Executed by nimble student hands at Sameeksha school of Embroidery, the final result came out to be marvelous. True to the brand’s belief of justly rewarding crafts persons, full and fair wages were paid against completion of work without any price haggling.
This project produced a small edition of 4 sarees but looking at the final product, Kasuti turned out to be a fitting tribute to Kanjivaram!