In today's blog we are telling you all about the wonderful fabrics that we source from India. All of these fabrics have some kind of handmade element and are incredibly time-consuming and special. Let's learn more together about your Mipi garment and where the fabric originates!
Possibly the most requested are the Indian trims. The actual name for these are Sari Borders. A sari, or saree, is a traditional garment worn in India (amongst other places) and it is a piece of coloured or printed fabric between 6 and 9 meters long. The borders would often get dirty or dragged on the floor and the embroidered trims are a way of protecting the borders of a Sari, hence why they are sold in rolls of 9 meters.
The trims are not embroidered by hand, that would take many hours of incredible detailed work. Instead they are embroidered by a machine that travels in a line of 9 meters. These are ginormous embroidery machines that go very fast and use lots of colors simultaneously.
After the embroidery is done, the edges of the trim are folded towards the inside and sewn on a sewing machine with a long basting stitch (a light stitch to keep something in place).
The technique of block printing fabric is over 4000 (!) years old and is thought to have its origins in China. All block prints start with a wooden block that is hand carved by an artisan. For each flower petal or ornament, there is a different block used. The blocks are then used to dip into natural dye pigments which are then pressed into the fabric. You can imagine all the hours of work that goes into this, since the blocks are about the size of a book.
There are also machines that have taken over the art of hand block printing with rapid block printing. This creates a fabric with less 'imperfections' since the machine always applies the same amount of pressure, spacing etc in comparison to a person. We prefer to use the first method of block printing but sometimes fabrics are sold as 'block printed by hand' when they are actually rapid block printing.
(left: perfect print, right: some darker black spots, uneven spacing)
The next special fabric are kantha quilts. This is a technique where old pieces of fabrics are hand stitched on top of each other to create that 'quilted blanket' texture. Kantha translates to 'rags' which refers to the up-cycling of vintage fabrics. The kantha stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery and these special Kantha's were often used for special occasions such as weddings and birth ceremonies. The most beautiful Kantha will have very small stitches instead of longer stitches since it takes a lot more time and attention.
Due to the vintage & handmade nature of these textiles there are often so called 'imperfections' in the form of stains, loose threads and patches. We prefer to look at it as an additional characteristic that really makes each Kantha more unique.
And with that we go into the final category: Suzani embroidery. This technique is also often combined with a Kantha. The name Suzani comes from the Persian word of 'Suzan' which translates to needle. It shouldn't come as a surprise then that needle & thread are the essence of a Suzani. Traditionally these textiles are made on a sewing machine using a thin thread to create the shape with a technique called 'couching'. Then a thicker thread will be used on top which is stitched down multiple times. This results in a raised and fluffy textured appearance of Suzani.
The designs are often ancient iconography with symbols such as the moon and sun as well as florals in bright and cheerful colors. A Suzani was traditionally used for weddings since they signify the bond between and binding of two families. The brides would hand stitch a Suzani and present it to their groom on their wedding day.