Sometimes one is lucky enough to meet the maker—I’m talking artisan-made cloth here.
I’m in an elevator in corn country Nebraska in steps an exuberant woman wearing the almost exact replica of a handwoven, naturally dyed silk scarf that I owned. As it is for us cloth lovers, I started to ask her where she had gotten it when she quickly piped up, “Have we met? Perhaps at my design studio in India? I’m Bina Rao of Creative Bee. You must come and see my beautiful cloth.”
Well, we hadn’t “met” before but I certainly had met her cloth. How could I forget it? It was my first purchase at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market a number of years ago. I had picked up the scarf and stared at it, trying to figure out how it was made. Feeling it, I could tell it was silk, handwoven using spacing techniques, naturally dyed. So far I had that right. But I couldn’t quite figure out how the pattern was achieved until Bina shared the process. Fine filature mulberry silk is woven in alternating horizontal stripes of fine plain weave and gauze followed by washing to release the gum.
Next, the cloth is indigo dyed.
When finished, the closely woven stripes appear darker blue than the fine, open-weave fabric stripes. In the third step, a specially carved block is used to stamp the fabric with a discharge paste that removes dye and reveals the natural color of the silk.
It produces an over-all pattern of light-indigo and natural spirals that float across the woven bands.
ClothRoads is fortunate that David McLanahan was on hand in India to document the process of our cloth being made and you can see his images and video here: Creative Bee Block Printing I fell in love with its beauty all over again. And I wasn’t the only one who fell for this cloth–Marlene Blessing did too designing the table runner in her blog. After I saw her runner, I cut a ½ yard of the cloth and washed it in a mild detergent, cold wash and rinse and tossed it in the dryer on gentle. The cloth was certainly beautiful before washing but after washing, the hand softened and I immediately saw the making of the Folkwear Haori in my future. Or make a scarf by sewing two 1/4-yd pieces together and overcasting the edges or making a rolled edge by hand. ClothRoads offers Beige Bamboo on Dark Grid, Beige Spirals on Dark Grid, Black Bamboo on Brown Grid, Black Spirals on Indigo Grid, and Light Swirls on Indigo Stripes.
About Creative Bee:
Designer Bina Rao and husband Kesav Rao own Creative Bee Design Studio, a hub of design and fashion activity for local and international connoisseurs of high quality textiles located in Hyderabad, India. They are engaged in many different types of activities surrounding the production and promotion of handloomed textiles and other handicrafts.
The Studio, working within the parameters of hand made and natural, employs more than 400 handloom weavers in many different states of India to produce Bina’s designs in intricate weaves of different textures from several varieties of natural, handspun yarns of wild silks, as well as cotton and linen. They create textiles from yarn to finished product.
Bina and Kesau also established the Creative Bee Foundation to support this work and train weavers to use their traditional techniques to weave pieces of great beauty for the internal and export markets. Core groups of artisans receive training and upgrade their skills at Creative Bee Foundation centers, then go back to their villages to pass on what they have learned to others, thereby “keeping the traditions alive” and providing income for their communities.