Kasuti Embroidery – A Traditional Fabric Art of Karnataka


Image – Kaikrafts.wordpress.com

Kasuti embroidery, from northern Karnataka, is one of the region’s most popular artforms and is linked entirely to the villages in the area. A geographical indicator from the government of India is used to safeguard the craftsmen here, ensuring any profit from the sale of this sticker returns to them. Kasuti embroidery is one of the oldest Indian practices. It has its roots since the 7th century A.D. Although it was first only done in the Dharwad region, over time, it has expanded into other parts of Karnataka and is now used throughout South India. Initially, this job was done only by women, and to date, women form a vital element of the cottage industry of Kasuti. 

Suggested Read – Embroideries of India – Showcasing the Skills of Regional Artisans

The term Kasuti is composed of ‘Kai’ which implies hand and ‘Suti’ that is a cotton thread. In the districts of Bijapur, Dharwar, Belgaum, Miraj, Sangli and Jamkhandi,  Kasuti embroidery is extremely famous. Kasuti has not become a cottage industry but it is just handiwork and recreation for women. This form traditionally has been made with lightly coloured cotton threads solely in handwoven textiles with deeper colours. The Ilkal sarees are the classic Kasuti embroidery sarees. It was a custom in the past that the bride must have a black silk sari, known as Chandrakali sari with Kasuti’s work on it. Kunchi (bonnet and cape), lenga (skirt), seragu (Pallav of a sari), kusuba (bodice) and kulai are the five types of clothing items on which kasuti embroidery is used. 

Kasuti embroidery patterns demand a long time, and typically require more than one artist to maneuver properly. The only thing about this type of artform is that each thread is to be counted on the cloth. This approach ensures a very complex and gorgeous look of the finished artwork. Kasuti has four types of stitches: the gavanti stitch or double stitch, the muragi- or zig-zag stitch, the neygi or darning stitch and the stitch hent or cross-stitch.

Kasuti Embroidery Stitch Styles

Image – The Dwell Decor

Gavanti: This is a double running line and back stitch. The name comes from Gaonti, which in the Kannada language means a knot. Most of the designs are geometrical since they are produced vertically, horizontally and diagonally. It is the most prevalent stitch and on both sides of the fabric the designs seem the same. On the way back while stitching, the lines or motifs should be finished by filling out the white areas in the loop.

Neygi: The Negi stitch is a common running or darning stitch. It has the impact of a woven design in general. Negi is in fact an offshoot of the word Ney, which means to weave in the language of Kannada. For larger designs, this stitch is employed by altering the stitch depending on the surface to be covered. The finished design looks like woven patterns and so the right and incorrect sides are not the same.

Muragi: Murgi resembles a ladder step, as the stitches are zigzag running stitches. It is alike Gavanti since they’re both neat with the design on both sides of the garment looking similar. The length of the stitches is consistent and the space between the stitches is identical.

Menthe: It is the standard cross stitch. The name seems to have come from the same word in the Kannada language meaning fenugreek seed. Menthi usually looks heavy and needs a great deal of thread. This stitch was therefore not used extensively. Many of the Kasuti labourers employ cross-stitch nowadays, which is not worked closely as was done formerly. The background sections of the designs are often covered using this menthi stich.

Kasuti Embroidery Motifs & Patterns 

Image – Wikimedia

The several sorts of patterns employed are another significant distinctive feature of this embroidery style. The themes in Kasuti that are commonly utilised are temple architecture, south India’s gopurams, lotus flowers, rath and palanquins, bird patterns like parrots, peacocks, swan and squirrels. The sacred bull, the elephant and the deer are the animal motifs used. Kasuti’s other designs include cow, cradle, flower pots and tulsi katte (katte means the space for the holy Tulsi plant). Horses, lions or tigers are rarely observed, but cats and dogs are never seen. Lotus is mainly used among the flower motifs. The motives may be light and scattered but that is highly unusual. Often they are interconnected in incredibly gorgeous, three-dimensional designs with exquisite and creative appearances. Inspired rural styles are also very popular among various female embroiderers who like to create household sceneries in combination with stylised forms for wedding sarees.

Materials Used Kasuti Embroidery

Khanns utilised as blouse pieces and Irkal sareeswere the materials on which kasuti embroidery was done on formerly. It is made now on any and all types of cloth. Today, it is made on curtains, covers and numerous other handwoven home products.

Colours Used Kasuti Embroidery

Image – Arati Hiremath/FB

The colours mostly used for Kasuti are orange, green, purple and red. The colour combination in these four colours is red, orange and purple or red, green and orange. White is predominant on a black and dark background. Blue and yellow are rarely used as a combination because if the contrasting harmony. Bright pink, pale green and lemon yellow are hardly used. The important feature of Kasuti embroidery reveals a true artistic sense when it is multi-coloured with a harmonious blending. The needles used to do Kasuti should be made of steel.

Kasuti has always been a domestic art. Traditionally it was a custom to give gifts if Kasuti embroidered garments to the relatives when a child is born in the family. The mother used to train her daughter this art from an early age. It is considered a traditional art and passed from generation to generation. It has gained popularity in foreign countries because of the exquisite hand work, colour combination and intricate designs which machines have not yet been able to produce.

Now Kasuti is done on clothes, sarees, pillow covers, door curtains, table cloth and also on fabrics of any kind. Dharwar, Hubli, Kalghatgi, Gadag and Mundargi are some of the places where Kasuti is still done. Women work in the co-operative society, Regional Institute of Handicrafts, Bhagini Samaj, Janata Shikshana Samiti, which have set up organizations to help them earn a living. There are over five hundred women doing this work from the age group of 18 to 55 years.

Threads Used in Kasuti Embroidery

Image – Image – kasuti.blogspot.com

The cloth itself was pulled for the thread used in Kasuti in olden times. They are now getting Mysore silk threads to make the embroidery. The reason why silk threads are used is to ensure the surface seems flat.

Currently mercerized cotton threads like kohinoor and anchor thread, or pure, strong, fast-colored silk threads are used for the broding of Kasuti. It usually uses a single strand. A knot is never placed at the end of the thread, before or after the work ends. 

Kasuti was always a domestic art. Traditionally, when Kasuti embroidered on the family’s clothes, it was a habit to give them as presents. The mother trained her daughter from a young age in this technique. It is a traditional art that passes from one generation to the next. The fine handwork, colour combinations and complex designs which machines have not yet been in a position to make have gathered favour in foreign countries.

Now Kasuti is made on clothing, sarees, pillow coverings, door curtains, cloth for the tables and other kinds of textiles. Some of the localities where Kasuti is still made include Dharwar, Hubli, Kalghatgi, Gadag and Mundargi. Women work in a cooperative society, with the regional handicraft Institute, Bhagini Samaj and Janata Shikshana Samiti, organised to help them make a living. Over 500 women work in this age range between the ages of 18 and 55.

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