5 Traditional Embroideries of Pakistan that Make a Serious Style Statement

Embroidery is the practice of ornamentation, work as a mode of expressing sentiments and aesthetic which started centuries back. The purpose of embroidery is not just adorning textile but, also it holds symbolic meaning and traditional rituals and values to it. It works as a form of nonverbal communication that can identify identities and social status one belongs to.

Pakistan has a rich culture of traditional costumes and clothing, considered among the finest all around the world. In the era of fast fashion culture, Pakistani embroideries have secured its place in the hearts of people who love and appreciate art and traditions. Many communities in Pakistan that have their own distinct identity asserted through clothing, food, culture and practices.

Let's look at some of the traditional embroideries of Pakistan that would make you stand out of the crowd. Some of the famous embroideries of Pakistan are- Phulkari, Swat Embroidery, Ajrak, Cross Stitch, Ralli, Sindhi Embroidery, Dandi Tanka, Balochi Tanka.


Balochi Embroidery/ Doch

The traditional Balochi embroidery/ Doch is a unique form of embroidery that originated in one of the oldest civilisation, Mehrgarh Civilisation in 700 B.C. Balochistan is known for its craft, especially its Balochi embroidery. Women of the community are involved in the making after securing an hour or two from their household chores. It is important to note that these women do not get any professional training but learnt by years of rigorous practise and sheer determination, guided by elders of the family.

Some key features of this type of embroidery involve geometric and random designs, use of mirrors, beads along with thread. Motifs and design are inspired by nature. The colour pattern is usually bright and vivid. There are no fixed designs or designated chart of pattern to copy. It is the artist's imagination and creativity.

What makes Balochi embroidery distinct from others is the placing of embroidery which is on the front of the fabric of a yoke, covering the chest, the sleeves, large pockets stretching from waist to hem of the dress. With changing times, the artists of Balochi embroidery are adapting to contemporary times to attract young customers. The Balochi government has been helpful in this regard by patronising the work and also establishing training centres in Balochistan for the business to flourish.


Ralli/ Zanjeeri Tanka

Ralli, as an artwork, involves three different categories: patchwork, applique work, and embroidered. Out of these, patchwork and applique work is more practised and valued. Talking about the technique, it uses multiple types of stitching- chain stitch, running stitch, double-crosses stitch along with many other.

The pattern and designs used in Ralli are abstract. The colours usually used in the making of Ralli are always bright, fresh and full of life. One of the best things about traditional embroideries of Pakistan is that they majorly produced by women. Most of these women are full-time involved in free domestic labour who take out time from the household chores to learn the skill out of their interest and determination. It has also become a source of income for many underprivileged families.


The word 'Phulkari' means flower work. Rural communities of Punjab initially practised it. Phulkari is equally loved and cherished by people across the border. Primarily, it was a non-commercial work of art, made by women for personal use and for gifting loved ones for their sacred events. Women in rural Punjab used to wear Phulkari Ghagra (skirt), chaddar(headscarves/covers).

There are different types of embroidery made under this, Phulkari being the most basic one to Bagh (Garden)- the more elaborated one.

Hues of reds, pinks, greens, crimsons, yellows, blues are preferred in Phulkari. Designs have a vast range of simple flowers and geometric designs to human figures, objects, and so on mainly inspired by nature.

Phulkari was initially started with silk threads, embroidered on handwoven cotton fabric. After the commercialisation of the product, the demand for Phulkari serged and hence, bedsheets, pillow covers, curtains in Phulkari design and pattern made its way to the commercial market. Many different fabrics, such as chiffon, georgette, silk, and polyester apart from cotton, are in use nowadays. Phulkari artists have moved past the traditional designs of flowers or trees and now taking inspiration from movies, magazines.

Sindhi Embroidery

Sindhi style of embroidery, known as the interlacing embroidery, is recognised for its mirror work encircled with thread. The Sindhi culture derives its lineage from the Indus Valley Civilisation, and hence, the richness of its culture and art is well understood.

Talking about the embroidery, it is mostly in checks and chevrons. Mirror work is what makes the art distinguishable from others. Motifs are more inclined towards Mughal and Persian form. Lively colours like hues of red, yellow, orange, blue and green favoured majorly. It involves intricate stitching techniques and fine needlework. Use of mirrors is a must apart from beads, ribbons, coins.

Swat Embroidery

Swat embroidery is one of the famous traditional embroideries of Pakistan that is cherished and admired all across the country and outside as well. The pattern is abstract and geometric with preferably a black background. Initially, the thread used for embroidery was silk and embroidered on cotton fabric but, with changing times, many more types of yarn and textile are in use in the making of Swat embroidery.

The people of Swat valley take immense pride in the work they do, and unlike most of the traditional embroiders/artisans of Pakistan, Swat embroidery employs both, men and women.

With this, we come to an end of our list of handpicked embroideries of Pakistan that continue to be relevant in today's ethnic fashion.

– Posted by Maliha Tabassum