We just got back from India - a whirlwind trip of only six days. It was exhausting to cram the whole buying trip into this short of a schedule. Our first four days were spent doing the bulk of our work - buying furniture - (look for a post on that soon) - so that left two short days for the colorful work of selecting textiles. At any level, Jaipur is an amazing resource for textile junkies like myself - but for shopkeepers and dealers it is truly unparalleled. There is so much ethnic stitchwork stockpiled here it is just astonishing. The many warehouses and workshops that serve the international textile community are literally piled to the rafters with both vintage and new work. The collective amount of hours of mostly women's work this equates to is unimaginable - billions of hours of hand-placed tiny stitches...
Much of the mirror work and embroidery that one thinks of as distinctly Indian-looking is created by semi-nomadic tribal groups, including the Rabari and Banjara. Rajasthan and Gujarat, in particular, produce much of the intricate handwork that is found on clothing, animal trappings, bags and other household items.
I am looking through piles of patchworked, overdyed blankets that we buy to have cut into pillows. Each patch is made from the yolk or sleeve of traditional embroidered clothing. Once the individual patches are all sewn together, a unifying bath of sepia toned dye is applied, and a neutral ground achieved.
Linda digs through a bajillion kantha blankets to find the couple dozen that we end up purchasing.
It takes hours to look through even a tiny fraction of the inventory in these places. The stock seems truly endless. Below I am looking through Rabari skirts that we have made into tote bags. While I would love to buy them as actual skirts, most of the actual village pieces belonged to tribal women who have waists that would put Scarlett O'Hara to shame - they are TINY! Some of the skirts we selected are at right.
Above - mirror work panels that will be made into one-of-a-kind pillows. The tiny mirrors catch the light, the zillions of tiny stitches create a kaleidoscope of color and contrast. Tossed in with a few solid pillows, these beauties can really make a room. I've read that long ago blue-black beetles were originally used to add this sparkle to wedding outfits - but devout Hindus objected. Apparently mica was first substituted, and then the mirrors that we see today. The truly handmade shisha mirrors are handblown and thus slightly convex - makers blow a large bubble of glass and then break it into smaller sections to stitch into place. Increasingly rare, they are now most often replaced by machine made glass. We like to look for the old, dusky curved ones that show their age.
Above Banjara belts that will be cut and made into pouches. I carry mine all the time in my purse for essentials, and break it out as a funky clutch for evenings.
Above - Phulkari stitched pillow covers from Pakistan in all their intricate glory. These pieces are completely covered in the tiniest of silk stitches.
We spent hours looking through block printed yardage to make dozens of lightweight quilts and pickstitch blankets. Each pattern will be available in king and queen sizes and will have coordinating Euro pillows. We went with a pretty blue theme this time - indigo love!
Sparkly, large scale shawls that can be used as back of sofa throws, or as fabulous small table cloths.
Pickstitched all by hand, these blankets make a simple, tribal statement. Beautiful bedcovers, they are all cotton and the perfect weight for layering.
Can't wait for all these goodies to come in! All the separate shipments should be here by the end of August. We will keep you posted!!