Of course, you can’t be in Another World without exploring the retail options.  India is a textile lover’s paradise, with all sorts of fabrics both hand and machine woven, ranging from the humble to the outrageous.  I can’t buy it all.  In fact, I can’t buy very much, especially compared to the vast volume I covet.  But I am keeping my eye out for special items, with special purposes in mind.

First, I’ve written about Kasuti embroidery before.  I’ve been on the lookout for an example, but so far, I’ve not seen anything.  Not so much as scrap.  Perhaps when we go to Kerala next month we’ll see some, but I suspect that given its intricate nature and simple presentation, it is not being made in quantity for sale any more, because other more showy work of less labor can sell for more.

But I did find this piece. It’s NOT hand-made.  It’s machine embroidered sari, using traditional colors and patterns on an all-cotton ground.  In terms of scale, the stitches are about twice as large as the museum pieces I saw here in Pune, and in Delhi.  But it’s unmistakably part of the heritage, and the seller was very surprised that I recognized it as such.


I have also found some trim for my long-delayed library curtain project.  The 1 inch wide red paisley at the bottom is actually hand-stitched.  I’m not sure what to do with the blingy gold at the top, but it was so over the top and of such a typical Renaissance configuration, that I had to buy it.  A use will present itself, I am sure.  Aside:  most borders and trims here in India are sold in single piece 9-meter lengths, the optimal length for application onto a standard sari.


Also at the same store as the red trim, I found some silk embroidery floss. 


This stuff is quite fine, with the individual strands being significantly thinner than Soie d’Alger, my go-to silk for countwork.  I got a bunch in assorted colors, each big bundle containing 10 skeins, and the skeins being 10 rupees apiece.  That’s about 16 cents US at the current exchange rate.  I will probably go back and get more, although the range of colors was rather attenuated.

And finally, I got a yard of real silk canvas.  My signet ring is shown for scale.   mesh

What to make of this?  Given the silk threads above, I’m thinking of something along the lines of this piece:


This is a 17th century sampler in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago (Museum #2008.627).  It’s worked on a gauze ground in darning and double running stitch (among others).  It’s not going to happen any time soon, but the materials are now in my hands and ready.

7 responses

  1. Well, well, well……I really enjoyed this post, Kim. That paisley trim is stunning.
    I love the project you are going to do on the fine silk canvas.

  2. Well hunted! It must have been so hard not to buy so much more. How could you stop at one piece, or one metre, or just a few hanks of thread? Excess baggage, I know, but must be so disciplined. Thanks for the link to that wonderful sampler. The description says it’s embroidered in silk and linen in double-running and darning: are the solid shapes darned in linen? Love the tassels on the corners – very Italian.

  3. Here’s a recent find of a different kind–a web site I just came across which I knew I had to share with you. If you haven’t by chance come across the costume embroidery and embellishment of Michele Carragher I think you will find it interesting. Her online portfolio is at
    best wishes,

  4. Wow — is there anyway we can send you money for silk threads? Doing a scroll by “painting with threads” and it will be a persian style…

    1. Interesting idea, but it’s not practical. I got the silk from a tiny stall-shop that appears to have stocked one big lot of it some time in the past. There are few colors and very short quantities (I bought all he had for the colors I posted). Plus ground mail from here to there has been horrible. None of the packages I’ve attempted to send have made it to their destination, neither in nor out of the country. I’ll consider going back and buying up some more to bring back with me in the summer, but please do not cast me as a source.

      1. Doyle, Deborah L CIV USARMY ACC (US) | Reply

        Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE

        It was worth asking….enjoy and thanks for responding. I totally understand.

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