I was really looking forward to seeing a lot of Indian bandhani, or tie-dye, while I was in Gujarat. And I wasn’t disappointed!
Bandhani is so popular in this area that a lot of it is now printed rather than tied and dyed by hand. It’s usually quite easy to tell whether a fabric has been printed rather than tied, as the dots are too regular – they lack the organic irregularities of something produced by hand. Also, the printed fabrics are usually synthetics, whereas the hand-tied pieces are cotton or silk.
However, just to reassure customers that fabrics are tied by hand, many shops leave the binding on, and just untie one or two sections to show the pattern. I love this, because for me the most exciting part of shibori is undoing the resist to see the final result for the first time.
So by buying a piece of bandhani that is still bound, I get the vicarious thrill of seeing the result without having to do all the work! 😉
The shots of different bandhani saris below were all taken at a market in Chhota Udepur, eastern Gujarat. It’s a big tribal area, and it was fascinating to see bows and arrows for sale alongside more conventional fruit and veg!
From the pictures you can see that most of the bandhani is of the tied variety, but I did spot one sari that used a stitch resist. Given the area’s reputation for stitching, I wonder why stitch isn’t used as a resist more often.
The skill needed to bind the dot patterns ratchets up to a whole new level for silk wedding saris.
At Kachchhi Print, in Dhamadka, it was incredible to watch the wife of the proprietor demonstrate her tying skills on a silk jacket she was making. In the photo below, the marks on the fabric are where the dots are to be tied, and you can see the density of the knots that she has already tied.
Tying at this level is usually restricted to wedding saris, which take around a month to make and start from around £100. Even though this was a relative bargain I couldn’t really justify buying 6.5 metres of such fine work, but at Kala Raksha later in the trip I found some very fine bandhani scarves that were more manageable in terms of size and weight!