OriginsAfghanistanNigeriaRussiaGhanaPanamaChinaChinaThe BalkansHungaryJapanJapanPakistanPhilippinesSyriaUkraine

Shawl (phulkari)

The cotton ground cloth for the shawl is plain-woven and dyed dark red. Red is considered a good omen in south Asia, and the golden wheat-coloured allover embroidery symbolizes fertility. The embroiderer creates the patterns in satin stitch by laying long stitches on the front of the cloth and short ones on the back. She sees only the back of the cloth while she sews, yet her proficiency allows her to cover the front with precise patterns using touch, and by counting threads in the grid of the woven fabric.

Where was this textile created?

World map preview image


Shawl (phulkari)
Asia: South Asia, Pakistan, Punjab
c. 1940
Woven cotton cloth embroidered with silk
247 cm x 126 cm
From the Fitzgerald Collection
T00.45.48 Textile Museum of Canada

On her wedding day, a Punjabi bride wears a bagh phulkari (garden flower work) made by her family or her groom’s family. This bagh phulkari consists of three narrow panels of dark red cotton that were joined after being embroidered with diamond patterns of bright yellow silk thread. The diamonds of contrasting colours at the edges are known as nazar, or talismans, whose purpose is to avert the evil eye. The small omissions in the patterns are sewn deliberately to avoid perfection, as it may attract evil.

For Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities in the Punjab, every aspect of this shawl is steeped in tradition and meaning. It is a powerful expression of the love and care her community gives to a bride at the moment of her transition into wedded life.

Do an Activity!
Test your knowledge of textiles and discover something new. You have four adventures to choose from.

Make a Mola Paint by Plant Magic Carpet Animal Know How