The use of embroidery to decorate clothes has been around since man began to wear clothes. The journey began when primitive man discovered that the thread used to join pieces of fur to make clothes can also be used to make decorative patterns on the clothes. Colorful beads, stones, and bones were added to the design vocabulary later.In India, Aari embroidery has its origins dating back to the 12th century. It is believed that in the initial days, the cobblers of western India popularized using the hook-needle technique of footwear-making and embroidery on it. Later, with the patronage of the Mughals, this method of embroidery became popular in garments. Aari gets its name from the word 'aar' a small hooked needle used by the crafts-people.
To begin with, the required design is drawn on tracing paper, then with the help of a needle, holes are pierced along the lines. A mixture of kerosene and boric powder (or chalk powder) forms the paste. Apart from using the paste as-it-is, sometimes, a pinch of robin blue powder or a pinch of charred paper powder is added if the base textile is of light color.
The fabric is stretched tightly on the wooden frame called 'Adda'. Specialised crafts-people make and sell this addas in various sizes and qualities of wood. This indigenous tool, having design traces of the rural bed 'Khatia', holds fabrics of almost all sizes. This Adda consisting of 4 wooden bars, is kept horizontally on a wooden stool, locally called 'Ghoda'.
Next, the perforated tracing sheet is placed on the mounted fabric, and with the help of a waste fabric/sponge, the ready paste is rubbed onto the tracing paper. The paste seeps through the holes and gets transferred to the fabric below. In due course, the kerosine evaporates, leaving just the powder behind. This fine powder is eventually removed by just tapping onto it or with the help of kerosene.
It's not unusual for an embroiderer to make his/her own Aari-needles, a priced possession, using discarded cycle spokes. The sharp end of the aari-needle is pierced into a ball of bee wax and stored to avoid any damages. These needles are carefully selected depending on the thickness of the thread, fabric, or embroidery material.
The 'Kaarigar' sitting on the floor pushes the needle through the fabric in one hand, and from the other hand, twists the thread on the needle hook and lifts it above. The repeated process of piercing the fabric and lifting the thread-loop results in a delicate chain stitch. Apart from different kinds of stitches called Saada, Salli-ka-Kaanta, Kaanta, Ghumer...materials like Chamki, Zardozi, Zari, Salli, Kad-Dhaana, Mothi are also popularly used in Aari embroidery.
The technique of Aari embroidery requires an enormous amount of skill and patience. The traditional use of aari embroidery is very elaborate and ornate, but, at metaphor Racha, we have used single-thaar stitching thread for embroidery purposes, highlighting the skill, intricacies and beauty at its simple best.