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.
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.