Embroidery
Varana

The origins of Aari can be traced to the 12th century, where it was used by the cobbler community to embellish first leather and later textiles. The technique flourished greatly under the patronage of the Mughal courts in the 17th century. Royal garments from that period sport rich landscapes as well as botanical motifs using the Aari technique, where tiny, looped stitches are used to create intricate patterns.

Aari gets it name from the ‘Aar’, which is a small, hooked needle or awl. First, the pattern is carefully traced on transparent paper by a specialist. Perforations are made along the outlines and the paper is placed on the fabric. A special chalk is rubbed over the paper, imprinting the pattern on the fabric below. The fabric is mounted on a rectangular, wooden frame and the embroidery process begins. The craftsman has to ply the Aari needle at a consistent pace, ensuring that each stitch is the same size and placed correctly, so that all the eye sees is the seamless beauty of the final design.

Varana
Varana
Embroidery
Varana

As far back as the 3rd century BC, ancient texts from India spoke of a fine fabric described as ‘the threads of wind.’ These extraordinary muslins were hand-woven using a technique called Jamdani – the essence of which has remained unchanged over the centuries.

Today, among fields of golden mustard flowers, weavers in Bengal work their looms in much the same way as their ancestors. The weaver sits in a trench before a wooden brocade loom, passing small shuttles of thread through the warp to reveal the pattern.

Jamdani is a form of ‘loom embroidery’ with intricate, opaque motifs floating over a fine muslin base. Unique in their subtlety and beauty, Jamdani fabrics are extremely labour and time-intensive. It can take two craftsmen months to weave a small quantity of the delicately-figured cloth. Celebrated by connoisseurs, the rare art of Jamdani has been declared by UNESCO as one of humanity’s most significant achievements in cultural heritage.

Varana

IT IS SAID THAT ON ONE OCCASION, THE MUGHAL EMPEROR AURANGZEB REPRIMANDED HIS DAUGHTER FOR NOT BEING ADEQUATELY CLOTHED. THE PRINCESS REPLIED INDIGNANTLY THAT SHE WAS WEARING SEVEN 'JAMAS' OR GARMENTS. SO FINE WAS THE JAMDANI MUSLIN SHE WORE, THAT IT SEEMED NON-EXISTENT!

Varana
Embroidery
Varana

Wood block printing is a painstaking hand-crafted process, indeed the world’s oldest and slowest method of printing on fabric. Varana presents the finest examples of the technique as practiced in Rajasthan, India, by a few craftsmen who have mastered the craft over generations.

Wooden blocks made of locally sourced teak, are soaked in oil for fifteen days to soften the timber. Using special tools, master craftsmen hand-carve patterns in relief on each block, removing the wood in the areas that do not get printed. Each colour requires a new block to be carved, and the carvings have to synchronize perfectly with each other.

Once the blocks are ready, a team of artisans carefully inks each one by hand and stamps it on the stretched fabric. Printing is done by the most skilled of craftsmen, as registering a complex design requires great mastery. The pressure of the stamping has to be even to ensure uniformity of colour. The process is laborious and requires breath control as well as perfect hand-eye coordination. As the print emerges seamlessly from the rhythmic stamping, it seems impossible that the near-perfect patterns have been created by hand.

Varana
Varana
Embroidery
Varana

Ancient texts indicate that the use of cashmere or pashmina for garments was pioneered by Nitghz Beg, a skilled weaver at the court of Sultan Zayn-Al-Abidin, ruler of the northern Indian state of Kashmir in the 15th century. Originally called pashmina (a Persian word meaning ‘soft gold’), the exquisite fabric was popularly referred to as ‘cashmere’ because of Kashmir, its place of origin.

The source for cashmere is the downy, winter undercoat of the Changthangi goat (capra hircus). The local Changpa community, who rear the goats on the barren, mountainous slopes of the Himalayas, say that as ‘the day shortens, the wool of the Changthangi grows finer’.

Changthangi goats shed their coats naturally in spring and less than half the fibre is fine enough to be woven. Pashmina fibres are typically 12-15 microns in thickness, 1/6th the thickness of a human hair. The threads are so delicate that they cannot be machine-woven. Skilled artisans carry out the entire process of spinning, weaving, dying, embroidering and finishing the fabric. It takes 15-30 days to create a length of plain pashmina. When the fabric is embroidered or loom-woven, it can take from one to five years to create a single, intricately worked, shawl.

Varana
Varana