The word 'ikat' refers to the process of resist-dyeing, where bundles of yarn are tightly wrapped together and then dyed to create the desired pattern on the fabric. This is an incredibly complicated process, as the weaver has to precisely dye the threads, and place them correctly on the loom so it forms the desired pattern when woven into cloth. Usually either the warp or the weft yarn is resist-dyed. When both the yarns are dyed, it's called Double Ikat - a rare craft that now survives only in India, Japan, Guatemala and Indonesia.
Hand block printing:
Hand block printing is a labour-intensive and painstaking process. It can take 5 carvers up to 3 days to create an intricate design on a block of teak for use as a printing block. Separate blocks are required for each of the colors used in a design and it is not unusual to have 4 or 5 colors in a professional design. It can take 20 people, each doing a separate task, up to 8 hours to prepare a single block printed garment. With all this, the results can only be unique.
Natural dyes are derived from plants, minerals and other natural resources, which means little or no harmful chemicals are used in their creation. In ancient times, India was unrivalled in its mastery of the pre-treatment of cotton, enabling the production of bright, colour-fast, and washable fabrics. The classic Indigo comes from the leaves of Indigofera Tinctoria, Madder, the red dye, comes from the roots of various Rubia species, brown from Acacia Catechu and yellow from turmeric and saffron.
The tale of Indigo:
Dating back to the Indus Valley civilization more than 5,000 years ago, Indigo is known to be one of the oldest dyes used for textile dyeing and comes from the indigo (neel) plant
India was known to be the first major centre for it’s production and processing in the Old World. Later, it made its way to Ancient Greece and Rome where it was considered a luxury product and used for cosmetics, paints and medicine. Owing to treacherous land trade routes, it remained a rare commodity in Europe throughout the middle ages, due to which alternates had to be used, until the 15th century, when a sea route to India was discovered.
The prefect trading commodity, it was so profitable, and thus valuable, that it was called ‘blue gold’.
The vibrant marigold:
Ah, marigolds! It’s hard to imagine the season of bloom in India without this vibrant flower. It embodies the sun, and all its colour and energy. The flower has a huge spiritual significance in India. They are almost always used for decoration and offering at auspicious occasions across the country.
In Indian life, colours always hold a special importance, which makes the displaying of marigolds even more significant. White is widely accepted as the color of peace and purity. Yellow symbolizes sanctity. Saffron, a soft orange color, is associated with renunciation.
The marigold flower is also source for a beautiful yellow dye. Like other natural dyes, this dye is a renewable and sustainable bio-resource product with minimum environmental impact. The marigold has been known since antiquity for its use, not only in coloration of textiles but also as a medicine and a food ingredient.
A tale of Chanderi:
Chanderi is amongst the best known handloom fabrics of India. It’s a centuries old intricate hand weaving technique of producing finely textured fabrics of silk and cotton embellished with zari.
The fabric gets its name from the town of Chanderi, situated between the hills of Vindhyachal in the state of Madhya Pradesh (MP). The Chanderi town produces three kinds of fabrics: Pure Silk, Chanderi Cotton and Silk Cotton. With around 3,500 looms in working condition, 18,000 people are directly or indirectly dependent on this industry for their living.
The Chanderi fabrics are known for their sheer texture, low weight and a glossy transparency that sets them apart from textiles produced en masse in factories. Traditionally, the fabric was woven using very fine hand spun yarn, which accounted for its delicate texture. Outfits made from this luxurious fabric are unmistakably classy and sophisticated.