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Textile tour of India P, Q, R

Textile tour of India P, Q, R

Our textile tour now takes us to P, Q, R

P for Patan Patola

  • Did you know the price of patola (Rs 120) in the 1930s was higher than gold (Rs 18 per tola)? Today the price range starts from Rs 1 lakh for a handwoven patola.

  • There is a famous Gujarati saying that patola cloth may tear, but the design and colour never fades. 

Both these interesting facts aptly describe the intrinsic value of the craft of ‘patola’ – a double-ikat woven sari usually made from silk in Gujarat’s Patan town. 

The word patola derives from the Sanskrit word ‘pattakulla’, which means a silk fabric. The earliest mentions of the craft can be found in the ‘Narasimha Purana’, where it mentions that women wore it for holy ceremonies. 

Patola entered Gujarat in the 11th century via Maharashtra’s Jalna district. King Kumarpal of Solanki dynasty in Patan (the then capital of Gujarat) considered fabric as a symbol of wealth and faith. He considered patola in the highest regard as he believed it kept devil and bad health at bay. Since it takes a minimum of six months of rigorous work to make one hand-woven patola (measured 5 metres), he hired 700 families to create a new patola wear everyday for him for his daily temple visits. That’s how the Patan became a hub of a highly prized craft that prospered between the 11th and the 13th century. 

Patola is probably the only artwork done in reverse order as the threads are dyed first according to the pattern. It is only during the weaving process that dye marks align forming a pattern on the cloth. No wonder it is often referred to as the ‘mother of all ikats’. It requires precise calculations as each square, line or pattern has to settle correctly. The set is wasted even if a single yarn is misaligned.

The process of tie-dyed design on warp and weft threads takes 3-4 months for a sari of six yards. It takes eight weavers to work for five days a week to complete the process within six months. The final product is reversible, which means it looks the same from both sides. 

Info credit - thebetterindia

Q for Quilting

My earliest childhood memories are made up of cozy ‘godharis’, sewn together with my grandmother’s and mother’s old cotton soft sarees. I also remember my mother sitting and designing ‘duptis’, small quilts, for new born babies of our relatives and family friends. Hence quilting always invokes a very warm and nostalgic feeling for me. 

Quilts are an integral part of the Indian culture with a long history. They exemplify the continuity intrinsic in the Indian way of life. It is a technique born out of necessity and evolved into several interesting crafts thereon. 

Quilts are typically made of scraps and worn-out fabric stitched together with old sari threads using needle and thread. The layers of cloth are spread on the ground, held in place with weights at the edges, and sewn together with rows of large basting stitches. The first recorded quilt (kantha) is more than 500 years old.

Each region in India has its own unique style of quilting e.g.- the myths and motifs that are part of Bengal’s intricate kanthas, the koudis of Karnataka, the resplendent gudris of Rajasthan, the intricate Indo-Portuguese quilts of Goa, quilted palampores,the ledras of Jharkhand, the razais of UP, the reverse appliquéd dharkis and the godris of Gujrat are , and Odisha’s appliqués are all studied here. Perhaps this variety of quilting genres that set Indian Quilts apart from quilts in other parts of the world.

American author Patrick J Finn has travelled across India researching the country’s many wonderful quilting traditions and wrote a book called Quilts of India - Timeless Textiles.

Info credit - wikipedia, Hindusthan times

Quilts of India

R for Rabari Embroidery

Rabari embroidery gets its name from the community, Rabari, from Bhujodi, who were a nomadic/ semi nomadic community of cattle raisers living in Rajasthan and Kutch region in Gujarat.  Traditionally, the men followed their cattle, camels and sheep, while the Rabari women lived in permanent villages. Rabari women are famous for their embroidery skills, which are passed from mother to daughter. Girls spend several years creating embroidered pieces for their own dowry.

There are several different styles of Rabari embroidery, mainly observed in the placement of the mirrors and the fascinating stitches made along the borders. At the beginning of the twentieth century Rabari embroidery was known for its use of delicate stitch work.  By the end of the twentieth century, it is characterised by its use of mirrors (shisha) surrounded by colourful embroidery.

A unique feature of Rabari embroidery is the extensive use of mirrors (shisha) in many different shapes and sizes, with the most common forms being lozenges, round, rectangular, square and triangular shapes, although sometimes tear drop forms are also used. Many of the large and bold designs are inspired by Rabari mythology and their desert habitation. The basic pattern is normally worked on a dark ground, with the individual motifs being outlined with chain stitch and then filled in with buttonhole stitch and herringbone stitch, all in brightly coloured threads. In addition, back stitch (bakhiya) is used to decorate the seams of women’s blouses and on men’s jackets (kediyun).

This embroidery has formed the basis of economy in the Kutch regions of Gujarat for the Rabari folk. With the support of Kala Raksha, more and more artisans are getting monetary benefits from this culture. Today, Kutchi embroidery is one of India’s largest exports.

Kala Raksha

Image credit: Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya 

Info credit - Textile Research Centre, Utsavpedia

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