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).
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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 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.
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.
The above and below pictures are from the 10-16th century. They are murals in the Ajanta caves.
Modern Banjara Choli
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
Lapakshi Temple, 15th century
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.
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
Strassburg: Pruess, ca 1497
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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.