On my recent trip to India (you can see my related posts here and here), I spent a few days in the town of Nawalgarh, three hours drive north-east of Jaipur. I wanted a taste of the Rajasthani countryside and had heard of a gorgeous little eco-lodge who offer workshops which utilise the skills of local artisans, thus helping to keep the local traditions alive in a time of rapid change.
The place was stunning, with a private organic vege garden out the back, hand-painted traditional decorations on the mud brick walls, bursts of pink bougainvillaea overhead and marigolds embellishing everything from Ganesh statues to holes in the walls – I thought I was in heaven when I walked in on the first day!
One of the workshops I wanted to do was learning how to make bandhani or tie-dyed shawls. I've always loved this fabric and was excited to learn more about it from the source!
The pattern was created by first folding the cloth into quarters, and then tying or wrapping thread very tightly around small pinches of fabric in a pre-planned pattern. We then set about the process of building an open fire in the sand out by the vege garden and boiling up our dye. The cloth can be dyed in potentially several different colours to get various effects, and the result is the most beautiful patterns made up of hundreds of tiny circles – depending on how adept you are at the technique, that is! That's my red one in the bottom right picture and you can see I didn't make as many ties as the professionals do.
To un-do the ties we simply stood holding either end of the folded fabric and pulled in opposite directions to pop the ties off! Amazing! I had always wondered how on earth they cut all those millions of tightly wrapped little threads off!
What a lovely afternoon; I can't wait to try making bandhani now that I'm back home...