In response to Jennifer’s comment on my last post, I thought I’d post a bit more about bandhani and dyeing, as otherwise my reply would be rather long!
Sadly, for some reason, I didn’t get any photos of the wedding saris at Kachchhi Print, in Dhamadka – and they don’t have a website. However, it’s easy to find pictures of bandhani wedding saris online – I’ve posted a couple below, just to give you an idea. Many of them incorporate embroidery and brocade, as you can see.
As for the dyes used, I didn’t ask – but I suspect that most of them are chemical dyes. Certainly this article suggests that chemical dyes are in widespread use.
Indian artisans are known for their natural dyeing skills – the wonderful Calico Museum of Textiles in Ahmedebad publishes a book, Natural Dyeing Processes of India, that contains real samples of dyed cloth.
Travels in Textiles gives a wonderfully detailed account of the process of ajrakh block printing by Ismail Mohammed Khatri in Kutch, whom I didn’t manage to visit. The dyeing processes involve indigo, madder, rhubarb root, henna, pomegranate skins and turmeric, among other things! But I guess chemical dyes are so much quicker these days.
The only dyeing I witnessed when I was in Gujarat was in Bhujedi, where a man was dyeing skeins of wool in a large metal pot of chemical dye over a fire. He soaked three skeins of wool in water and then rested them on two metal poles balanced across the rim of the pot. He then dipped each skein in turn into the dye, running his hands along its length to ensure the dye was properly absorbed.
His hands must have been made of asbestos, as he didn’t wear gloves! He said that it took about 30 minutes to dye each skein in this way - the surrounding courtyard was strung with washing lines of red, yellow and blue skeins hung up to dry.
The colour wasn’t entirely even, which led to a pleasing variation in colour of the final pieces that were woven from it next door. I did, however, spy two indigo vats sunk into a corner of the courtyard, which suggests they also used natural fermented indigo.
Also a postscript on bandhani: Having noted that I saw very little stitch resist, there was a wonderful shop, Kamala, run by the Crafts Council of India, in Delhi. This provided a showcase of innovation and fine workmanship, including some lovely woollen scarves and cotton stoles featuring stitch-resist bandhani.
Finally, here’s a video on bandhani, made by House of MG, the hotel we stayed in in Ahmedebad. It’s great watching the artisan using his feet when capping the fabric with plastic to prevent the dye from reaching it, and also shows how they pull it to get all the bindings on the finished piece to pop off.