Some scholars feel that the art of Phulkari came from Iran where it is known as Gulkari. Some feel it came from Central Asia along with Jat tribes who migrated to India and settled in Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat. Simple and sparsely embroidered Phulkari Odhni (Scarfs) made for everyday use, are called Phulkaris, whereas embroidery that cover the entire body, made for special and ceremonial occasions, are known as Baghs (gardens) In this style the embroidery covered every inch of the entire base material so that the cloth was completely invisible.They were embroidered by the women for their own use or use of other family members and were not for sale in the market. Thus, it was purely a domestic art which satisfied their inner urge for creation. In this way, it was a true folk craft. Custom had grown to give Phulkaris and Baghs to brides at the time of marriages.
The darn stitch is used in Phulkari work while the base material for the embroidery has traditionally been natural dyed hand loom. Colours like white, dark blue, black and brown were used for the base material but the preferred colour was red. The embroidering is done from the reverse side of the fabric with the silk yarn which gives a shaded effect to the fabric. The uniqueness of this work is that the fabric itself is used as an inner decoration so that the pattern sewn on becomes an integrated combination of colours. The smoothness on the reverse of the fabric speaks volumes of the quality of workmanship and skill of the embroider. The motifs which are inspired by vegetables are Karela Bagh, Gobhi Bagh, Dhaniya Bagh and Mirchi Bagh while motifs based on the famed gardens are Shalimar Charbagh and Chaurasia Bagh. Satrangas are seven-coloured motifs and Panchrangas are five-coloured motifs while the most common and a beautiful motif is based on the wheat and barley stalks.