Fabrics from India

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I had two days in India before my surgery to power shop for fabric. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting around too well at that point. We hired a car and driver to cut down on the walking, but it was a bit difficult to communicate with the driver. He took us to places he knew about and I found what I could, though I had hoped to find much more.

I’m an A#1 procrastinator. I freely admit this and I’m always vowing to change. I have gotten a little better as my kids have gotten older and I have more time to myself. E. is unbelievably the polar opposite–he thinks of something that needs doing and he does it. Boom, done, off of his mind.

Usually he leaves me to my demons and doesn’t comment too much about how long it takes me to do things. Packing for travel is another thing. He gets his suitcase out a week ahead of departure and throws things in it as he thinks of them. I’m always thinking about what to take, but fail to make a list or start packing early like he does. He doesn’t like this, I always assure him it’ll be okay.

When we went to Ireland on a cycling vacation, I was at Banana Republic the morning of the flight grabbing clothes to take. This was before we were married and I left my bedroom in a cyclone mess of clothes, shoving things in my suitcase to get to his house by the time the cab to the airport arrived. The outcome: I forgot to pack my cycling shorts. Anyone who rides a road bike knows, you gotta have padded shorts. So, on our first day in Ireland, we were searching for a place to buy cycling shorts instead of cycling. E. took this pretty well. (But, like I said, this was before we were married!)

Our next big vacation was to France for our honeymoon. This time I sewed most of the clothes I took and was pretty smart and packed them as I finished them. This didn’t stop me from running out the morning of the flight to buy an adapter and exchange some dollars for euros. The outcome: the cab was waiting and I couldn’t find the euros (the bedroom was kind of a mess), E. found them at the bottom of a pile of discarded scarves. The cabbie was perturbed because he had to wait while this played out, E. was a little edgy on the way to the airport, but by the time we were flying over the Atlantic Ocean, he was over it.

For India I was perfect! I started putting things in the suitcase a week before departure. I made arrangements for the kitties and the mail, I tied up all my loose ends at work and shut down my computer. I was ready for the cab early! Here’s the glitch, I had surfed the web for fabric stores in Chennai and made a list of names and addresses, which I forgot to print out and bring with me.

So, we were at the driver’s mercy; he was a very nice and patient man.

First he took us to a very fancy store where the merchant laid out his wares, one at a time. We have a large Indian community in Chicago and Devon street is an authentic Indian experience, without the cows mingling around. There are multiple shops that offer sari fabrics and some yard goods, mostly silks. This merchant in Chennai had more or less the same things. Less expensive, to be sure, but still pretty pricey and mostly silks. For example, he had some beautiful printed silk Crepe de Chines for about $16/meter. (Of which I purchased three pieces, pictured above.)

I was hoping to find cottons. The silks are beautiful, but my lifestyle calls for more casual clothes and I’m always disappointed with the cottons I find at the fabric stores here. I know there are cottons in Chennai, it was formerly known a Madras and we know what fabric carries that moniker. I was hoping to find cottons with Ikat prints and large florals and maybe some embellished cottons.

So, the first shop was lovely, and I did purchase the three pieces of silk print and a beautiful scarf for my daughter. But I had a feeling because it was such an elegant store that it might be overpriced, so (I’m still kicking myself for this one), I passed up beautiful pashmina shawls in every color of the rainbow that turned out to be a very fair price. (I never did pick-up any pashmina shawls.)

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We asked the driver to take us to a bazaar of street sellers, hoping for more cottons and better prices. I did find some beautiful cotton fabrics that are used to make the Salwar Kameez (pictured above). Some are very sheer, like a batiste, and have 4 yards or so of usable fabric with lots of border print. Some are lovely fine cotton, like a soft pima cotton, with a border print piece of about 2 yards and another plainer piece for pants that’s about 2 yards and a border print scarf. The sheer cottons will have plenty of yardage for dresses, the heavier cottons, probably only enough for a skirt (about 44″ wide). At $12-$20 for each bundle, they were a steal. At one shop I finally found some madras plaid by the meter and purchased 4 meters at a very reasonable price:

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For the madras, I have in mind a “farmer’s shirt” for E. (I copied a favorite summer shirt for him a few years ago in a yellow seersucker check and I’ve always teased him and said that all he needs is a pair of white pants and white patented leather shoes and he’d fit right into the farming community where he was raised.) And a pair of Bermuda shorts for me.

The Salwar Kameez fabrics will work themselves into my sewing endeavors. I’m seeing sheer tunics and sundresses and hippy-chic skirts.

As I was unpacking, Willy decided he’s the Maharajah! picture-012.jpg

The kicker is, as we were driving to the Fisherman’s Cove resort after my surgery, we passed a very modern looking two story store called The Cotton House. I drooled as I saw hundreds of rolls of fabric in the windows. I was on crutches and just a few days post surgery and so we couldn’t stop. Maybe on my next visit to India, let’s hope it’s not for another new hip!

Ta-ta for now!