University of Leeds International Textiles Archive – Indian embroidery

I like ULITA very much . It is housed in St Wilfred’s Church which is entered from the Business School next door . I haven’t been for a while and now the first thing you see is Alison Mitchell’s 1978 5 panelled tapestry hung in Bodington Hall until 2013 .


Apparently it was inspired by trips to Ghana & Mexico where she learned strip weaving .

The Indian embroidered textiles were no earlier than the 19th century , partly because textiles never last as long as works in other traditional media and partly because the collection consists of individual collections from various donors who were largely commercially interested . Which is why there are many samples for the export market . I haven’t got much detail on the pictures I took because there is as yet no leaflet available and I was assured that all the information would be on the website . I could not find all the examples there however .

Punjabi boy's jacket

Punjabi boy’s jacket

I loved this – remembering what it felt like making a child’s clothes . The style is like that of Moghul court tunics I have seen at the V&A , including the suspended pocket on the left . On the right , at the bottom , is a carved wooden block used for printing an all over design on fabric as a guide for the embroiderer .

'Suf' counted thread work

‘Suf’ counted thread work

‘Suf’ counted thread embroidery apparently tends to patterns made up of triangles . This piece also has some small mirrors – ‘shisha’ . I don’t care for sewn on mirrors partly because they come off easily and are then dangerous .

20C 'Chikan' whitework

20C ‘Chikan’ whitework

19C/early 20C 'Chikan'

19C/early 20C ‘Chikan’

On the left are cotton kamiz embroidered in white on  muslin , the pastels with some shadow work . I have 2 similar but  shorter & mine are Fairtrade whereas those pictured are from an Indian organization which started in the 1950s to do something similar . The other example is from a border sample of a Kashmiri shawl , probably silk on wool .


I can’t remember what this kind of pictorial embroidery is called – and it isn’t a very good picture with the windows reflected in the glass – but I like this imitating the Moghul painting style .

Detail of machined all over chainstitch

Detail of machined all over chainstitch

Chainstitch covers a lot of ground fairly quickly even by hand with a needle , more so with a tambour whose working I finally understand (or ‘ari’ – I don’t know in which language) . This was my favourite example there and is actually done by machine – I used to have a toy sewing machine that only did chainstitch .

Metal thread embroidery

Metal thread embroidery

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I was thrilled to find these handbags in the metallic embroidery section (my favourite) because my mother used to have a black velvet one embroidered with silver which matched a sari belt she wore when younger . I know it was real silver because it tarnished .

Embroidered Kashmiri shawl sample

Embroidered Kashmiri shawl sample

Finally there was a section on Kashmiri shawls embroidered to look like the woven kind . They began to be commissioned by British merchants at the beginning of the 19th century in order to evade the import duties on the woven ones and subsequently became popular . Surely they must have required much more work ?

The exhibition is on until the 9th of July ; open Tues-Thurs 9.30-4.30 , Fridays by appointment (ring 0113 343 3919)




About rukshanaafia

Ceramic & textile artist
This entry was posted in other artists, Textiles. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to University of Leeds International Textiles Archive – Indian embroidery

  1. dapherbs says:

    Interesting stuff – must go and have a look

  2. kathy bergen says:

    I loved the photos and what you have written about this textile show. I LOVE textiles and want to get more into this kind of work. Jalal and I went to a wonderful textile show at the Denver Art Museum last year…it was spectacular. The woven work including many different kinds of plants that they used in early days to weave…and the examples led us up through the history of weaving. I am so impressed with the designs that can be woven…and embroidered…and I love the feel of texture and fabric. I have been wanting to learn to weave….

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