Friday, December 26, 2008

Helping Others

Happy holidays to all.

Tis the season to give to others, so I wanted to share with you a recent discovery of a business which succeeds in making a difference.

The organization is called Toms Shoes, and the company creates canvas-footwear shoes. For every pair you purchase, Toms Shoes will donate a pair to a child in need.

The shoes are a little on the funky side, and some are even 'vegan', meaning there is no leather.

I am including a few images of shoes from their site, and a link. They offer footwear for women, men, and children. They also have some t-shirts, etc.

btw.. I got the Ghandi shoes.
Visit Toms Shoes at

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Translating Texture

A fiber artist can use images of texture as sources of inspiration. You can learn to look at your texture image and contemplate the various fiber techniques you know to determine which would best create the look and feel of the image.

I find it helps to squint a little as you look at the texture source. Ask yourself
What it is that you see first?..
What are the most important elements?..
Is there depth?..

Then, determine what fiber will work best, what sewing or knitting technique (or other).

Below are some texture images taken in India, and some translation ideas.

Here you see a scarf with metal discs sewn on. This one could easily be achieved by adding embellishments to the surface of a fabric (knit or woven). The embellishments could be buttons, beads, discs, or any other item you can sew on.

The roses could be translated by stitching a length of trim or fabric in a scrolling manner on the surface of fabric. Knitters could create I-cord for such purpose.

The carving here is a bit more of a challenge to translate. Consider embroidery. Possibly layer a patterned sheer fabric over a solid one. Knitters could employ lace knitting.

The photo here shows three textured windows in a flat wall. This could be translated by adding lace (whether fabric or knit) to a flat background.

Textures.... to design

Texture is life. It is deviation from the plain. It is joy; it is pain. It adds interest to a regular day.
I love walking through the streets of the world to observe the many forms texture presents. Be it stucco, bricks or cobblestones; it is all candy to the eye.

And if the texture alone were not enough, add pattern and repeat and stir the pot. Create rhythm, change the scale, lead the eye. Evoke admiration from people as they walk by.

But no… we can’t stop there. Layer color over pattern over rock. Change the hue; gradate the tone dark to light.

Texture is multi-lingual. It speaks many languages and serves the world providing interest in a day that would be otherwise flat.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wool Carpets

At the Shree Carpet and Textile Mahal in Jaipur, we also saw the process of weaving wool rugs. The hand-knotting technique was basically the same as the silk rug weaving. In the shots included here you can see how the weaving is performed. Note how warp threads are pulled forward, and the colored yarn is knotted around the threads. It is then pulled down to the base of the rug (against the yarns already knotted), and cut with a knife. You will also see trimming of the pile, the graphic image used as the pattern design, and a woman winding bobbins of yarn.

Making Naan

Naan is a bread that is served with every meal in India. You use it to wrap around your food, scoop up the food, or just eat it by itself. It is made with flour, water, and some yeast for fermentation. The bread and is baked in a tandoori oven. It was fun to watch it be made, first, at our one of our hotels, and then, on a roadside stop, at someone’s house at the side of the road.

The steps for making Naan are as follow:
1. Create your dough mixture, allowing for the fermentation to take place. Form the dough into little balls.
2. Take a little ball and flatten it. This can be done using your hands, and flipping the dough back and forth, or with a rolling pin. The Naan Man used his hands.
3. Lay the doug on a wooden rounded block (as necessary to place it in the oven).
4. Place the dough on the side of the tandoori oven.

5. When cooked, remove the dough from the oven.
6. Serve
7. You can make variations such as the garlic one you see here.

Below, you can see some shots taken when we stopped on the road to watch a woman making Naan for her family.

Masala Chai

One of the things I love about travel with Overseas Adventure Travel is that the groups are kept small (maximum of 15 people), and that we often simply pull off to the side of the road for another “discovery” as we call them.

A few days ago, we stopped at a Chai Tea stand, and our guide Girish, demonstrated the process of making Masala Chai. Masala means spice in Hindi, and Chia means tea.

The steps to making Masala Chai are as follows:
1. Add water and a little sugar (or honey) to your pot.
2. Add loose black tea. Boil the three together for a bit.
3. Add milk.
4. Crush fresh ginger and add to the mix.

5. Now, bring the mixture to a foamy boil three or four times. A foamy boil means, bring the mixture to a rolling boil that rises in the pot, then lift the pot off the heat until the foam subsides.
6. Strain the tea as you pour it into the serving pot.

7. Pour the tea into your serving cup.
8. Sip… and enjoy.
9. Let the street vendor critique how you did!

Note: There are many variations of the spices used in Masala Chai. Spices may include cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, ginger, etc.

Here in the spice stores, you can purchase Masala Chai spice mix. Some is already packed in my suitcase for my return home!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tie Dye

Upon walking into my hotel room in Ranthambhore, I was delighted to see the wonderful drapes which were created using and tie-and-dye technique. This is an old design technique used in various places around the world, and its name changes according to where you are. In India, the techniques is knows as plangi or bandhana (or bandhani). Bandhana comes from Hindi “to tie or bind”. Portions of the fabric are protectedfrom the dye by tying or binding with thread.

As you can see by the pattern of the drapes, it looks like small seeds were placed in the fabric, and then bound. This was done in a repeating pattern along the lower edge of the drapes.

Block Printing

Shree Carpet and Textile Mahal in Jaipur

India has a long tradition of block printing. This is a printing technique whereby wood blocks are carved to create a raised pattern on the surface of the block. The block is placed in a dye paste to coat the raised pattern, and then it is stamped onto the surface of cloth that has been stretched onto a table. You will need one wood block for each color is the design. Generally, most fabrics are 3-4 colors, although you might find some which contain up to nine colors.

After the fabric is printed, it is placed in a salt and vinegar bath, and the color changes slightly to become brighter. The fabrics are then placed in the sun for three days to set the dye.

I got to try my hand at printing. I didn’t have the physical hand strength that the master printer had, so it would take a bit of practice for me to become proficient.

You can see various images here: wood blocks, carved and ready for printing, the dye, printing, a three-color print, and my attempts at printing.

Silk Rugs from Kashmir

At the Cottage Industries Exposition center in New Delhi, we viewed rugs woven from silk. These were made in Kashmir, which is believed to be one of the most beautiful regions of India. The weaving process is passed down through the family from generation to generation.

The warp is threaded vertically, and then, the weaver hand knots the design in place. Many o the carpets we looked at had up to 600 knots per square inch. As part of the presentation of their work, members of the staff showed us how a carpet’s coloring would change, according to the angle one views it from. They also demonstrated how they would not catch fire, and how the ends could not be pulled out. Each carpet design had a history, with regards to its origin, the region it was from and the motifs and colors used in weaving.

Below you can see the loom, yarn, turning a rug to show its various colors (and that is known as a Magic Carpet)...and folding a carpet.

The Love of Textiles

I love fiber, yarn, and textiles. India’s long history with textiles was one of the reasons I chose this country to be my major trip in costume research. In the next few entries of this blog, I will share with you various fiber adventures we have been having. My fellow group members have been very gracious, allowing me to be the one to try the techniques, when an offer is made by our hosting company.