Crafts of Tamil Nadu – Applique

Applique work is the use of cloth / felt pieces for decorating fabrics. Cloth or felt pieces are cut into various shapes and sizes. They are stitched over dresses or contrastics fabrics.

Colour plays a major role in all oriental cultures. Any tradition / craft in this part of the world involves bold colours and bright designs.

The traditional “thombai” applique work of Tamil Nadu is one such traditional craft designed to add colour and cheer to celebrations.

Sewing works are mostly used in dress making. Unlike the rest, this applique work is mostly done on Temple decoratives like door banners, decorative cloth pillars, umbrellas etc.

It was done by hand, but of late sewing  machines are used, making the process simpler. This umbrella or canopy has colourful applique work and “kuncham” border.


Parrot designs on umbrella

Parrot designs on umbrella

Mirror work and zari borders are increasingly in use now, adding more beauty to the already beautiful pieces. The below image is the sun motiff with floral border.
Kavadi banner - applique work

Sun design with floral border


During days of maharajahs, when new temples were constructed, years of manual sewing resulted in huge banners and decors for the new temple. Artisans resided at the temple site for years, cutting and stitching colourful thombais and umbrellas needed for the temple.


Banner applique

Cock design with floral border


Every temple, even small ones, have a complete set of  thombais, banners and umbrellas with applique work. They appear at the beginning of any religious procession or temple functions in Tamil Nadu.


Preparing for the start of a procession

Preparing for the start of a procession