Kashmir Embroidery

Woollen sash with Kashmir embroidery in wool, c. 1830. Woollen sash with Kashmir embroidery in wool, c. 1830. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. 501-1907.

Kashmir embroidery is one of the most famous styles of decorated needlework from the Indian subcontinent.It originates from the Jammu and Kashmir region of the northwestern part of South Asia It is also known as Kashida embroidery. Traditionally, the cloth for this type of work was woven and then decorated by embroiderers (rafugar), often from the same (extended) family.

The embroidery of Kashmir textiles is probably an early nineteenth century development, which copied the much more time-consuming and expensive forms of woven decoration. However, combinations also occur, with strips of cloth with woven decoration being sewn together with decorative embroidery.

The ground material used for Kashmir embroidery is usually a (fine) wool or cotton cloth in a light colour for summer wear, while in the winter there is a preference for thick, black wool cloth. The intended design is traced onto the ground material by a professional tracer (nakshaband), who uses a punch and pounce technique with either a charcoal or chalk powder (depending on the colour of the ground material), which leaves a trail of dots on the ground material. The dots are then joined together to create a design using a pen (kalam) and ink.

The embroidery consists of a simple running stitch, with stem stitch (kanigar) in a darker shade to outline the various motifs. Other stitches, notably, are buttonhole stitch (vata chikan ), chain stitch (zalakdozi), herringbone stitch, satin stitch (sozni embroidery), slanted darning stitch, stem stitch, and straight stitch. In addition, occasionally, drawn thread work (doria embroidery), couched cords (doori embroidery) and knot stitches can be found.

A wide variety of stylised flowers and fruit form the basis for Kashmir motifs. The flowers are portrayed in a variety of different colours and shapes, including almonds, apples, cherries, grapes, irises, lilies, lotus, mangos (paisley motifs), plums, saffron, tulips, as well as birds such as kingfishers, parrots and woodpeckers. Some older examples, called shikargah, which date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, may include bands of marching soldiers and horse riders.

Kashmir embroidery is used to decorate a wide range of objects, from men and women’s clothing (especially the shawal, kurta and duppatta), Western style garments such as cardigans and jackets, as well as blankets and shawls. This form of embroidery is also used for bags, carpets, wall hangings, room dividers and so forth. The financial value of a piece of work is determined by the motifs and size of stitches used, as well as the quality and quantity of embroidery thread. In the more elaborately embroidered examples it is regarded as important for the ground cloth to be totally covered.


  • KALE, Smita (2011). Kashmir to Kanyakumari Indian Embroidery: State by State Embroidery of India, Bloomington: Author House, pp. 18-19.
  • NAIK, Shailaja D. (2014). Traditional Embroideries of India, New Delhi: A.P.H. Publishing Coorporation, pp. 75-78.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 9 July 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 17 August 2016 13:15