Textile tour of India, D for Dabu, E for Embroidery, F for Felted Rugs

Textile tour of India D, E, F

We continue our textile tour of India through @theindianheritagehut with the letters D, E & F

D for Dabu

The word Dabu originates from the Hindi word ‘Dabana’ meaning ‘to press’. It is an ancient mud resist hand block printing technique, the origins of which can be traced to about 675 A.D. The craft almost died out in the pre-independence era due to the influx of cheap machine printed alternatives in the market. Interest in this craft was revived along with the renewed interest in ethnic textiles in the 21st century. 

 Dabu designs and motifs are nature inspired designs of plants, birds, flowers, fruits as well as artistic ethnic motifs and geometric shapes, dots and wavy lines etc.

The process of Dabu printing is complicated, lengthy and laborious. First, the plain fabric received from the mills is carefully washed to remove any impurities which may interfere with the dyeing process. Then, designs are hand block printed (dipped in fast dyes) onto the fabric. The next and crucial step involves the use of the mud resist which makes this print so unique. Ingredients like mud, gum, lime and waste wheat chaff are combined to make the ‘dabu’ or mud resist paste which is then patted over certain parts of the design.  The paste is dried with sprinkled sawdust. This covering essentially protects these parts of the fabric from the dye used later on, creating a unique and colorful effect. After this process of printing, the fabric is spread out in the sun where it completely dries out. It is then dipped into a vat of dye, dried again and finally given a thorough washing to remove the paste and any excess dye. The dyes used are typically natural vegetable dyes and pastes like kashish (grey-brown) and indigo (blue), as well as yellows and reds derived from fruits like pomegranate. Thus the unprotected parts of the fabric catch the color while the dabu covered bits remain plain. The fabric may be dyed more than once in different colors to give each part of the design a different hue.

The village of Akola, in the Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan, is the originator of the unique Daboo printing style which uses mud resists. 

Dabu textile


E for Embroidery

Countless rich handloom textiles of India come alive with its  equally refined and classic techniques of embroideries. Embroidery is like “a painting with a needle”. Influenced by the various cultures that India has imbibed through innumerable invasions and settlements, embroidery from every region has a flavour of its own. Basic stitches like the satin, stem, chain, darning, running and herring-bone are commonly used in different types of embroideries in a multitude of ways with varying inspiration to create unique patterns. The country boasts of innumerable forms of embroidery techniques, some of which we may cover separately under relevant alphabets. 

Technique of embroidery traces its origins to China. Archaeological findings such as bronze needles have been found at Mohenjodaro, 2500 B.C.- 1500 B.C. confirm the existence of needlework, which later formed the embroidery technique. It grew to remarkable levels under Emperor Akbar’s rule in the 16th Century, due to his keen interest in the aesthetics of textiles.

Example of embroidery during Mughal Era in India
Image credit: V& A Museum. Hunting coat detail, India, Mughal dynasty, ca. 1620–30. Embroidered satin with silk, 97 x 91.44 cm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, IS.18–­1947

Kashida, Phulkari, Kantha, Kasuti, Chamba Rumal,  Chikankari, Gota, Gara, Toda, Zardozi, Aari, Mirror work, Rabari, Sujaini, Mukaish, Kutch, Banjara are different forms of embroideries in India.

F for Felted rugs (Namda)

Namda is the craft of making carpets by felting. This craft is said to have traveled to Kashmir from Iran along with a Sufi Saint, ‘Amir kabi Shah- e-hamdan’ around 600 to 700yrs ago, who wanted to create work opportunities for the locals.  

The history of the Namda rug goes back to the eleventh century when a man named Nubi created a felted covering for Akbar's ill horse. 

The rugs are made from the wool of indigenous sheep in Kashmir which is felted not woven, giving it a unique texture. The felting process begins by enmeshing layers of evenly laid, clean wool fibers with the help of moisture, soap and mechanical pressure, often applied with a tool called pinjra. The sheet is rolled up against a jute mat and is moved in a to and fro motion. It is further tied up to squeeze out excess moisture. The rug is rolled for hours till it is sturdy enough. Finally, the carpet is embellished either by patches of coloured felted wool or with Kashmiri aari embroidery.

 Wool felting   Wool felting

Nanda rug with Aari Kaam

Image credit: theshantihome on Etsy

The felted carpets are predominately made of pure sheep wool. The sheep wool ‘kat yer’ required for this technique is locally bought from Badgam, Pahalgam and Naushera. Namdas made from Kullu Kangra wool are known to have more strength. 

Info source: utsavpedia indiaheritagewalks,

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