Exquisite Afghan textile

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a beautiful Akha quilt that my friend Greg had bought on a recent trip to Burma and Thailand. Last week he lent me another beautiful textile to drool over.

White tunic with embroidered panel.
White tunic with embroidered panel.

This white tunic has the most exquisite panel of embroidery I think I have ever seen. It measures approximately 12″ x 18″ (30cm x 45cm) and is covered in fine, detailed, geometric stitching in silk thread.

Closer view of the embroidered panel.
Closer view of the embroidered panel.

Greg bought this tunic in Quetta, Pakistan and believes that it is the work of Afghan refugees. He wanted to know if I thought it really was hand embroidered. At first glance, you might think that it would be machined with so much detailed work over a large area. But I am convinced that it is completely hand embroidered.

Detailed view of floral motifs covering the central area of the panel. Each motif here measures just 1.5cm x 1.5cm.
Detailed view of floral motifs covering the central area of the panel. Each motif here measures just 1.5cm x 1.5cm.

In the foreground of the above photo, you can see that each tiny stitch is carefully worked between a warp and weft thread. It would be impossible for a machine to pierce the fabric with such fine precision, so this must be worked by hand. It is truly extraordinary – I am in awe and inspired all at the same time ๐Ÿ™‚

More detail...
More detail…
...and more...
…and more…
...and more.
…and more.

I have done a little research on the internet and discovered this link about Afghan textiles at Eternal Threads.

This exquisite embroidery is solid minute stitching with silk thread. Girls learn to do this when they are very young because they must make the front of a tunic shirt solid with this embroidery for their future husbands.”

Whilst I can’t be sure that this tunic falls into the above category, it is certainly something very special that took many, many hours to work. It has clearly been worn as there is some wear around the collar and yet the embroidery is still almost perfect. Truly something to wonderful to behold – and another lovely piece of geometric embroidery to inspire me! Many thanks Greg.

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  1. Thank you for this inspiring and informative post. I have a smaller piece in my collection which I always suspected was Afghan but wasn’t sure. The technique is so subtle and delicate – the ultimate in slow stitching!

    1. Hello Eileen! My apologies for my slow reply – I have had a ridiculously busy week with very litte time at my computer ๐Ÿ™‚ I am so glad you liked this article. And you are so right – this really is an amazing example of simply exquisite embroidery. In case you are interested, I recently found out about an NGO that is helping Afghan women to produce embroidered and handmade items for sale. You can find them online at http://www.afghanartisans.com/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/marketforafghanartisans. I recently supported their crowd funding initiative and am looking forward to receiving some of their handmade items soon.

  2. Hi. I just came across this. actually looking for something completely different. But as a matter of fact I owe several Shalwas like the one you have on this blog. I got them made in Kabul and yes they are usually made by machine, individually. It took the tailor about a week to complete mine. They are worn very regularly in Afghanistan not only for special occasions. I am no expert and I am sure there are many old hand made pieces but mine looks very much like yours just different colours. best – Lukas

    1. Hi Lukas ๐Ÿ™‚ How lucky for you to have several of these! I love the geometric patterns so much. Several textile specialists have had a look at this particular piece and they are sure that this one is handmade. But itโ€™s good to know that they are also being made for more regular wear as well. Thankyou so much for taking the time to share this information with me. Regards Ann-Marie

  3. Then I must consider myself lucky as i know this embroidery. I learnt it from refugees, it’s the toughest one and needs alot of concentration and eye sight of the person must be goodโ˜บ

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