The use of beads in designing clothing is as old as human history. Initially, beads were used as curative agents, good luck charms and talismans in religious rituals. Today, the art of beadwork has taken a firm footing in traditional and Indo-Western fashions. Beautiful beadwork can be seen in both loom and off-loom lacing such as stringing, bead crochet, bead knitting and bead embroidery.
History and Origin of Beadwork
The use of beadwork embroidery can be traced prior to the Ice Age. During this time, beads were made from egg shells, sea shells and seeds. In Iraq, archaeologists have unearthed 5,000 year old tombs of human skeletons wearing intricately stitched beaded headdresses. Similarly in Europe, human burials were unearthed that displayed linen and wool embellished by bone needles.
From the period of Kings, Queens and empires, pearls were the dominant ‘bead’ used in decoration. Apart from ornamental wear, pearls were used in a variety of home furnishings as well such as table cloths, curtains and napkins. With the introduction of fine-toothed needles, embroidery was also incorporated with beadwork. Some of the stitches used with beads include the back stich, chain stich, herringbone stitch, single stitch, the crouching stitch and cross stitch.
In the Middle Ages, beadwork was considerably used to embellish fancy boxes, pictures, shoes and purses. During festive occasions such as holidays, weddings and parties, members of the royal family and nobility were often dressed in clothing adorned with rhinestones, pearls and other fancy beadwork. This trend was brought over from Persia by the Mughals and has remained till this day.
Today, there is not a single saree, lehenga choli, salwar kameez or any other form of Indian attire that does not contain some form of beadwork. It has become an inherent part of Indian fashion. This fancy beadwork is also noticeable on bags, purses, footwear and most notably, jewelry.
Hand embroidered beadwork continues to be an essential component of Indian handicraft culture. It’s fine craftsmanship and finish is hallmark of our rich culture.
The use of beadwork has a global presence as well. It is often seen on haute couture garments produced by famous fashion houses such as Karl Lagerfeld, Marchesa and Chanel.
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