Pakistan is a South Asian country. Having a predominately Indo-Iranian speaking population, Pakistan has historically and culturally been associated with its neighbours Iran, Afghanistan, and India. the Karakoram Range through a maze of mountain ranges, a complex of valleys, and inhospitable plateaus, down to the remarkably even surface of the fertile Indus River plain, which drains southward into the Arabian Sea. From the lively cities like Islamabad and Lahore to the beautiful valleys in the north adds to the beauty of the country.
It contains a section of the ancient Silk Road and the Khyber Pass, the famous passageway that has brought outside influences into the otherwise isolated subcontinent. Its capital is Islamabad, in the foothills of the Himalayas in the northern part of the country, and its largest city is Karachi, in the south on the coast of the Arabian Sea.
Textile Sector of Pakistan is the heart and soul of this nation since Independence. It is the largest Manufacturing Industry in Pakistan, which is said to be the back bone of the country. Export of cotton from Pakistan accounted to 6.5% of total exported cotton in world in the year 2017-2018. Pakistan is the 8th largest exporter of textile commodities in Asia.
In the 1950s, textile manufacturing emerged as a central part of Pakistan’s industrialization, shortly following independence from the British rule in the South Asia. Cotton is the largest segment of textile production. In 1974, the Pakistan government established the Cotton Export Corporation of Pakistan (CEC). Other fibres produced include synthetic fibre, filament yarn, art silk, wool, and jute.
In mid-sixties there were about 180 units of textiles bleaching, printing and processing units, mostly situated in Karachi and Punjab. New private investment began with a highly protected home market. Newly established mills were based upon imported technologies but there was a lack of technical staff and shortages of capital. There was a rapid growth in spinning sector till 1980-81 spinning continued to expand. The eighties brought a relief to the textile industry due to the boom in international market and industry friendly policies of the government.1980.
Over the years the textile industry of Pakistan had faced various obstacles over the years. Lack of Research and Development in cotton sector, lack of modern equipment, increasing cost of production, energy crisis, electricity crisis, gas shortage, tight monetary policy and removal of subsidy on textile sector are to name a few.
Block and screen printing both have their origins in East Asia with the earliest block printing device dating back to the year 220 in Ancient China. In Pakistan, signs of block printing date back to the Indus civilisation, where the famous Sindhi Ajrak is printed. Researchers inform that Ajrak art belongs to the ‘khatri’ community which resided near river Sindh in Pakistan. The tradition still prevails centuries later, and people still use the same methods of production that were used in the earlier days to create an Ajrak.
Traditional ‘Ajrakh’ involves various stages of dyeing and resist printing using natural dyes and mordants. Indigo and madder are the primary colours that are used for dyeing. The resist and some colours are printed on the cloth using carved wooden blocks. These blocks are carved with intricate symmetrical patterns so that the same block can be used for both sides of the cloth. Earlier specialist wood carvers made these wooden blocks. Now some of the artisans have learnt the techniques and make the blocks themselves.
First step is called Saaj. The cotton cloth taken is washed to remove any starch on the cloth. A solution of camel dung, soda ash and castor oil are taken and the cloth is soaked in it for one or two days. Done in order to remove hardness. The dung enables the cloth to become softer and acts as a bleaching agent. It is then wrung out and kept overnight. Process is repeated 7-8 times.
The cloth is washed in a solution of Myrobalan; which is the powdered nut of the Harde tree. Myrobalan acts as the first mordant in the dyeing process. The cloth is sun dried on both sides.
Wooden blocks are carved from the Acacia Arabica trees (babul tree). The pattern carved with great precision by the block-maker by using very simple tools. The blocks are carved in pairs that can register an exact inverted image on the other side.
First printing- Quick lime and Gum Arabic are mixed with water and made into a paste called resist. It is used for resist painting.
Second printing- For black colour, they take rusted iron and put in a tank along with water and jaggery for 20 days. This process breaks down the rusted iron and water becomes ferrous. Now,Tamarind seeds, kachuka, powder is mixed with this solution and boiled. The paste is thus used for black printing.
Third printing- The Ajraks are printed with a paste which is obtained by alum, clay and gum Arabic. The mixture is kept for 3-4 days.
The cloth is finally dipped in indigo dye, which unfortunately, is now synthetic indigo. After it is dried, it is dyed again in indigo for uniform colour. So, leaving the resist area and printed areas, the remaining area on the cloth gets the colour blue.
Now the cloth is washed to clean. The area enclosed by the resist print becomes white and the second printing results in grey-black colours and because of alum residue left on the cloth, the third printing results in a bit yellowish in colour.
So as to give the cloth a different colour, it is dyed in alizarine which turns alum residue into red colour. The cloth now looks a bit more colourful and vibrant.
Ajrak is an crucial part of Sindhi culture and Sindhi nationalism. According to Sindhi traditions, Ajraks are often presented as gifts of hospitality to guests and presented to the person who is utterly respectable.
Balochi embroidery is regarded as an ancient handicraft that passes from one generation of women to the succeeding. The craft is native to the barren lands of Balochistan celebrating nomadic lifestyle. It involves intricate repeating geometric pattern. It is believed that the the balochi embroidery originated from Mehrgarh, which is one of the oldest civilizations of Pakistan and same kinds of motifs were excavated from Mehrgarh site in Balochistan.
The top/shirt/kameez in baluchi is known as “pashk” and cover their hair with a scarf. This pashk is embroidered with sophisticated and colorful threads, beads, small mirrors and needle work. The pashk carries four panels of embroidery. a large yoke covering the chest, the sleeve cuffs and a long, narrow, rectangular pocket that runs from the yoke to just above the hem.
the edges of the sleeves and the next opening are usually treated with the bread of silk and bolts that a tightly packed blanket stitch is followed by a series of finely worked narrow and wide borders in a precisely defined sequence. The narrow borders are generally worked using black and white threads in a couched stitch followed by Chain and Saturn stitches and this sequence is repeated symmetrically in all narrow bodies as they alternate with the wide borders.
Rallis are made in the southern provinces of Pakistan. It is also famously known as rally quilts. Rallis are made from scraps of cotton fabric dyed to the desired color. The most common colors are white, black, red, and yellow or orange with green, dark blue, or purple. For the bottoms of the rallis, the women use old pieces of tie-dye, ajrak, or other shawl fabric.
Ralli quilts have a few layers of worn fabric or cotton fibers between the top and bottom layers. The layers are held together by thick colored thread stitched in straight lines. The women sit on the ground and do not use a quilting frame. The number of patterns used on ralli quilts seems to be almost endless, as there is much individual expression and spontaneity in color within the traditional patterns.
The patchwork made from pieces of cloth torn into squares and triangles and then stitched together, applique made from intricate cut out patterns in a variety of shapes, and embroidered quilts where the embroidery stitches form patterns on solid colored fabric, are the three basic styles of rally . A distinguishing feature of ralli patterning in patchwork and applique quilts is the diagonal placement of similar blocks as well as a variety of embellishments including mirrors, tassels, shells and embroidery.
Swati embroidery is a type of traditional embroidery found in the north of Pakistan, particularly in Swat Valley. It is also called Phulkari meaning flower work. It is done only in geometric forms particularly the triangles, that resemble the hills of the area.
It is made on khaddar cloth, which is a rough but brawny cotton fabric. It is generally hand spun at home. The embroidery is done using a soft and glossy silk thread, cotton thread etc.
The uniqueness of this stich is the darning stitch. In Swati embroidery the length of the darning stitch is controlled by counting the threads of the khaddar cloth. Mostly shawls are embroidered with this kind of embroidery or on a plain fabric and used as border for dress.
Another important feature of Swati embroidery is that it is done on the reverse side of the fabric. The person embroidering doesn’t need to see the front since they are controlling the pattern by counting the threads of the khaddar cloth. Counting the threads to make a perfect triangle is a key to this type of stitch.
The beaded and mirrored embroidery around the necks of the dresses and endings of Kameez and Shawl with golden and silver ribbons studded with artificial gemstones and Laloona (coloured glass beads) specially created for the brides, are the exquisite, unique and typical creations and products of the artistic embroiders of Swat. The verses, mosaics, natural landscapes, animals, flowers, fruits, vines and artistic symmetries created through crochet are the most sought after works of embroidery in Swat. The golden lace embroidery of Swat has acquired a distinct recognition in the valley.
The ethnic clothing worn by people who reside in the country of Pakistan and are of Pakistani descent are representative of the culture of the nation. The clothing culture of the Pakistani people is enriched by various influences of thousands of years of old heritage. The clothes are an alloy of the religion, ideologies and the weather conditions of the country.
Shalwar Kameez And Kurta – Shalwar kameez is the Pakistani national dress. The baggy trousers are called shalwar and a long shirt is called kameez. The shalwar is tied at the waist with the help of a drawstring. Kameez are also opted with narrow tight-fitting trousers known as churidars.
Sherwani: Sherwani is basically a long coat that is usually below the knee length. It is generally worn on special occasion like marriage. The common colours of sherwani are gold, white and black. It is paired up with churidars.
Achkan: It can be referred to as a long jacket very much like sherwani but doesn’t have much embroidery. Use of solid colours is another facet of achkan. The jacket reaches the knees which is the main difference between Sherwani and Achkan. There are buttons in the front of the jacket. The sherwani has massive flare from the waist which is absent in achkan giving more fitted and compact masculine look.
Khet partug: Pashtun men in Pakistan wear Khet partug. The khet is the upper garment whose length goes up till knees and has wide sleeves. It can be worn with a belt and they generally don’t have slits.
Khussa: They are the most preferred footwear among men. Khussa are closed shoes with extended curled toes. The upper part of the khussa is designed using a piece of textile or leather embroidered with ceramic beads, bells, mirrors, cowry shells, and brass nails. The upper part is bonded to the sole using a cotton thread that is eco-friendly. The khussa was quite common among the royalties during ancient times.
Peshawari chappal: It is traditional footwear of Pakistan, worn especially by Pashtuns. They were traditionally made using pure leather. It is semi-closed footwear which consists of two wide straps. One of the strap has buckle which helps to tie according to the foot size and level of comfort.
Shalwar kameez with Dupatta: it is same as men but Pakistani women add a matching or coordinated scarf called Dupatta with it. The locals can wear a kameez with their pyjamas for comfort or fashion. The length of salwar varies across Pakistan depending on the region. The Balochi women prefer ankle length
Lehenga: lehenga is a traditional attire for special occasions like marriage worn by women. they are heavily embroidered and beautiful patterns are woven with lace which add feminine element to the lehenga.