Handlooms of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh

  • Read about the hand-made woollen products of Uttarakhand and how Chikankari is made.

Weaving is undoubtedly one of those traditional crafts that are deeply connected with the lives of the hill people. Famous for its woollen fabrics, the Himalayan weaving tradition in Uttarakhand also produces beautiful cotton and silk goods.


Largely, it is the Bhotia Himalayan weavers’ community which dominates the weaving industry of Uttarakhand. Apart from the Bhotiyas, there are also other weaver communities like the Rompas and the Kolees. The industry turns out a great variety of hand-woven products like socks, caps, scarves, sweaters, mufflers, shawls etc.


Textile designs are handed down from generation to generation. At times, the motifs used by weavers show interesting influences of the neighbouring regions like Tibet, Nepal and China. However, in spite of these influences, the traditional handlooms of Uttarakhand reflect a unique ethnic character of their own.     

Mother, daughter village Darkot, Munsyari Kumaon.

The Himalayan climate of Uttarakhand and the local sheep rearing practices have largely contributed to the natural development of the woollen industry in the region. The weavers are mostly rural women who produce beautiful hand-woven products. In village Darkot, they weave only rabbit wool products. Weaving comes to locals naturally, can weave whilst watching TV or talking.


Every year, Bhotiya weavers spend the winter months in Dunda in weaving their clothes and the summer months in selling those clothes in different seasonal fairs and tourism sites of Uttarakhand. Some spend summers harvesting fields in Harsil. Those in Dunda of the Uttarkashi district weave gorgeous traditional patterns on their crude upright or pit looms, using Charkha-spun wools.


Traditionally Bhotiya weavers rear their own sheep for wool in the grazing plains of Harsil. In the winter, when the sheep grow fat and have fully gown hair, the Bhotiyas come down to Dunda to begin their weaving activities. The Dunda weaving cluster in Uttarakhand is famous for carpets and pashmina shawls.

Being trained to weave carpets, Munisyari Kumaon

The rugs and pashmina shawls of Munsyari are also widely acclaimed. Like Dunda, it is another significant site of the traditional Bhotiya weaving. Munsyari produces some of the finest cashmeres in the world. The dunn which is a type of rug and the thulma – a unique bedspread – made by the Bhotiya weavers of this scenic town in Kumaon. To see album on Munsyari


You get soft and warm rabbit wool head caps in Munsyari. Do buy many because you will not such quality and price elsewhere. 

Weaving Pashmini Shawl, village Darkot, Munsyari Kumaon.

Gorgeous pashmina shawls are also produced by the local weavers at the shawl factory of Kausani. Kausani shawls and stoles have become quite a legend among tourists and craft-enthusiasts. The shawls are made of superfine Angora rabbit wool and come with a variety of designs ranging from simple colour patterns to lavish embroidery works.



The term embroidery is basically defined as the method of ornamenting a piece of clothing with needlework; or embellishment with fanciful details. Thus, embroidery is regarded as the art of decorating textiles using a needle and thread.


Embroidery of Uttarakhand has earned its fame because of the versatility of creations. The artisans use an array of stitches to decorate the items. The most important centre of embroidery work is located in the Mandalsera, district Bageshwar.


The embroidery of Uttarakhand is one of the main sources of income for different other communities. Designs go back to earlier times or modern geometric designs. But embroidery continues to be one of the common ways of decorating clothes. In fact, specialists feel that today there is much more scope for creativity and innovation, because of the acceptance levels.

Embroidery Mandalsera. 

This has ornamentation of tikris and beads, which make them, look attractive. This type of embroidery is done on a frame of wooden beams. The fabric is worked upon with a long needle, threads, tikris and beads.


Multi-sized frames are used, usually about 1.5 feet high, to secure the cloth on which the design is sketched with a stencil. One hand secures the thread under the cloth to the needle while the other moves the needle on top of the cloth with ease. Decorative tikris and beads are attached to the cloth with the needle.


Another embroidery pattern is the jaali or net embroidery in geometric or floral shapes and is done by pulling the warp and weft threads and fixing them with minute buttonhole stitches. The finished products dominantly comprise items for household use like curtains, bedspreads, furniture covers and dress material.


Raw Materials used

The fabric is worked upon with a long needle, threads, tikris and beads.


Process - Embroidery is not such a technical craft so process is small like-


“1.The motif is made on the tracing screen for symmetrical marking and uniformity, like the Khaka.

2. Motifs are marked on the fabric with a marking mixer (liquid) for embroidery work.

3. Set the marked fabric very tight from all directions. (Saree, Dress materials etc.). On Wooden frame (it can be done without frame also).

4. It will work easier to do embroidery with the help of frame to reduce tension and get pucker less product.

5. The desired motif is neatly embroidered with different stitches (Pakko, Kachho, Soof, Rabari, Kharek etc) to achieve desired motif.

6. The result can be many colours and is easy to make.” Source


Embroidery designs are prepared by fixing small round shaped mirrors to the material with the help of the buttonhole stitch, the outline being sketched by hand. Silken thread is used for the stitching done in stem or herringbone, closely worked. Flowers and creepers are patterned against a very dark background.



Techniques vary with the community and region. The term embroidery is defined as the method of ornamenting a piece of clothing with needlework; or embellishment with fanciful details. Thus embroidery is regarded as the art of decorating textiles using a needle and thread. This includes the hand and machine embroidery methods. Till date, hand embroidery continues to be an expensive and time-consuming method. However, in spite of this it is preferred because of the intricacy of the handiwork involved. 


The purpose of this compilation is to document and promote. We have given credits and reference links in this compilation along with third party links (to promote). In case some are missed, it is not with malafide intent. Please email full details to esamskriti108@gmail.com and we shall effect the change.


Reference and do read Fabric Tour of India


Himadri Hans Handloom by Hans Foundation – nice


Excellent Handwoven Woollens at UMANG, Raniket. To see pics

CHIRAG NGO, Mukteshwar too has very good woollens. See pics 17 to 21


Handlooms of Uttar Pradesh  

We present Chikankari Embroidery below, Benarasi Saris covered in a separate article on esamskriti find link below.  

Chikankari Embroidery.

Famous as shadow work, Chikankari embroidery is a very delicate and intricate work from the city of Lucknow. A skill more than 200 years old, the embroidery is famous for its timeless grace and gossamer delicacy. Also known as Chikan, the embroidery is traditionally done using a white untwisted cotton thread on colourless muslin popularly known as Tanzeb (the Muslim from Dacca).


This form of embroidery came to India from Persia with Noor Jehan, the queen of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir. It is also said that the word chikan is a derivative from the Persian word ‘chikaan’ meaning drapery. The craft flourished under the benign Nawabi influence and later with the British influence designs became more formal resulting in an export market in Europe and England.


Read about and see lovely personal pictures of Where to buy Chikankari in Lucknow



Originally, chikan embroidery was done with the untwisted white cotton thread on soft, white cotton fabric like muslin or cambric. It was sometimes done on net to produce a kind of lace. Today chikan work is not only done with coloured threads but on all kinds of fabrics like silk, crepe, georgette, organdie chiffon, and tassar.



In Chikankari, the design to be embroidered is printed on the fabric using wooden blocks dipped in fugitive colours, which are commonly made by mixing a glue and indigo with water. For extra fine designs, brass-blocks are used sometimes.

Chikankari flat stitches with their traditional names are:


1. Bukhia: Most common chikan stitch to get the effect of shadow work. Bukhia is very similar to the herringbone stitch done on backside and front side to give a shadow effect. It is done in two ways

a)  From back side (ulta bakhia), the floats lie on the reverse of the fabric underneath the motif. The transparent muslin becomes opaque and provides a beautiful effect of light and shade.

b)  From front side (sidha bakhia), it is the satin stitch with criss-crossing of individual threads. The floats of thread lie on the surface of the fabric. This is used to fill the forms and there is no light or shade effect.


2. Taipchi: It is the running stitch worked on the right side of the fabric. It is occasionally done within parallel rows to fill petals and leaves. Sometimes taipchi is used to make the bel buti all over the fabric. This is the simplest chikan stitch and often serves as a basis for further embellishment. It resembles jamdani and is considered the cheapest and the quickest stitch.


Pechni: It is the variation build on Taipchi where the taipchi base is covered by entwining the thread over it in a regular manner thus forming a lever spring.


3. Gitti: A combination of buttonhole and long satin stitch, usually used to make a wheel-like motif with a tiny hole in the center.


4. Jangira: It is the chain stitch usually used as outlines in combination with a line of pechni or thick taipchi. Chikankari knotted, embossed stitches with their traditional names are:


a. Murri: It is the diagonal satin stitches worked several times with a knot on a basic taipchi stitch to form a grain shape.

b. Phanda: It is a smaller shortened form of murri. The knots made are spherical and very small. It resembles millets, gives a raised effect and is used to fill petals and leaves.

c. Dhum patti: It is the leaf pattern made of cross-stitch.

d. Ghas patti: It is the grass leaves formed by V-shaped line of stitches worked in a graduated series on the right side of the fabric.


Besides there are two other important forms of embellishments:

1. Jali work: The jaalis or trellises that are created in chikankari are a unique speciality of this craft. It gives an effect of open mesh or net created by carefully pushing warps and wefts apart by needle without cutting or drawing of thread.


2. Khatawa: It is an applique work similar to bakhia, which produces a flat effect. It is more of a technique than a stitch.

Avoid Machine replica of Chikan.


The source of most of the design motifs in Chikankari is Mughal. Noor Jehan’s personal preferences and desire to replicate the Turkish architectural open-work designs is said to have that led to the introduction of jaalis in chikan embroidery. The designs in chikan are graded and used according to the stitches employed – murri ka buta and tepchi ka jaal-though terms like hathi (elephant) and kairi (mango) are also used to signify the shape of the motif. It is however the stitch employed that is the established nomenclature. Other common motifs include mostly paisley, flowers, foliage’s, creepers, fruits, birds like peacock and parrots.


Reference and read Chikankari of Uttar Pradesh

Good read on Chikan

To see a video on making of Chikankari products


Your Ultimate guide on Where to buy Chikankari products in Lucknow, how to avoid buying fake Chikan written by a Lucknow girl  

Another famous hand woven product from Uttar Pradesh is Banarsi Saree. Read all about it HERE

Banarsi Saree.


To read all articles by author

To read all articles on Traditional Indian Textiles of India


Author Trishna Patnaik is a self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. She is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She conducts painting workshops across India. She is also an art therapist and healer who works with clients on a one to one basis. Not to forget her quality writings on Indian Art and now Textiles for esamskriti. She fancies the art of creative writing.


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