IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Fabric From Far Away Places
By Laura Ellen Brandjord
My reasons for not pursuing a career in my mother’s footsteps as an interior designer are varied but essentially boil down to different interests. However, I must admit putting together fabrics to match a specific flooring or what-have-you can be pretty fun on occasion. If I even dare say I do a decent job at it too, it’s only because of my mom’s influence. To this day she’s always busy thoughtfully matching back splashes with hardwood and window treatments with fabric from a pillow, whether in our own house or one of her client’s. So when I found myself in India, the undisputed nation of textiles, I knew I had an amazing opportunity to find my mom a gift she would really love and also be able to utilize. What proved more difficult was deciding where and furthermore, what kind of fabric to get. Not only is every state known for a specific textile, small pockets of villages are known for their own unique fabric arts as well.
Fortunately, the director of my study abroad program through the American Institute of Foreign Study (AIFS) coordinated a group field trip to the village of Puttapaka. Located outside of the city of Hyderabad where I was attending university, Puttapaka is a small village inhabited entirely by traditional ikat weavers. These families are the same ones which created the sought after textile for the royalty of centuries before. Known for its unique patterns, you may be surprised to find you already have something ikat. In recent years it has become popular for everything from plates to bedspreads and usually marketed as a “tribal” print. While these heavily commercialized applications simply digitally print the pattern on the desired medium, the process of developing a true ikat textile is much more involved.
Ikat is a unique textile in many ways, but perhaps the most striking way is that the pattern is dyed on the yarn before it is woven. This is accomplished through a unique tie dyeing process guided by a grid paper mock-up of the desired end pattern. If the particular textile is a single ikat, only the vertical set of yarn is dyed in this matter, in the case of a double ikat both the vertical and horizontal groupings of yarn are dyed to the pattern.
Traditionally, only the men of the society were trained in the art of weaving while the women were responsible for all other aspects of the process. Recently, however, some female weavers have been trained.
When we stopped at the wholesale fabric warehouse which stocked the villagers work, I knew I had found the perfect gift. Once the colors of the month were sent to me, I grabbed some friends and headed back to pick out textiles that coordinated with each month’s mood board hues.
The warehouse not only stocked ikat, but a wide variety of block printed textiles. This technique was originally a specialty of the desert state of Rajasthan in the North, but has since expanded throughout the country as the popularity has grown in global markets. You may have seen block printed items as bags are summer tops, but it is currently most famous in the form of mandala wall hangings rampantly used in Bohemian design. Depending on the intricacy of the pattern, one elephant for example may take up to six different blocks to complete. Each block is carved by hand out of teakwood. Once the block printing is completed, the cotton fabric is laid outside in the sunlight to dry for three days. Through the drying process the dyes used change color to become their permanent hue.
Below are the textiles purchased. All are ikat weaves unless otherwise stated and created by the local villagers. All fabrics are available for use as material for your next interior design project exclusively through Ellie Ann’s Interior Design!
May: Benjamin Moore Shadow
June: Sherwin Williams Coral Reef
July: Sherwin Williams Rave Red
(Left to right) Block printed paisley, block printed rug
August: Benjamin Moore Amulet
Two stunning block printed textiles.
September: Benjamin Moore Sea Star
October: Sherwin Williams Alchemy
The block printed textile on the right is as intricate as it is beautiful.
November: Sherwin Williams Brandywine
The imperfect printing of the block print on the left results in an antique appearance.
December: Benjamin Moore Guacamole
This unique block print illustrates life in a South Indian village.
For a design experience like no other,