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Crewel or hook embroidery locally known as Zalakadozi, is one of the specialized forms of embroidery practiced in Kashmir.
Crewel embroidery is also known as wool embroidery. The word crewel in fact is derived from an old Welsh term meaning wool.
This kind of embroidery is a type of chain stitch, generally done on a white background. A key characteristic of crewel work is that the motifs do not cover the entire surface, and the background is not embroidered upon.
Crewel embroidery which is done in thick wool yarn provides a very dazzling and durable material for drapes and upholstery. The embroidery is hand crafted in either single or double ply wool. It also can be done in silk. Both wear well. The silk textiles are shinier and smoother to the touch and the wool is soft and warm. While both types are colourful, the colours in the silks appear luminous.
The design for embroidery needs to be printed on the fabric before starting any needle work. The design is screen printed on the fabric and many other stencil printing techniques are also developed. The temporary printing on the fabric can also be done with a piercing method where the dotted outline is formed by piercing through the design printed on the paper. Once the design is fixed, the crewel embroidery is carried out starting in the center gradually edging outwards to form a velvet like finish. A special needle is used for crewel embroidery. Most of these chain stitch tasks are carried out with the help of a hook, which is also known as “ari”. The frame or hook is the prime requirement for this kind of embroidery as it tightens the fabric. This embroidery requires the use of both hands and hence a large rectangular frame is used for large pieces of work.
The crewel samples shown are examples of patterns that can be applied to your very own designs.