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Ready Pattern Design & Trends Blog

Explaining Textiles in Detail | The brief history of Textiles in South Asia

by Elettra Francis

June 1, 2020 21:33 label 9 minutes read label Leave a comment

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Textile, simply put, is any cloth which has been made in a factory. It consists of a complex system of materials from which it’s made. This complex network is made up of factory made or natural fibre. Factory made fibre is knows as a thread or a yarn. The word Textile, over the ages, has broadened it’s scope and definition. The word was first used to refer only woven fabrics. Now, fabrics made by other methods are also included in the definition of the word. There are numerous textile businesses running throughout the country. In fact, India's relationship with textile industry goes back before the British Era. The French used to bring there cotton in order to paint and print marvelous designs on them. British established several cotton industries throughout the length and breadth of India and began exporting the clothes. If there’s one thing common between the Tata, Birla and Ambani, which are the top corporate giants of India, it is that all of them started from textile business. The process of printing colors on textile is known as textile printing. Historians are not very sure about the origins of textile printing but there are many evidences that suggest that the credit goes to the East Asian part of the world. It is believed that Chinese were the first to print on textiles using wooden blocks.

Textile painting has gained a considerable amount of space in the popular culture across the globe. Fashion shows have been and are organized where various designers showcase their work. People love the design and patterns so much so that they do not miss any update from the textile industry. Many textile firms advertise their products in films and tv serials. A career in textile design is considered to be very vast in scope. There are various government grants for the study of textiles. The basic aim of which is to develop innovative approaches in producing and delivering the best. Some of the work on textiles have become the face of India. Those textile prints are considered as the national heritage. Some of handlooms that are manufactured and produced in India are known world over for their quality, material, variety, richness of patterns and art. The textile printing done in India is not confirmed to a specific design or a set of designs. Indian Textiles are known for the wide array of designs, prints and art that are unique to different regions. Indian prints are mainly inspired by geometric patterns of nature, architecture of temples, forts, and rural lifestyle, these patterns speak a million words at a time.

Once the textile is in the hands of an artist, he or she defines the lines, colors and emotions that are going to be designed on the fabric. It is the artist who drafts the perfect balance between the lines, colors and form. When these forms are finalized, next step is to translate those designs onto the fabric. Block carvers carve out the design on wood. This pattern and design is painstakingly transferred. Wood workers that are new to the job handle bold and  simple designs. Only a master having an experience of a lifetime can carve intricate and complicated motives.

Next step is to prepare the fabrics. The workers make sure that no starch is left on the fabric. When this is done, the fabric is ready to accept the organic color binding agent. After that the fabric is left to dry using the traditional way of sunshine. The dried up material is stretched to ensure even and accurate transfer of patterns and designs. This is the most important stage in the development of block printing onto the fabric. Any variations in the angle, inclination or pressure would destroy the crucial and fragile balance of the print. This job is done by the experts only. The natural pigment is derived from iron horse shoe nails, which allows two printers to work on the same piece. Next step is of coloring. It includes a masking agent called 'Dabu'. The fabric once again is left to dry in the sun once it’s treated with the fine saw dust in the coloring stage. The 'dabu' acts as a shield which preserved elements from the original print. A second pass of 'dabu' and pigment is applied if more tonal variations and color intensity is required. Finally the product is cured by the sun and the fabric is ready to have the 'dabu', saw dust and the binding agent removed. Only hand driven processes can produce the visual subtlety and the variations which are very natural to present the work of best quality.

Although the Indian textile industry is known for it’s contributions in the field worldwide, it has some deep rooted issues which need to be solved if this industry has to attain long term success. The industry is the second largest employer in the country and is valued at around 127 billion dollars. There are issues related to domestic level production which include outdated technology and infrastructural bottlenecks. Much has been done to overcome the issues and much still needs to be done in order to increase the production of textiles.

About the author

Elettra Francis

Elettra is the host of the Ready Pattern Seller Central Blog, the design selling platform interface for ambitious surface designers to showcase their prints to global brands. Got something to share with Ready Pattern Seller Masters? You can submit your story for consideration.

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