The ancient art of manipulating cloth through tying, stitching, knotting or otherwise securing it, and then dyeing it to achieve specific coloured patterns binds cultures across space and time: from the earliest surviving examples of tie-dye found in Peru dating from around 500 AD, to the clamp-and-dye practiced in Japan, zha-ran of the Bai ethnic group in China, bandhani from the Indus River Civilisation and leheriya in Rajasthan, to plangi and tritik in Indonesia, nambu tigma in Tibet, to the tie-dye in West Africa and Berber communities, and to the psychedelic tie-dye of Western hippies.
Though each group has their own methods and styles, and final patterns and colours differ greatly, the overall technique is common to all.
This technique is called shibori.
The Master Artisans fold and clamp each and every piece of fabric by hand - one piece of fabric is used for one item of clothing. Therefore, slight variations will always exist between each piece - this represents the vast amount of time and effort that goes into hand crafting the fabric.
Shibori in India
Regionally-developed techniques for fabric manipulation and dying have existed for millennia in the sub-continent; the best known of these being bandhani. Bandhani derives from the Sanskrit word banda meaning "to tie" and developed during the Indus River Civilisation, where the earliest evidence of dying dates back to 4000 BC. However, the typical bandhani style of concentrations of small dots that we are familiar with today dates back to the 6th century AD where evidence of this style is found in the Ajanta caves.
Bandhani makes use of every colour under the rainbow, though the predominant colours used are red, yellow, blue, green and black. Bandhani is today only practiced in the areas where it was developed - Sindh (Pakistan), Punjab, Gujarat and Rajasthan (India). Bandhani is made through covering small pinches of fabric with thread, creating geometric patterns through the concentration of small dots.
Another technique practiced in India is leheriya; leher meaning “waves of the ocean”. This technique is practiced only in a few areas of Rajasthan, making it quite unique. Leheriya is created through a complex method of rolling, folding and re-rolling the fabric to create waves.
The Japanese style of shibori was introduced to India, supposedly by Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, in the early 20th century and is now practiced in craft clusters in Delhi, Gujarat and Rajasthan though the quality and mastery of shibori is far advanced in Japan.