11 January, 2018

Patteda Anchu Saree from North Karnataka

Punarjeevana which translates as rebirth is the rebirth of a lost weave, which is now back in demand, courtesy revivalist Hemalatha Jain.

Hemalatha Jain first laid eyes on the Patteda Anchu sari when she visited the Yellamma Saundatti temple in Karnataka. “A priest introduced me to a devadasi who owned the remnants of the sari,” she says. Jain, a textile revivalist and educator, has not just based her PhD thesis on this weave, she has managed to bring it back from the dead. By contemporising what was once a red, chequered cotton sari with a deep yellow border, she is seeking to generate interest and sustain production of this ancient weave.

Temple run

While records of the patteda anchu go as far back as the 10th century, Jain (36) came to learn of its existence from weavers in North Karnataka, while working with them. “I kept hearing about handlooms that were woven earlier, but are not manufactured anymore. This was one of them,” says the Pune-based revivalist, who is pursuing her PhD with NIFT. So she began researching it, a challenging task as there were few available records, no samples, and no weavers who still knew how to make it.

As she delved into the history of the weave, she discovered it was woven centuries ago in and around the villages of Gajendragarh, Belgaum, Raichur, Kodal, Bedar, Bellary, Gulbarga and Dharwad. “It was considered an auspicious garment, offered to the temple goddess when the daughter of a household got married,” continues Jain, who interviewed nearly 700 people from 10 villages to unravel the details.

Jaitly in the picture

Armed with the ragged bits of the sari she’d procured from the devadasi, Jain began scouting for weavers who had the technical knowledge to develop prototypes. She then took the samples to former Samata Party president and founder of the Dastkari Haat Samiti, Jaya Jaitly. “She was so glad to see the patteda anchu that she placed an order for 100 saris,” says Jain.

Jaitly, who herself owns a patteda anchu, remembers seeing it in the markets in the mid-80s. “During my political work, I’d encounter a lot of traditional local handloom and I’ve seen these saris in North Karnataka over 30 years ago,” she says.

100 and counting

The Dastakari Haat Samiti gave Jain an advance of ₹50,000 to start the project, and the 100 saris produced were then marketed and sold at a pop-up organised by Bengaluru-based Registry of Sarees, a community that promotes indigenous weaves. Co-founder Kausalya Satyakumar says the response was excellent. “We are still selling, both in India and abroad,” she says.

While the basic pattern of the sari has been retained — it is a simple, coarse cotton weave with a broad border — its colour has gone beyond the original red and mustard. Jain has extended the palette to eight shades. “And since it has pallus on both sides, it can be draped both ways,” adds Jain.

Today, 10 looms are running with the patteda anchu, says Jain, who hopes that this will lead to the formation of a self-sufficient and cohesive cluster. “The joy of seeing ancient craft back in trend and people making their livelihoods keep me motivated,” she concludes.

Patteda Anchu is a traditional handloom weave from Karnataka made of pure cotton. The pallu comes in 2 shades in each saree. For the non-handloom enthusiast, PA saree will come across as something dull and boring. But it really is isn't the case. It is such a wonderful weave, coarse and lovely. The length of the sari is unbelievable. But the width, I must say, fell small for my height. Nevertheless, it is simple yet elegant. No words to appreciate Hema's work who brought this treasure to all of us. It's so good texture, the double side and double shade borders are thick and we don't need to sitch a falls which will make us wear it in any reverse manner in an easy way. I was left wondering why did this technique go extinct? Many thanks to Hemlata for investing time and effort in reviving this exquisite and functional drape. The saree is so airy, it is perfect for humid Indian summers. I kept me warm in harsh winter also. Once pleated, the pleats stay crisp for hours. and unlike other cotton sarees, this saree can easily be worn 3-4 times before needing to be ironed.
To own a revived weave is to love the history it holds, the craft it embodies and the effort and the journey it has taken to today.
In Hemalatha's words, "Patteda Anchu is a craft or saree for everyone but for me, it's a journey of self-discovery. It made me realise the world is so small and beautiful, full of wonderful experience which teaches different lessons every time. Makes life full of stories with spices which I will cherish always.
Patteda Anchu project has given good livelihood for 30 artisans and decent living. Artisans have left odd jobs and are practising the craft.

09 January, 2018

Khesh saree

Back in the days, one did not know so many names and varieties of sarees. Sarees were either cotton or silk. Then came Kanjeevaram, Banarasis, Chanderis, maybe Maheshwaris, Tussars. But that was about it. With the advent of online social media and online selling, there is an upsurge of varieties of sarees that one wants to acquire. Sarees are not just cotton anymore. They are jute, linen, Taant, Ajrakhs, Gamcha, Mul Mul, Kerala cotton, etc. 

You might get fascinated with names but for your knowledge, Phulia is named after a village. So a saree which comes from this village are phulia sarees. They can be taant, cotton or khadi. Similarly, Dhonekali is named after its village. All have different weaving pattern. 

I am always fascinated by a splash of colours. Show me a myriad of bright colours and you have my attention. So when I came across this Khesh saree through my trusted online seller, I immediately booked it. Needless to say, I loved it. It is light, soft, colourful, cheerful and drapes very well. 

Some tips for online buying of sarees:
Trust the vendors who display their prices transparently vs the ones who say "direct message for asking the price". The former are clear in their dealings. They are daring to reveal the prices. The later are putting a little pressure on you to enquire and buy. They are acting more pricey. Maybe they are in for negotiations and bargaining. Maybe they are scared of their competitors.
Compare, compare and compare. With online shopping, you have the option of comparing the prices of different vendors or sites.
                                                             Tips for buying directly.
Explore government emporiums. Their prices and products are genuine.
Reach the sources. Buy directly from weavers if possible. Have a motto- Weavers not designers. Handloom, not brands.

Read below more information about weaving Khesh.

                               The tales of Khesh Weaving

Khesh Weaving

The khesh weaving process is simple. The warp is with new yarn and the weft is with strips of thin cloth obtained by tearing old sarees lengthwise.
Because of the tradition of khesh weaving in Birbhum in the last many years, a market for old sarees has come up in Amodpur, where old sarees can be bought in bulk by weavers. Many weavers also have their suppliers who gather them from villages, wash them and sell them ready for tearing. Many other weavers depend on householders to give them sarees which get woven into bedcovers for a fee. The weaver needs six sarees for a single bedcover and ten for a double.
Khesh WeavingThe old sarees have to be of cotton in order that they tear easily. Experiments using synthetic sarees have also been undertaken since the propensity to wear synthetic sarees is on the rise even in villages. But the problem with synthetic sarees is that they cannot be torn by hand and have to be cut by scissors. This increases the time for this process and therefore the cost.
The tearing process which is as labour intensive as weaving is typically done by female members of the weaver’s household. Some shortcuts have been found to make the process less tedious and time-consuming. The saree is first torn into five or six parts lengthwise. One end of each part, say about five inches is then torn into strips. The tearer then picks out alternate strips and holds them together in one hand, and the remaining in the other hand. He then pulls in two opposite directions giving him many strips at one go. Typically a saree yields about seventy five to eighty strips.
Once the old sarees are torn into thin strips, the weaver hangs these strips beside him for easy access and weaves with whichever he picks up randomly. And therein lies the beauty of the khesh fabric, the design person or the weaver can only specify the colour of the warp. The colour of the weft is completely a matter of chance. Only when the fabric is woven can one appreciate how the colours in the old sarees have blended into the new fabric.
The weaving can, of course, be done either intensely with the old sarees or with gaps in between depending on the effect desired.
Traditional Khesh
Many of the traditional weavers in Birbhum who have learnt the craft from their fathers agree on the fact that the technique of weaving with shreds of old sarees, called “khesh”, was started in Shilpa Sadan in the early 1920s. This was the vocational training centre that Rabindranath Tagore had set up in Sriniketan, adjacent to Santiniketan which was where his academic institute, Visva Bharati was set up.
Weaving Yardage: Very soon negotiations began with the weavers, traditionally used to weaving bedcovers to weave yardage. Once yardage was available in a variety of colours, more products like table mats, hot water bottle covers, and jackets were added to the existing cushion covers and bags.
When it the earlier woven khesh got off the loom, it was felt the pallu had become too heavy compared to the rest of the saree. The experiment was repeated with spacing out the old saree lines in the pallu instead of intense weaving for the full one metre of the pallu. And a few stripes of khesh were also added in the body of the saree and the balance was just so.
It was then repeated in many colours and the khesh saree became a fashion statement. Now many weavers sell the saree to mainstream retail outlets both in Birbhum and outside. The khesh weaving cluster around Labhpur in Birbhum has truly benefited from this new usage of an old tradition.
Once the experiment with sarees was successful it was easy to convince weavers to try fabric for pants, salwars, kurtas or shirts.
Addition of Leather

08 January, 2018

Vintage Banarasi saree

The saree in the blog is enriched with history. It dates back 35-40 years. My dad bought this bright red saree for mom and us sisters thought that it was too loud and gaudy. We teased mom so much that she hardly wore it. But a blessing in disguise is that this timeless treasure survived almost untouched in mom's closet. Until the time I saw it again recently during my trip to Mommyland. I asked her if I could borrow it. Today I know its worth. It did not seem loud and gaudy anymore. In fact, with changing trends, it emerged as a classic vintage winner.
Banarasi meenakari saree is a timeless treasure collection, with each saree deserving a place in seasoned saree collector's wardrobe. This is a red pure silk handwoven Banarasi saree with gold zari booteh. Banarasi sari is among the finest saris in India. They are known for their gold and silver zari, fine silk embroidery and rich brocade work. An ancient textile, Banarasi sari has stood the test of time making it a true classic. It has seen many adaptations, incorporating aesthetics from dominant design trends of the many cultures it graced and dressed. This ability to adapt to market design influences makes it highly relevant to our modern Indian dressing. Designs today are a revival of the traditional patterns fused with current trends. This particular saree is with kadhwa floral weave- jangla with floral meenakari work, woven to perfection. 
Of course, mom got upset that why we teased her at that time and today I am loving the same saree. That is the beauty of vintage classics. Sarees are like old wines. They get better with age. What might appear too loud today might look very trendy twenty years down the line. But this stands true to handwoven classic weaves not to tacky embroidered or designer sarees. The old colours cannot be reproduced. You might say it is just red. But this kind of special red colour with beautiful work is hard to find or reproduce today. So I loved wearing this vintage enchanting beauty to a wedding.

Oh! the blouse I am wearing is from the time of my wedding. It is actually the blouse I wore for my wedding with lehenga. It has not been altered at all. Wearing vintage saree and blouse, it made sense that I pose with a vintage car. 

07 January, 2018

Dongria saree

Gracefully detailed with a rich woven design on the pallu and temple motifs on the pallu, handloom Dongria saree spells feminine grace and ethnic flair. Dongria, a relatively unknown tribe in Orissa are known for their rustic yet geometric embroidery. This has inspired the skilled weavers of the eastern belt to create design interpretations of this on a variety of loom-created articles.

      Dongrias are a fearless tribe of Odisha. They are one with Nature. No wonder their sarees speak the language of beauty, sincerity and boldness. The Dongria weave is elegance personified.
        Sure, you have everything you want. But it will definitely be worth your while to help the underprivileged community of Dongria from the parched areas of Odisha.
          They are handwoven and the very bright embroidery work in their pallus actually portray the rural landscape in its place of origin in the Nyamgiri hills.

          Recently the Dongria Kondha tribe have won a heroic legal battle against a mining giant who tried to capture their hills.
          This beautiful weave inspired from the tribal woven shawl made by dongria kondha/ tribe group from Odisha. Each geometrical design woven has a close intimacy to nature of these tribal group lives close to nature & love to keep it safe.Khondh is a tribal weave from Odisha, woven on shawls. Dongria Kondhs inhabit the Niyamgiri Hills of Rayagada district and Kalahandi district in Orissa. The patterns are geometric, taken from the shapes of the hills around them. Three shades of yarn are typically used. They are green, yellow and red. Each colour carries some implications manifested with socio-cultural values. Green colour symbolizes hills and mountains, green crop fields, trees, plant species, etc., it is also the reflection of germination of seeds, its growth and spread of branches, prosperity and development of the community. Yellow colour stands for peace, smile, togetherness, health and happiness, family, lineage, village, Mutha (an administrative cum territorial boundary) and community as a whole. It is also regarded as a sign of auspiciousness. The red colour is the symbol of blood, energy, power, revenge, aggression, tit for tat, etc. It also signifies appeasing of deities, gods, goddesses, spirits and ancestors by offering a blood sacrifice of buffaloes, pigs, goats, fowls and pigeons etc. Dongria sarees are inspired by the tribal weaves and likely woven in other areas including Karnataka. Let me spill the bean, there is nothing called “Dongria Saree by the Dongria tribes”. They do not weave sarees under normal circumstances, they weave shawls, coarse, beautiful, mostly in this colour palette.. Odisha weaving clusters are weaving the pattern on different bases, and the result is breathtaking. By all means, do buy those, but do not let fancy wordings fool you to believe that “someone got the last lot from a starving tribes' old hut”. Dongria sarees are not a dying weave, they are alive and kicking. Also, most of the “dying weave” stories are a ploy to charge a premium, visit the state government emporiums once a while. 
          They derive their name from dongar, meaning ‘hill’ and the name for themselves is Jharnia: protector of streams.Dongria is the fearless tribe of Odisha. Their geometric patterns weaves are complicated yet the most beautiful creations by hand. Its loom is a mathematical conundrum with so many colour threads being set up in precision. Big applause and gratitude for our weavers who are able to weave these beauties.