From chikankari to rabari and jain threadwork, it’s an ethnic range at the Cotton fab 2013.

National Award winner Shaheen and State awardee Shahzadi work diligently at their ‘ghaspatti’ and ‘jaali’ stitches, creating minute roses on mull while a group of Chennai women crowd around, eager to learn. Occasionally, the young artisans deftly switch over to ‘bakhia,’ ‘murri’, ‘tepchi,’ ‘keel kangan’ and other types stitches which form the rich repertoire of the chikankari craft.

Shaheen and Shahzadi are carrying forward a textile tradition that goes back to the time of Mughal Empress Nurjahan, when reports speak of “piles of washed chikankari fabric lying on the banks of the Gomati river.”

Other cotton weaves, textures and traditions also come alive at Cottonfab 2013, with the rhythms of summer wear reflected in mulls and Tanghails, ethereal silk-cotton Chanderis, Kotas and Maheshwaris, ikkats, Benarasi cottons, silk-cottons and georgettes, tribal tussars and much else.

Innovative designs

Embroideries from Kashmir, West Bengal and Gujarat add magic to saris, fabric and made-ups and innovative designs give a contemporary touch to traditional weaves.

The chikan work is done by the women of Awadh’s Hathkarga Hastashilp Gramodyog, an NGO from Lucknow. Soft pastels dominate in the smart made-ups, kurtas, saris and dupattas on display. The Samiti has 2,000 women workers and trainees who do some outstanding work. Shaheen and Shahzadi say that though they learnt the craft from their mother, it is the Samiti that honed their work and made them into National Award winners.

Sushma Gosavi’s passion is the textile crafts of Gujarat. She uses rare forms such as Sindhi tanka, Batla and soda work as well as Rabari and Jain embroideries to embellish tie and dye saris, dupattas and salwar kurta sets. Holding up a kurta with compelling motifs of rural women drawing water from a well, she says, “This is my tribute to the panihari women of Kutch who when all else fails, provide drinking water to people.” Yet another embroidered kurta piece depicts aristocratic ladies in embroidered tie and kurtas, their face and mien reminiscent of figures in Rajput Miniature.

Blocks and embroideries on cotton saris and fabric dominate with the Dhamdka, Kutch and Sanganer fabrics in vegetable colours.

Kashmiri embroidery finds minimalistic expression on kurtas and Pashmina silk saris while the rich Kashmiri Kashedakari is another draw along with Phulkari kurtas and dupattas.

Not to be missed are Chandra Beher’s Sambhalpuri ikats with temple borders and striking pallus and Ibrahim Ahmad's Khatti Jamdaani Benarasis in cotton silk with floral motifs.

Cottonfab 2013 is on at Valluvar Kottam Hall, Nungambakkam High Road, till April 29.