Kabuli Embroidery (Afghanistan)

Kabuli embroidery is associated with Kabul, the capital and largest city of Afghanistan.

The city lies in the east of the country and has a population that includes Hazaras, Pashtuns and Tajiks, and representatives of most of the other ethnic groups of the country, many of whom have their own characteristic forms of embroidery.

Yet, in the second half of the twentieth century, Kabul was particularly famous for three types of embroidery that are associated with the Pashtuns. The first uses silver or gold coloured braids sewn in intricate, geometric designs on the ground material, which is often red velvet. This embroidery, a form of passementerie, is used to decorate garments such as caps, waistcoats and women’s dresses.

The second form of embroidery is based on early twentieth century European patterns, in either satin stitch or cross stitch. Multi-coloured floral motifs are especially popular. This type of work is used for a variety of household items, such as covers, curtains, cushions, etc.

In addition, Kandahar style embroidery, which is also produced in Kabul, is a form of whitework using satin stitch to create intricate geometric patterns, notably eight-pointed star shapes. This type of work is particularly associated with men’s garments and decorates their tunics’ neck openings.

See also the TRC Needles entry on Afghan embroidery and the TRC digital exhibition Dressing The Stans: Textiles, Dress and Jewellery from Central Asia (TRC, Leiden, 2017). 

Literature: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood and Willem Vogelsang, Encyclopedia of Embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indian Subcontinent (London: Bloomsbury Publishing 2021), pp. 190-224.


Last modified on Monday, 17 May 2021 17:03
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