While the men worked in the fields in the wine-like [winter] air, the women sat in the afternoon sun spinning and embroidering while they sang together, before starting to cook for their men. They embroidered phulkaris….” (Tandon 1968, 65). These stereotypes of feminine and masculine work in Prakash Tandon's memory book Punjabi Century illustrate dominant literary representations of economic production in Punjab, a province of the British Raj from the mid-nineteenth century until it was partitioned between independent India and Pakistan in 1947 (see fig. 1). Many Punjabi women used phulkari (literally, “flower-work”) embroidery to decorate their daily garments and handmade gifts in the nineteenth century. Illustrations only partially convey the vibrant visual impact of phulkaris, and even color photographs fail to capture fully the sheen of the silk thread. The embroidery ranges from striking geometric medallions in reds, shocking pinks, and maroons, through almost monochromatic golden tapestry-like, fabric-covering designs, to narrative embroideries depicting people and objects of rural Punjab. Women stitched phulkaris generally on handwoven cotton cloth (khadi), and phulkaris shared linked construction techniques, a dominant embroidery stitch (the darning stitch), and several distinctive motifs (Frater 1993, 71–74; Yacopino 1977, 42–45; Askari and Crill 1997, 95–101).

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