The secret of Bandhani fabric
Driving across Gujarat in January I find the simple answer to a question that's puzzled me for years - how do you create the distinctive tie-dye pattern?
Bandhani is an intricate technique that produces spectacular textiles characterised by patterns of different coloured or undyed dots. These Bandhani scarves were hanging outside a shop in Wadhwan, Gujarat.
The undyed dots are produced by a form of tie dyeing - tufts of the silk are gathered up and cotton threads are wrapped tightly around the tufts. When the cloth is dyed the tufts aren’t exposed to the dye and remain white.
What’s always baffled me is how you know where to tie the tufts to create the intricate pattern. I came across the answer in the delightful town of Wadhwan where we saw different stages of the process being carried out in several houses by different families. The pile of fabric in the background with yellow marks has been through the first stage of the process.
The first stage of the Bandhani process is the key to the pattern making and ridiculously simple - use a template! A plastic sheet with perforated holes is placed over the cloth and a pale dye applied with a squeegee to make coloured markers that are the pattern for the next stage. The pale dye is washed out before the dyeing stage.
Then take the cloth across town to the next person who deftly ties the threads in the right place. We came across this group of women sitting around together on the street front. They have dextrous fingers, the technique is learnt at an early age and they work at an incredible speed. This lady, the head of the family, seemed to be the most experienced and the quickest. A happy laughing family, like everyone in Wadhwan they seemed to be delighted to show us how they do their work.
Across the street her husband was making brass water pots - but that's another blog.
Then dye the cloth. For multicoloured results the process is repeated with several rounds of tying and dyeing.
Wadhwan itself is a friendly old fortified town that doesn’t see many visitors but is renowned for metalwork, Bandhani work and a couple of very fine Stepwells. The old houses are painted with beautiful colours and the narrow lanes resound with the hammering of the metal workers making water pots.