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Indian-Sari-art - 8/11/13


"A 15th Century Indian Sari - Using the Technique of Wax Resist and Dye" by Baroness Anastasia Alexandrovana Andreeva (OL).


NOTE: See also the files: cotton-msg, dyeing-msg, Moghul-India-msg, beeswax-msg, textiles-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org





A 15th Century Indian Sari


Using the Technique of Wax Resist and Dye


by Baroness Anastasia Alexandrovana Andreeva (OL)

Glenn Abhann Kingdom A&S



15th century




15th Century East Indian Sari


I am attempting to create a 15th century East Indian wax resist dyed sari. I will be documenting the sari, the technique and the dyes. A scarcity of not only literary evidence but also archaeological and visual materials, makes this difficult to research. Sometimes the descriptions are so general that they can fit more than one costume. I will make the attempt as best I can.


A sari is considered unstitched clothing. It can be documented to the early Indus Valley in centuries Before Christ. The sari was often worn wrapped around like a skirt and very early no top of any kind was worn. As the centuries progressed, a band and then a bandeau across the breast and was tied in a knot in the back.


The sari is the most versatile of all clothing as it can be wrapped in many different ways. Each region and area of India had a different style of wrapping. I will be wearing my sari as I find it in the 15th century.


Sculpture from Khajuraho putting on brassierWoman in Her Vanity Putting on a Saree icon of devi


The pictures below are from the 10th-12th century. There is controversy over the use of a choli, the short-sleeved top depicted in this picture.


Some scholors believe that the choli is an invention for when the British arrived on their shores, to show a modum of modesty. But it has been shown that bands, bandeau's or breast bands, and cholis were indeed worn in at least the 12th century and later. I have chosen to wear a full choli instead of a breast band as I have a rather large bosom. The one thing the scholors all seem to agree on is that the cholis were backless. The Banjara gypsies still wear this style of choli.



Women assembled to greet Uma-Maheshwara, Lepakshi





The above and below pictures are from the 10-16th century. They are murals in the Ajanta caves.


Ornaments of a lady, Lepakshi painting



Modern Banjara Choli



Patterned Sari's


Embroidery was known and used but it is thought by most scholars that the early patterns on saris were done by stamping or printing by using the wax resist method.


Although most think of the Indonesian areas with this batiking method, it has been shown that wax resist on fabric was done at least 200 years before the Indonesians used it.


Both floral and geometric designs were used. Simple patterns such as a series of dots and involved patterns such as interlocking motifs were all used with imagination and creativity.



The Kalpasutra  Manuscript 15th century


Detail from a15th century painting from Lepakshi

Lapakshi Temple, 15th century



Cotton Fabric


Cotton was known to East Indians who had refined the process of spun and woven cotton long before the Romans began writing about tree cotton in 306 BC. The finished Indian cloth and later the seeds passed along the Silk Road and spice trade routes, spreading cotton consumption and cultivation to new areas.


In Medieval times, cotton was incorrectly identified as a type of wool by Europeans. It had been described by Theophrastus (306 B.C.), the disciple of Aristotle, as a wool-bearing tree with a pod the size of a spring apple, and leaves like those of the black mulberry. To further complicate matters, John Mandeville (pseudonym), in 1350, wrote an account of seeing Scythian Lambs: "There grew there India a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the endes of its branches. These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungrie".  



It is impossible to get a cotton fabric exactly like the medieval weaves so I chose as close as I could. I got a 100% cotton harem cloth. This is a little looser weave than I would have liked, I experimented on voile and gauze as well.


Cotton wax print and resist fabric fragments made in Gujarat and found at Fostat in Egypt.


The piece on the left is 16th century the other pieces are 1100.







The Technique of Wax Resist or Batik


Wax resist dyeing technique on fabric is an ancient art form. Discoveries show it already existed in Egypt in the 4th century BCE, where it was used to wrap mummies; linen was soaked in wax, and scratched using a sharp tool. In Asia, the technique was practiced in China during the http://www.answers.com/topic/tang-dynasty">T'ang dynasty (618-907 CE), and in India and Japan during the http://www.answers.com/topic/nara-1968">Nara period (645-794 CE).


The use of wood block prints and sharp instruments to make the patterns were incorporated in the making of the intricate patterns. Unfortunately I have been unable to find an example of a period instrument used in this technique, however the Tjintings that are used now are not very different from the period ones according to experts. A metal cup is attached to a wooden stick, hot melted wax is scooped into the cup and a small thin spout attached is used to draw patterns or accent the block prints.


The wood blocks themselves are dipped into the wax and carefully printed onto the fabric. These same wood blocks are used to print paint on to fabric as well.


Clay was also used as resist, but it is unknown at this time what type of clay was used. The material has to be able to withstand the dying process, and be easily removed later. Wax is the most often used, although there is numerous mention of bees and wax in India, I was unable to find a period picture. This picture is of Egyptians domesticating bees.





Dyes in Medieval India


Recognicion of Indian dyes in the world market as early as 500BC. For example Indigo is considered an indigenous dye-drug and has been found in Egypt during this time period for dying muslin. The details of Indias coloring matters are in much literature of the 6-17th centuries, but are alas in Sanskrit text, thus making it difficult to document in texts.


In the pre-vedic period (3000 BC) a fragment of cotton fabric dyed purple was found at Mohenjodaro, and was confirmed to be dyed with madder.


For this project I am using red dye. I realize this is very ambitious as red is not always easy to achieve. I therefore did a few experiments before dying the full 5 yards of fabric used to batik the sari.


I chose the following red dyes to experiment with:

Madder was one of the most used of dye stuffs in medieval India, I am also using a combination of safflower and slake lime, Cochineal, and for the final project Lac will be used.


The medieval period for which I am depicting was also the beginning of the use of mordants such as alum.


In a text of the13th century a process was laid down of how to extract the essences from the materials."powder the desired substance, mixing it in water and allowing the sediment to deposit below. Thee essence thus obtained was dried by being smeared on a new earthen pot and was used as coloring matter."


The dyestuffs I purchased were already powdered and ready for dying.



Madder from the Herbal of Dioscorides




Lac Insect any of the species of Metatachardia, Laccifer, Tachordiella, Austrotacharidia, Afrotachardina, and Tachardina of the superfamly Coccoidea, order Homoptera that are noted for resinous exudation from the bodies of females. Members of two of the families viz. Lacciferidae and Tachardinidae appear to be more concerned with lac secretion. These insects have a global distribution excepting Europe.


Of the many species of lac insect, Laccifer lacca, (=Tachardia lacca) is the commercially cultured lac insect. It is mainly cultured in India and Bangladesh on the host plant, Zizyphus mauritiana and Z. jujuba.




Slak lime


Slaked lime
Ca (OH)2 calcium hydroxide made from quicklime, mixed or slaked with water. May be in form of putty or dry powder if slaked with a minimum of water. Often used for Pickling, it is easy to get a hold of, I bought mine online



This is both a specific chemical compound and a class of chemical compounds. The specific compound is the hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate, this was easily obtained in the middle ages and in the 15th centuries was widely used as a mordant in dyeing. I got mine from a shop that sold dyes and mordants and pigments for dying. 





The Cochineal insect is a small parasitic sap-loving insect that feeds primarily upon the sap of certain cacti. These insects are "sessile" which means they are unable to move about. The live as a 'bump' or 'pearl' upon the plant (also called a 'scale.')



Cochineal."  From: Samuel de Champlain,

Brief discours, 1598

"1598-1601. Manuscript.





Hortus sanitatis

Strassburg: Pruess, ca 1497



Sources Used


Alkazi, Roshen. Ancient Indian Costume. Art Heritage 1983


Arora, Vishu Suvasas: the Beautiful Costumes Abhishek Publications 2008


Bhandari, Costume, Textiles and Jewellery of India Traditions in Rajasthan. Mercury books London 2004


Bhatnagar, Dr. Parul Decorative Design Hisotry in Indian Textiles and Costumes. Abhishek Publications Chandigarh India 2005


Bhushan, Jamila Brij . The Costumes and Textiles of India. D.B Taraporevala Sons & Co. Private Ltd. Bombay 1958


Biswas, a. Indian Costumes. Publicastions division Ministry of information and broadcasting Government of India 1985


Chandra, Moti. Costume, Textiles, Cosmetics and Coiffure in ancient and Medieval India Delhi Indian Alrcheological Scociety 1973


Crill, Rosmary. Textiles from India the Global Trade. Papers presented at a converence on the Indiean textile trade Kolkata 12-14 Ocotber 2003 Seagfull Books


Gillow, John and Nicholas Barnard Indian Textiles Thomas &Hudson 2008


Gopal, Ram. Classical Dances and Costues of India. Adam and Chalrles Black, London.1951


Krishnan, Usha R. Bala and Meera Sushil Kumar. Dance of the peacock Jewellery Traditions of India. India Book house limited. 2001


Kumar, Ritu. Costumes and Textiles of Royal India. Christies books 2005

Lynaton, Linda. The Sari. Styles patterns history techniques. Thames and Hudson Ltd. 1995


Mathur, AshaRani. Woven Wonder The Tradition of Indian Textiles. Rupa and co.2002


Mohapatra, Ramesh Prasad. Fashion styles of Ancient India A study of Klinga from Earliest times to Sixteenth century. BR Publishing Corporation Delhi 1992


Pandey, Dr. Indu Prabha. Dress and Ornaments on Ancient India. Bharatiya Vidya Prakashan India 1988


Singh, Dr. Kiran. Textiles in Amncinet India from Indus Valley Civilation to Maurya period Vishwavidyalya Prakashan, Varanisi India 1994


Tucker, Jonathan. The Silk Road Art and History Art Media Resources 2003


Watson, J. Forbes M.A.M.D, FRAS  The Textile Manufactures and the costumes of the people of India. Reporter on the products of India to the secretary of state for India in 'council. Printed for the India office, 1866



Block Printing and Dyeing


Barnes, Ruth. Indian block-printed cotton fragments in the Kelsey Museum, the university of Michigan. University of Michigan Press 1993


Bohmer Harald Koekboya, Natural Dyes and Textiles Remhob-Verlag, Ganderkesee, 2002


Brunello, Franco The Art of Dyeing Venice Neri Pozza Editore 1973


Ciba Review 68:2485-2505 Primitive Dyeing Methods 1948


Ciba Review 39:1423-26 Turikey red Dyeing in South and South East asia 1941


Chenciner Robert Madder Red, A History of Luxury and Trade Taylor and Francis Routledge 2000


Gittinger Mattiebelle. Master Dyers to the World Technique and trade in early Indian Dyed Cotton Textiles. The Textile Museum Washington DC 1982


Irwin, John. Indian Painted and Printed Fabrics. Bastikar 1971


Mohanty , B.C. and J.P. Mohanty Block Printing and Dyeing of Bagru, Rajasthan Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedabad, India


Phipps, Elena. Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color (Metropolitan Museum of Art)  Metropolitan museum of art 2010


Sandburg, Gosta The Red Dyes: Cochineal, Madder And Murex Purple: A World Tour of Textile Techniques Lark books 1997


Tie-Dyed Textiles of India (Victoria and Albert Museum-Indian Art Series) 1991



Kamat's Potpourri  First Online: March 17,2005 Page Last Updated: June 15,2010






Copyright 2011 by Marilee Humason <stasiwa at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>


Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org