O.k. So technically, these aren’t embroideries. But they are still textiles.
Among the various indulgent purchases we made on our Agra-Delhi vacation was this Kashmiri rug, bought after much hard bargaining from a traditional Smiling Rug Merchant:
The bargaining is part of the theater. I don’t believe for a minute the merchant’s protestations that we were taking bread out of the mouths of his children (their graduation photos from US universities were behind his desk), but the play of price, offer, counter offer, reticence and commitment must be played out for any large purchase. It’s like high school dating, but for merchandise.
This piece is a runner, for use in the long hall outside our library. It’s an heirloom quality, all-wool warp hand knotted rug, with long, luxuriant fringes, and dyed with traditional vegetable colors. It’s hard to say how such muted reds and tumerics glow, but they do. We’ll probably leave it out for a couple of days to admire, then roll it back up in its muslin bag to await shipment home with the rest of the household goods, come June.
The next day we bought some woven pieces at Dilli Haat as gifts and souvenirs.
The small woven bags and coasters are cotton and straw. The four larger hobo-style soft tote bags are cotton with inset hand-woven bands. If my notes are correct, these are backstrap-loom produced pieces from Nagaland, near Assam.
[UPDATE] I’ve done some research on the small woven straw clutches. I didn’t write down the region of origin when I bought them, but I’ve now pegged them to the c0astal region of Orissa. They are made of sabai grass and cotton, and are part of an economic initiative that assists families in flood-ravaged areas reclaim economic self-sufficiency.
These smaller items we did not bargain for, other than putting together a group and asking for a price for the larger purchase, rather than toting up each item individually. All were quite reasonably priced, and sold as they were by the village or guild co-ops, we were happy to provide fair recompense directly to the crafting artisans themselves.
I’m not done yet. There are more pix of textiles to come. And if you want to see the larger sights of our trip, the husband has posted an excellent two-parter on our trip to the Taj Mahal.
I’m sure that ever since humankind first wiggled toes on a bare floor, and decided that something colorful and soft would be nifty to stand on, no rug dealer has ever lost money on a transaction. That being said, I am quite satisfied with value we bargained for today.
Our apartment here in Pune is very white. White unadorned walls, hard white marble floors, neutral color furniture and curtains, all blend together to make the comfy but totally featureless box in which we live. I did bring bright color sheets and towels, but we certainly could use more visual contrast here. So today we went out looking for area rugs to bring some color and brightness to the place.
After a minor comedy of misunderstanding with our driver (“rug” here means bed covering or bedspread), we ended up at a store specializing in Kashmiri handcrafts, where we looked at lots of small and mid-size carpets (aka “Orientals” in local English). We ended up selecting two items, to use here and then to send home to use there. Both are about 6’ x 9’.
One is an all wool hand-knotted rug in a traditional pattern:
The main colors are oxblood, steel, and tan, with accents of celadon and ecru. It’s plush and thick, and a joy to walk on. I can’t remember the knot count, but from the unofficial hierarchy of all-wool rugs, this is an A-grade. There were a couple that were even finer, but not in all wool. I really like the minor variations in the pattern repeats – something that brings the design to a life not achieved by machine made rugs.
The other is a type less commonly seen in the USA. It’s all cotton, done entirely in tambour (ata needle) embroidery. The stitching is so dense that it totally covers the ground cloth with work that closely resembles chain stitch:
Also handmade, it’s backed with a second layer of heavy cotton. The colors are garnet, sapphire, gold, and orange, with accents of leaf green, baby blue, brown and white. It’s no where near as thick as the wool rug, but it shines like a jewel. It won’t last as long as the knotted rug, and isn’t suitable for heavy traffic areas or for under chairs that move around, but it’s perfect for our living/sitting area with its fixed furniture.
Next I go to a textile vendor to buy some similarly brilliant yardage, to sew new covers for the brown and ecru throw pillows on our sofa (or have them sewn by a local sewing-shop).
I feel brighter already!