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…)

Indian Floral : For centuries, plants and flowers have inspired Indian artists of different genres. The lotus flowers and floral meanders depicted in the Buddhist sites dating back to the 3rd century, the depiction of Hindu God Vishnu on a throne of a lotus flower, and the famous paintings of Ajanta and Ellora caves from the 5th century are the most excellent and oldest examples depicting florals in Indian Art. However, florals did not become the design language for Indian textiles for a long time, not until the beginning of the Sultanate Period in the twelfth century when Islamic culture started influencing Indian art & design.

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Madras Checks: My all-time favorite, and always in fashion, Madras checks stem from a humble origin with fascinating and quirky twists and turns in their journey.

The Origin of Madras Checks Fabric

Around the 12th century, Madras Checks was a piece of handloom clothing for India’s peasant class in the village called Madraspatnam (Madras now Chennai). The local weavers would extract the soft fibers from the “tip-skin” of native trees to weave 36″ wide square handkerchiefs, which were then block printed with bright colored check patterns.  They were worn as a garment similar to a sarong wrapped around the waist and extending to the ankles, called a lungi.

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The Story of Indian Kalamkari
Lavanya Mani kalamkari Art

The Story of Indian Kalamkari : Imagine a textile that is traditionally hand-painted with a bamboo pen, has a history which goes back 3000 years, and was partly instrumental in India losing her independence. That is Kalamkari, with its Persian root ‘Ghalam’ or pen, and ‘Kari’ or craftsmanship.

Kalamkari in its current form, where resist dyed fabrics are hand painted, is believed to have originated in the 8th century AD, though painted fabrics have been discovered in the Indus Valley Civilisation. This was a time when religious traditions and tales from Hindu mythology were handed down orally by itinerant minstrels, similar to traditions in Europe. Kalamkaris with depictions of tales from Hindu mythology, were a visual aid to these minstrels. In a sense, their purpose was similar to the stained glass of churches in Europe.

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