Such a beautiful documentary 🙂
Such a beautiful documentary 🙂
The latest products on my Etsy shop page. Please do have a look!
Have a look at some of the exhibits at the National Handloom Expo 2014 held in Imphal in October this year! Absolutely stunning hand woven textiles from the state of Manipur in India. Who wouldn’t fall in love with the colours and weaves 🙂
There is a prevalence of man-made yarns being used in weaving in recent times owing to its ready availability and low prices but it’s heartening to see the silk and cotton products still going strong. One can’t replicate the softness of cotton or the richness of pure silk.
Link for the gallery:
India’s rich textile heritage is apparent not just in wearable fabrics but also in home furnishings and home linen. The humblest and least celebrated of the textiles has to be the traditional woven cotton towel called the gamcha(Bengali) or gamusa(Assamese) or gamsa or phadi(Manipuri). I’m not aware of what its called in other Indian languages but I’m certain its common across the subcontinent. Traditionally the design has been that of checks and red, white and green probably the most common colours used in the weaving. In some parts of India, the gamcha is woven in a single colour and the quality varies in different regions.
Its a delightfully versatile piece of cloth and is used as a head scarf by farmers working in the field or labourers. One can protect their heads from the hot tropical sun and also wipe away sweat. Since its cotton, it has high absorbency and it also dries out quickly making it easy to maintain. In some parts of India, the gamcha is also used like a ‘dhoti’ or loin cloth by younger boys till they are old enough to wear/manage a dhoti. It can also be used as a sling to carry babies and toddlers as is done in parts of north eastern India.
One of my favourites has to be the Assamese gamusa which is woven in white with intricate red borders. The silk ones are ceremonial and are truly stunning! Its worn as a scarf or head scarf and its striking to behold especially when worn by men!
Its a pity that its popularity is waning in India as its so well suited to the tropical climate. A particular politician did introduce the woven towel to the Indian Railway system which was brilliant as I imagine it must have not only provided income to handloom weavers but also reduced cost in terms of maintenance. There are a few Indian and Bangladeshi designers who are reviving this humble piece of cloth and I’m hopeful that it’ll be well received again in the hallowed hall of home linens.
Meanwhile I shall continue my quest to bring this humble woven cloth to as many people I can and I hope that many of you will share and join in this endeavour too.
The humble cotton woven towel is oft ignored by many as it doesn’t represent the fluffy images of fluffy fluffed up towels that we imagine bath towels to be! Tufted towels are shown as the ultimate luxury plush item in a bathroom. Egyptian Pima cotton, organic extra fine super combed varieties… they look and feel absolutely amazing no doubt. So till about 15 years ago, I did have fluffy tufted towels. Growing up we had both tufted and woven towels. Woven towels came from Manipur and the tufted ones were bought from the local market where brands like Bombay Dyeing, Raymond and Mafatlal were considered the best in towels. I’m sure there were plenty of local brands too but I don’t recollect their names sadly.
All was fine in my fluffy world till I started reusing woven towels as they were less bulky to stuff in a suitcase where so many other things were vying for attention and a solo traveler looking for employment could only handle that much luggage. Once I was got a job, I did go and buy myself the nicest fluffy towel I could afford. All was still well in my fluffy world, that is, till I actually used it. Little pieces of fluff stuck to me like making me resemble a shedding Polar bear! Its the humidity I thought. Yes it definitely was…after all such an expensive towel wouldn’t shed itself on me. The humidity of a city like Pune is worth exploring only for a month or two during the monsoons after which its as rare as the abominable snowman himself! And then came the washing. I hand washed it for first few times as living single and on a limited budget meant no washing machine which was all good. On one of my weekends over at a relatives’ place, she said just put it along with the other towels in the washing machine and I happily obliged as that meant no arm wrestling match with a towel that had become too heavy to handle with all the soaked in water. What happened next wasn’t too amusing for when the wash was through, the towels came out all looking snug but the towels had shed themselves on each other. The washing machine’s filter looked like some furry animal was residing in it. I began questioning the existence of fluffy towels since then. Also when they were dried out crisp after more than a day of hanging out, there would be tiny pieces of lint and fluff in the air when I’d fold it.
After a couple of tufted towels more, I gave up and started using woven towels again. I’m glad I did for its been a boon for me. Woven cotton towels are so much easier to use and maintain in any weather. They are far less bulky, absorbent and easy to dry too making it a perfect companion for all holidays. Its been more than 15 years now that I’ve not gone back to tufted towels as I believe they aren’t for me. I couldn’t handle the fluff!
One of my weavers, Subhasini Devi, is a person without whom I pretty much wouldn’t have been able to do anything. She’s been my strength and support all throughout and without her a lot of what’s been produced now wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Not only does she help me oversee the whole weaving process, the administration and the execution of the weaving, she also has a keen sense of colours and design. I couldn’t thank her enough ever. And yes, she’s my mom too.
My inspiration and my favourite weaver of course – my grandmother or Abok as we call her. Her name’s Apabi Devi and she’s a bundle of relentless energy! We don’t really know how old she is but she has enough energy and enthusiasm to put any young person to shame. She’s also well respected in the weaving circles for her skill and many vendors who sell at the iconic Ima Keithel or Mother’s Bazaar make a beeline for her beautifully woven products. I’m truly privileged to be able to have towels woven by her.