Before the invention of the sewing machine, garments were stitched together with hands. To innovate a design inseam stitching the chikan worker enjoined the two fabrics at the seams and cut patterns which were then hand sewn to give a seam design. The most popular today are the Machhli, Singhara and Sitara Daraz. This was mainly done on the male kurtas since the Lucknow kurta was a Kalidar kurta different to a Bangla straight kurta.
Out of the 32 stitches, shadow work is one of the most popular stitches, in this stitch the filling is done on the wrong side while the design is bounded by a running stitch on the right side of the fabric to give a neat look, since the stitch is made on the reverse side of the fabric resembling the herringbone stitch. The mesmerising silhouette formed gives the look as if the embroidery is itself the texture of the garment. It is fabled that a Begum, on witnessing a beautiful appliqué dress of a British lady, wanted the same effect in embroidery on her dress, thus, this stitch of chikan was created in circa 18th century. It is done mostly in making petals of a floral motif or leaves giving a visual effect of a patch.
Tepchi is long running or darning stitch worked with six strands on the right side of the fabric taken over four threads and picking up one. Thus, by this a line is formed. Sometimes Tepchi is used to make the “belbuti “all over the fabric. It resembles jamdani and is considered the cheapest and the quickest stitch .This stitch was inspired by Jamdani, a fine muslin fabric with mostly floral designs woven in Dhaka where it's also known as Dhakai. Since a few hundred years earlier, Jamdani was not readily available in Lucknow; the Ruasa (elite class) wanted to replicate this fabric but since there were no weavers to make Jamdani in Lucknow, chikan workers were deployed to create something closest to Jamdani. After much cogitation the stitch of tepchi was created and dense floral patterns were embroidered. If done finely, it would be difficult to differentiate it from the woven fabric of Jamdani.
Tepchi is sometime used as a base for working other variations and Pechni is one of them. Here the Tepchi is covered by entwining the thread over it in a regular manner to provide the effect of something like a lever spring and is always done on the right side on the cloth.
It is the grass leaves formed by V-shaped line of stitches worked in a graduated series on the right side of the fabric. It is occasionally done within parallel rows to fill petals and leaves in a motif, called Ghas patti.
Ghas patti and Chanapatti: During the Nawabi rule of Lucknow, the highfalutin ladies of that era employed chikankari workers for their personal attendance and adorned themselves in the best attires hand crafted by the nimble fingers of these artisans. To create newer designs different stitches were to be used. One such stitch was introduced as Ghas patti, which is in the form of grass blades stacked in a row. An improvisation was done in this stitch by parting it from the centre, like it is in done in a hairstyle, thus it is called maangdaar Ghas patti. In a more or less similar way, short drawn stitches are made to give a leafy look, to be known as Chanapatti, resembling the tiny leaf of a pea plant. Chana Patti is similar to Ghas patti but its motifs are smaller.
Phanda refers to knots that are in the shape of Millets. Phanda is considered to be a more intricate version. Here, there are knots created. However these knots are much smaller and far more delicate. . It’s mostly used in making the centre of the flowers in simple Chikankari design motifs. It is a knot type of a millet shaped stitch. The Indian dishes have coriander powder as an ingredient. In the days of yore, all the spices used for cooking were ground in the houses itself, so was coriander seed. It is said that while grinding coriander seeds in an "ahandasta " (a metal pot with a metal grinder) a few fell on the cloth. On seeing the natural layered construction of the seeds an idea struck the mind of a chikan worker watching it. She developed that stitch and wound it in a way to give it a shape of a coriander seed (Dhania). It is also called Phanda for as the name denotes a knot in the literal translation.
Ulti Bakhiya is criss crossing of thread work on fabric, reverse of shadow work. It gives the look as if the embroidery is itself the texture of the garment. The floats lie on the reverse of the fabric underneath the motif. The transparent muslin becomes opaque and provides a beautiful effect of light and shade.
The Begums often supervised the cooking done in the zenankhana. Basmati rice when cooked used to be strained in a fine muslin cloth to drain off the starch so that each elongated grain remained separate. After being put back in the pot, few grains of rice stuck to the fabric, caught the attention of the Begum who fascinated by the design asked her embroiderers to create it with a stitch and Murri stitch was created. This stitch in its fine form resembles an embossed grain of rice.
Hool is a fine detached eyelet stitch. In this, a hole punched on the fabric, and the threads teased apart. It is then held by small straight stitches all around and worked with one thread on the right side of the fabric. Can be worked with six threads and often forms the centre of a flower.
To adorn the petals and floral motifs keel kangan stiches are used.
Jaali stitch is one where the thread is never drawn through the fabric, ensuring that the back portion of the garment looks as impeccable as the front.