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.
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.
Lace Making: My fascination for handmade laces started three years back in the summers of 2018 when I searched for artisan groups in India to help us recreate old collected laces and trims from Europe. Until then, my knowledge of high-quality handmade laces possible to accomplish in India was limited only to cotton crochet work. However, to my surprise, we found groups of women based in small villages across different states of Southern India, practicing a variety of high-skilled European lace making techniques. (more…)
Textile Crafts of Japan : I had a pink hand-painted pajama set as a child, which came in an artful box, with the inside flap mirrored and beribboned. I loved this so much I never actually wore it but pulled it out at intervals to admire it. This was my first exposure to the miracle of Japanese crafts.
The Story of the Kashmir Shawl
I have a very early memory of a mouse-coloured shawl my mother had which could go through a large man’s ring. I loved doing this so much the shawl was damaged, much to my mother’s dismay. I know today that this was the shahtoosh, made from the hair of the Chiru antelope, now rightly banned because the Chiru is endangered.
Fortunately, all other Kashmir shawls have more benign origins and we can continue reading about them, marvel at their workmanship, and snuggle into their luxurious warmth if we are lucky enough to own one. In India, shawls are often treated as part of a coming of age ceremony, so a girl getting married might get her first shawl as a present from her parents (more…)