Environmental Impact of Natural and Synthetic Dyes: Imagine a world where everything we wear or surround ourselves with is grey or white.  Colour has been essential to the history of civilization, signaling prestige, hierarchy, and leadership from the Stone Age onwards.  But we pay a heavy price for color in textiles, cosmetics, paper, food, and pharmaceuticals.  And particularly textiles, something we forget or choose to ignore when browsing at stores for the latest color stories.  

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Embroidery As Art: Last week, I attended Shobha Broota’s new show, where she used techniques like crochet and knitting to create unique art. This is, fortunately, a growing trend, but embroidery as art is still a problem area, being associated as it is with women’s work, one that is coming into its own, though.  To take an educated look at the history, we will have to go back to the genesis of needlework.  (more…)

Crochet: My grandmother had a straw box that contained mostly white hanks of thread and red beads. She would take this box out when she wasn’t busy, and magically little doilies with a bead edging would emerge from her fingers. These doilies were used to cover jugs of water and glasses.  I didn’t know it then, but she was crocheting these. Her creations are lost now, but I saw similar ones in a tiny shop in the mountains and immediately bought a few. 

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Threads of Life, We’ve all grown up thinking of sewing and embroidery as women’s work: another unpaid and thankless chore.  Darning socks, sewing on buttons, embroidering a child’s dress with a  motif.  But occasionally, we read something that gives us pause and allows us to look at our preconceived notions afresh.  I was lucky to spot Threads of Life: A history of the world through the Eye of a Needle at my local bookstore. (more…)

Ainu, a Japanese Community that Reveres Textiles

The Ainu. Picture from Thummanit Phuvasatien .

Ainu: We who love textiles know what it is to revere an exceptional piece of weaving or embroidery.  But there is a community where this is literally practiced. And that is by the Ainu. 

History of Ainu

The Ainu have lived on the island of Hokkaido for millennia, populating a culture distinct from the Japanese. Following a Hunter-gatherer lifestyle, they, like most communities that live off the land, revered all things natural. This reverence interestingly extended to tools and clothes, the minutiae of daily life.  One fascinating aspect of their culture is the reverence of bears, which are seen as gods.  The Ainu would often collect bear cubs and bring them up in their homes, exactly as they brought up children.  Eventually, these bears were sacrificed in a ritualistic ceremony,  with their flesh and fur highly valued as divine.  (more…)

Smocking: Those of us who grew up in the 1960s and the decades before then have all worn gingham dresses, very often with smocking. I know that I associate smocking exclusively with dresses for little girls.  But that’s not how the craft started.  In a reversal of timelines from most forms of embroidery, which have been the province of the elite, smocking began as a means to render peasant clothing practical.  And this is what makes it unique among all the forms of embroidery. 

Embroidery Series by Marasim

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Headgear in contemporary times is associated with the outdoors,  with events like Ascot, or with pop culture. There are notable exceptions, like the clergy or royalty. And of course, other than where headgear is associated with religious affiliations, it is no longer de rigueur as a part of daily life.  This wasn’t always the case.  There was a time when headgear was an essential part of apparel, denoting status, religion, and profession, right up to the early 20th century.  

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A Humble Hanky –One of my earliest memories is my mother dabbing her lace-edged hanky with cologne and tucking it into her saree, along with her keys.  To the little me, this seemed the height of femininity and grace.  My mother kept her hankies, like precious keepsakes, in a box with a big bow on it.  A few years later, an aunt gifted me a set of seven, one for each day of the week, embroidered with pixies and flowers.  How delighted I was.  (more…)

The Art of Jewelry: There is something about jewelry that engages even the most Spartan of women. You can see the sparkle of the stone and the metal reflected in their eyes as they bend over the counter.  Because so much of the history of jewelry is tied up with culture and anthropology, innumerable craft techniques have sprung up around it because it is so desirable.  We’ve examined some in our recent blogs. Today, in the concluding one, we will look at a few more. 

RECENT ARTICLES ON THE ART OF JEWELRY

FILIGREE THE LACE IN JEWELRY

THE BEAUTIFUL ART OF ENAMELED JEWELRY

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MICRO MOSAIC A POPULAR ART FROM THE 19TH CENTURY

Embossing: The Art of Jewelry

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Filigree: In the miraculous world and history of jewelry, there is one technique done in precious metal, but visually exactly like lace.  And that is filigree.  As the etymology of the word suggests (filum =thread, granum=grain), filigree involves twisting and curling precious metal threads into elaborate designs.  But that is a tiny part of the story of how complicated the process is. 

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