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What Is Kasuti?

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  • Written By: Donn Saylor
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  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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Kasuti is a classic embroidery technique predominantly employed in Karnataka, India. It is renowned for its elaborate beauty and is often used to craft a Kanchivaram or Ilkal saree. Kasuti embroidery designs are not outlined before weaving but instead rely on counting the threads of the piece, which can sometimes number up to 5,000 hand-sewn stitches. This results in highly unique pieces that are one of a kind and not easily replicated.

The term "kasuti" is thought to be derived from the word kasheeda. In Persian, kasheeda means "embroidery." Many believe the term was borrowed from the Persians since India conducted a large amount of trade with that region in the sixth through eighth centuries, when kasuti was first practiced. Others cite the origin of the word as being a combination of the words kai, meaning hand, and suti, denoting cotton.

The first kasuti designs were crafted during the reign of the Chalukya dynasty in sixth century India. The technique proved immensely popular and was eventually practiced by women all around the region of what is now Karnataka. In modern times, it remains an embroidery method used predominantly by women, especially those in the village of Dharwar.

Kasuti embroidery patterns come in a variety of shapes and styles. The most popular are towers, shells, and chariots. These designs are embroidered directly onto a saree or other piece of fabric and have become a trademark product of the Karnataka region.

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The amount of time and effort that goes into kasuti is quite intensive. Everything is stitched by hand, without the use of outlines, patterns, or tracing. There are no knots used in kasuti, guaranteeing that both sides of the fabric look identical.

There are two main types of stitches used in in the technique. Gavanti is a line or double running stitch, while murgi stitches create a zigzag design with a simple darning stitch. A normal sewing needle is employed to create the embroidery.

With waning money and public interest, the popularity of kasuti decreased in the latter part of the 20th century and early part of the 21st. Those interested in art, culture, and crafts, however, recognized the beauty and intricate talent necessary to creating kasuti, and a revival has led to renewed interest in the art form. Marketplaces in Karnataka still sell the ornate pieces, and enthusiasts from around the world travel to the region to take advantage of its trademark embroidery products.

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Discuss this Article

JaneAir
Post 5

@ceilingcat - Bet you were surprised when that sari wasn't just another family heirloom, huh?

I don't have any friends from India, but I would love to see kasuti in person. I've read about it online and seen pictures, but it just isn't the same!

I'm also saddened that younger Indian people aren't really carrying on this tradition. I think local crafts are important, and they should definitely be preserved!

ceilingcat
Post 4

My boyfriend has a good friend who is from India. Her family was very wealthy in India, and they have a lot family heirloom type stuff.

Once when we went over to visit our friend, her mom showed up a beautiful kasuti sari. It literally took my breath away! It looked so intricate-like a real piece of artwork.

I like to knit, but I just don't have the patience for embroidery. When my friends mom told me she had made embroidered the sari back when she was younger, I was totally amazed!

burcidi
Post 3

@simrin-- It's nice to know that you are so eager to learn how to do kasuti. My sister does kasuti designs and she also teaches other ladies who are interested in it. If there is an Indian community where you live, maybe someone who knows kasuti could show you.

Meanwhile, I think you should try to practice with online instructions. I know you don't like that very much but I have seen some very good step by step instructions online with pictures and even videos. I'm sure those would be helpful.

I don't like stiching and I have never made a kasuti but I like kasuti sarees a lot. I've bought several from online shops. Prices are not too bad, it's in the same range as any hand embroidered saree. So I don't feel like I need to spend the time and effort to make one myself.

SteamLouis
Post 2

Kasuti is so beautiful. There is a stitching blog that I follow and every time I see a kasuti shown on this blog, I am convinced that it is the most beautiful embroidery I have ever seen. I'm really eager to learn how to do it but it appears very complicated. I feel that I need to watch someone do it in front of me so that I can understand. Written instructions do little for me when it comes to stitching.

If I do get started on a kasuti, I think I would like to make geometric designs rather than trees and animals. Object embroidery is not as appealing to me as geometric embroidery is. But it's nice to know that kasuti is very flexible and I can try different types of designs once I get the hang of it. I hope that I will have my own kasuti piece one day.

bear78
Post 1

My friend I went to India last winter. Her family is originally from Goa, so we went to see Goa and some other nearby states including Maharashtra (where Mumbai is) and Karnataka. I did see many women wearing sarees in Mumbai and Goa but I also saw a lot of western clothes and other Indian attire like salwar kameez.

In the part of Goa we stayed in, most of the population was Christian so I did not see many people wearing Indian attire there. Plus, Goa is full of foreigners and tourists from other countries. It was not until we went to Karnataka that I really felt that I was in India.

I did see many kasuti fabrics

and sarees in the markets there. But I did not see any women wearing sarees with kasuti designs. I guess since fabrics with kasuti designs are very valuable and more expensive, women will more likely wear them on special occasions or maybe keep at home to pass on to their daughters. I did end up getting some fabric with kasuti, the price was pretty high but I was able to bargain it down a little bit. I didn't want to go back home without a kasuti fabric from Karnataka. I really loved Karnataka in general, the history, the arts and crafts and the foods were amazing.

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