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Indian Textile Tour
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Indian Textile Tour
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The variety and abundance of handcrafted textiles in India is unmatched anywhere in the world. Traveling through the country is an adventure of discovery. Indian women still wear traditional clothing almost exclusively and provide a walking display of brilliant colored and interestingly decorated fabrics everywhere one looks. Regional areas have their special types of weaves and embellishments giving new interest as one travels through divergent areas.

Ikat - is a type of weaving where the warp, weft or both are tie-dyed before weaving to create designs on the finished fabric. Great care must be taken in tying resist areas with water repellent material such as bicycle inner tubes cut into strips. The precision of the wrapping determines the clarity of the design. After wrapping, the warp threads are dyed. When finished and unwrapped, the areas under the ties have stayed the original color.

Patan Patola Numerous colors can be added after additional wrappings. Designs generally are worked out on graph paper. Great care must be taken in putting the warp on the loom, keeping all the threads in position is necessary for the design to work. The natural movement during weaving gives ikat designs a feathered edge which characterize this technique

Patan Patola - Gujarat, in northern India is home of one of the most famous ikat traditions called the Patan Patola. These silk fabrics are double ikat, traditionally done with vegetable dyes, but now using chemical dyes. The complexity of having both the warp and weft resist dyed makes the actual weaving much more demanding of precision. The intersection of these threads must be precise or the design is lost.

A sari length takes two men seven months to complete. Therefore it is no wonder that Patola weaving is dying out, with only two families remaining at the craft. These saris are prized pieces , but have been so throughout history. Mr. Salvi weaves on the special loom

Koyalagudum - Andhra Pradesh is one of the busiest hand weaving villages centered around a co-operative producing thousands of meters of ikat each month. They specialize in warp ikat particularly suitable for furnishing fabrics made from cotton. Saris are also produced, this demand never ending as the average middle class woman owns at least 100 saris. Each weaver works from home with all the family helping in different processes.

Bandhani Orissan style of ikat has a long tradition dating back at least to the 12th century. Weavers migrated from the Patan area bringing the basic techniques which then developed over time to a unique style of flowing designs. The resist tying is done finely on two-thread units giving greater detail and fine curves. These units are tied freehand without marking out the threads beforehand. These men are opening out a newly dyed warp.

Tie - Dye in India
Bandhani is a tie-dye technique where small dots are tied with thread all over fabric to create designs and motifs. Young men sit all day tying thousands of these little spots. After tying, the fabric is dyed. Then the ties are removed revealing fabric with designs and texture created by the ties. This labor intensive craft is practiced in both Rajasthan and Gujarat with the finest work being done in Mandvi, the Kutch.

Laharia Turbans are often decorated with Leharia, a technique of resist wrapping and dyeing practiced in Rajasthan which creates wavy lines. These turbans are 9 meters long. This guard at the Jodhpur Fort boasted that he could put on his turban in 30 seconds.

Embroidery & Applique
Rabari Tribal Women Rabari Tribal women of Gujarat have traditionally embroidered their dowry consisting of clothing and house hold items. Although these women are married off at a young age, they stay with their parents until the embroidery is finished. This could take years. Each woman embroiders the same traditional design with only slight variations. Each tribe in geographical localities have their own specific designs.

The homes have a special cupboard especially to store the embroidery work. Groups to the west have found that tourists are very eager to buy this work and have started to sell off old family pieces and to produce work just for the tourist market which is not done with the same love and care as for their own dowry. However the supplement to the family income has been extremely helpful.

Banjara tribal women near Hyderabad wear blouses and head scarves embroidered and decorated with mirrors. These women are mainly laborers but wear all their jewellery and embroidered clothing to do heavy work which could consist of road construction or brick carrying. These women are having a day off on a national holiday. The Banjaras are descended from the original gypsy originating in North Western India.

Block Printing
Block Printing Dhamadka a village in Gujarat has many printers using predominantly madder root for red, rusty iron solution for black and indigo for blue. These fabrics are known as Ajrakh. The designs are geometric. Many states have block printing workshops using chemical dyes. However there are only small pockets of areas still using natural dyeing with age old recipes and local plant material.

Masuliputnam in Andra Pradesh is the main centre of block printing where the fabric is known as Kalamkari. The cloth used generally is mill made cotton first bleached with cow dung and placed in the sun. The next step is to soak the cloth in a mixture of Myrobalan and milk. The Myrobalan contains tannic acid and acts as a mordant helping the dye stuffs to bond with the fibre. The buffalo milk, having high fat content, helps prevent the dye from running.

Next the black outline is printed using a solution made with rusty iron soaked in sugar water and bran for several weeks. When the solution comes in contact with the myrobalan it turns black. The next step is printing on mordant, alum. This bonds the red dye, Madder Root, after boiling, to the areas that receive the alum. These steps continue until all colors have been printed or brushed on. It is necessary to have a good water supply for washing after printing. It takes weeks to complete all the steps. My admiration goes to these artisans producing beautiful textiles with such time consuming techniques

Rajasthani Block Printing Near Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh the workshop of Creative Bee, owned by Bina and Keshav Rao, uses both chemical and vegetable dyes. These blocks, carved out of hardwood, are typical of the hundreds they have. Combining numerous blocks creates unlimited designs. Customers pick the blocks and colors for custom orders. Besides using traditional motifs, Bina Rao designs contemporary blocks to meet fashion demands. Keshav is researching and developing new colors using natural dyes to create more eco-friendly textiles.

In Rajasthan hand woven cotton is printed with dye and then over printed with a mud compound used as a resist. When the mud dries the entire fabric is dyed in an Indigo bath. The areas covered with mud retain the red design while blue penetrates the remainder. The two designs on sale at this stall were called "young woman's cloth" and "old woman's cloth

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