Here I am wearing my cotton tunic at Galta Ji Jaipur Monkey Temple. Over the past few years, this tunic has played a significant role, in my life. What began as a comfortable item of clothing developed into an inspiration.
I had hoped to go to this fascinating country for more than 25 years, before I finally had the opportunity to do so.
Upon retirement from my twenty-six year career as a classroom teacher, I hopped on a plane bound for Delhi. The day before classes resumed, after the Christmas break, my husband drove me to the airport in Toronto. I was leaving for two months. I had previously travelled to other countries, but this was my first solo trip. It was a bit scary and intimidating at first, but I had decided that if I didn’t go on that trip, I might never realize my dream of travelling to India.
So, I took the plunge. After a few days in Delhi, I met up with my travel group. I had booked a three week basic tour of northern India, as an introduction to this vast country.
One of our stops during the tour was the blue city of Jodhpur.
It’s colour was a pale khaki green with prints of thistles, in an off white colour. These thistles look as if they were printed with Dabu (mud resist) printing. There are hand stitched vertical lines running the length of the tunic. A small panel of a darker green and simplistic bird image is sewn on the front of the tunic, as well as on the hem and cuffs of it. My tunic has sleeves to the elbow and hangs about 10cm above my knee.
Over the years, the colour has faded, there are some faint stains from who knows what and the fabric has become very soft. On my most recent trip to Jaipur, in 2017, I went to one of the many tailors there to have 20 tunics made, using mine as the pattern. These were shipped home to me, while I continued my travels. I began working on these tunics in early April and completed the last one in early December. Each tunic is unique; sometimes I worked on three of them at the same time. Mostly, I used a variety of shibori stitch resist techniques, as well as some botanical printing, with leaves and blossoms from local plants
Some of the dyes I used were locally sourced and extracted by yours truly. Others I bought in India and a few I bought from Maiwa, in Vancouver, when I was taking a course in Natural Dyes.
Some of the natural dyes that were used on these tunics include: goldenrod, walnut, queen Anne’s lace, yarrow, common reed (locally sourced). Madder, logwood, pomegranate, cochineal, alkanet, indigo, osage orange, lac and sappanwood were bought in India or from Maiwa.