An applique tradition from Gujarat and Rajasthan, katab applique is traditionally practised by women of the Meghwal, Rabari and Mahajan communities. Most present-day katab artisans come from families who migrated to India during the Partition, or more recently from Rajasthan to Gujarat and are now mostly based in Vadodara, Rajkot and Ahmedabad. Katab textiles have historically also been used by the Sodha Rajput and Mutwa communities in the region, particularly as part of dowries and bridal trousseaus. While its traditional uses take the form of torans, chandarvos (wedding canopies) and ralli (patchwork quilts), contemporary katab is applied to a variety of garments and household textiles.
Like many applique crafts, katab is executed using waste fabric and can be stitched using the direct and reverse applique techniques. The cloth to be appliqued is cut into specific shapes that are then arranged according to the planned design. These units are triangular pieces, squares called chitkis and strips of cloth. The resulting designs are usually symmetrical and geometric, but sometimes also floral. If the quantity of fabric allows for it, the artisan may also stack multiple pieces of cloth together, iron them down and use them as a single unit while stitching, thus sharply raising the texture of the overall design. The relatively more prized katab textiles usually have a muslin base and appliqued layers of mashru, bandhani or patola fabric, and may also be embellished with ajrakh prints.
While the craft has largely been self-sustained within a network of communities in Gujarat and Rajasthan, artisans are additionally supported by the Gujarat State Handicrafts and Handloom Development Corporation and organisations like Katab: Not Only Money, founded by designer LOkesh Ghai. This aid takes the form of developing a broad design vocabulary for artisans, guiding them on market forces in contemporary fashion and published research that helps maintain an academic interest in katab.
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