Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Sari State of Things...

When I lived in Houston and was taking dance classes at a belly dance studio, I got completely obsessed with making beautiful veils and costumes for our dance programs. My favorite places to shop were two sari shops in an Indian neighborhood. They were absolutely beautiful shops filled with all kinds of fabric in the most delicious colors, fibers, and patterns. One shop suspended big wooden hoops from the ceiling and looped lengths of fabric through them so the tumbled down and swayed in the breeze like air-borne dancers of astonishing gracefulness.

Saris are the oldest, continually fashionable garments on earth. The saris worn in India today are often similar to those worn 2 thousand years ago. They are just lengths of fabric,usually a little over a yard wide and 5 to 9 yards in length. The wearer ties a sash around her waist and wraps the sari around her hips then creates pleats in the front that are tucked into the sash. Then the long end, often heavily patterned or embroidered and called the pallu, is tossed over the shoulder. Saris are usually worn over a short, tight bodice called a choli, and sometimes over a petticoat as well. There are many variations on how the sari is worn often indicting the region of the family the wearer is from.

I personally think that saris are the most graceful of garments but I've long thought that Indian women are among the most beautiful on the planet. I'm not the sari-type but I loved the fabric in them and used saris I had purchased to make summer dresses and blouses as well as dance costumes.

What made me think of this was discovering a number of vendors on eBay who sell vintage silk saris in gorgeous patterns. I put a bid on a pure gaji silk sari with a pattern of elephants on it (above) that I loved and got it. I was so happy I started looking at other saris and found another one that is listed as art silk. Art silk, for those who don't know, is usually a blend of silk and rayon but in recent years can also be any type of artificial silk. I wrote to the seller in India and they wrote back assuring me it is a silk/rayon blend so I bid on and got that one too (below).

I seem to be collecting a lot of fabric lately but it is so beautiful I can't resist it and, when you think about it, fabric collecting is one of the most harmless and useful things a sewer can collect. It can be used for clothes, quilts, decorating, covering or just draping.

Seems a lot of women are in love with beautiful fabrics. Why not? They appeal to the senses in many ways --- the look beautiful, feel lovely, often make delightful swishing sounds when you move in them. Fabric is potential. It can be so many things.

So I am waiting for my package to arrive from India. I have ideas about what I want to do with the saris but I may just wind up collecting them. They remind me of those beautiful shops in Houston which smelled of spices and incense and were zitar music played and beautiful people with dark, liquid eyes unfolded lengths of shimmering fibers to show them to me. “Look, missy,” they would say, “fine silk from India.” So evocative and romantic.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Can't wait to see what you do with these. Wouldn't it be awesome to drape some gorgeous fabric like that up high over a swing for the summer?

  2. That sounds really pretty too. I've got my eye on one more sari --- like I need more....


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