Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Smocking Effect

Before elastic changed our garments and the way we dressed, smocking was a common feature in the clothing sector. These were generally used in those garments, where buttons were not desirable or feasible. 'Fitting yet flexible' is what made smocking a  popular technique in the past centuries. From cuffs to necklines, smocking was used in a variety of garments.

But that has changed now. Today, smocking stands synonymous with traditional children's clothing. Ideal for controlling and gathering fullness, smocking can be used to create interesting effects, especially on dresses.

The technique involves reducing a light-weight fabric to approximately one-third of its original width. It is usually stitched from left to right, with each stitch picking up a small amount of fabric at the middle of the fold. Different delightful patterns are formed using cable stitch, diamond stitch and honeycomb stitch.

Smocking is a regular feature on Tara garments, especially dresses. You can check our collection here.

Friday, 29 August 2014

What the nuns taught us

The hand-embroidered designs and stitching patterns on Tara baby-wear can all be traced back to the English missionaries and their teachings. These add a certain old-world charm to Tara clothing and what prompts people to be on a lookout for our garments even in this technology-driven era.

But it's not just in patterns that we stay loyal to the nuns' teachings, even when it comes to transferring a design from paper to fabric we lean back on to what was taught in the last century.

In this traditional method, neelam (blue colour) is tied in a cloth to form a small pouch. Next, melt the wax and put it in a container, so that it hardens.

Then dip the pouch in kerosene and rub it over the wax. Design is drawn on a tracing/butter paper, which is then pricked with a pin and holes are made outlining the design.

Keep the fabric underneath the tracing paper and rub the pouch over the design. The ink would be transferred on to the fabric, copying the outline. Once the embroidery is done, the blue ink is washed off.
Stitching over the blue outline

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Long & Short of Our Techniques

While a machine repeats a set design on one fabric after the other, each hand-embroidery pattern differs from the next - thereby marking out each garment as unique.

This calls for lot of time, patience and needless to say skill. A short tour of the various hand-embroidery techniques routinely used at Tara... 

Satin Stitch
Satin Stitch is a beautiful method to fill a pattern. All stitches need to be parallel to one another - long stitches of thread with no breaks joining one edge to the other. Satin stitch is liberally used in our garments especially for patterns that need to have a raised effect such as the centre of a flower.

Long & Short Stitch
It is the long and short stitch that adds a realistic touch to our flower and petal motifs. Little by little you need to fill up the pattern with these long and short stitches - that's what makes this seemingly simple design a difficult technique to master.

Feather stitch

Open-chain stitches linked to one-another leading to vine-like decorations on the fabric. Our farm collection garments uses a lot of this technique to bring to life motifs of plants, trees, bushes and other wilderness.

Stem Stitch

Aptly named the stem stitch, this technique helps one to depict the curvy lines of plant stems and leaves. Short overlapping stitches are made to give a line effect. These are generally used to form the outline of a design and never as a filling.

Chain Stitch
A neatly-braided hair is how a simple chain stitch looks on the fabric. The technique is all about even/exact loops following one another to form a chain-like pattern. Simple chain stitch generally marks out the silhouette of the pattern or object.

Button-hole Stitch

Basically, the stitch you see around the buttonhole of any shirt is the button-hole stitch. The beauty of button-hole stitches is such that by altering the length of the upright stitches or space between the stitches - you can either get a decorative or practical pattern (button-hole). Though the decorative button-holes do form a part of our regular designs, it is more commonly used to attach the applique to the fabric.

Running Stitch

One straight stitch, a tiny gap and then the next stitch begins - this is how a series of straight stitches are made to form the running stitch. There is no back stitch involved in this simple and basic hand-sewing technique.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Empowering Hands

Hand-embroidered designs and traditional patterns give a timeless appeal to our garments -  marking them out as Tara. We look back at how we carved this identity for ourselves and the "hands" that helped us achieve it.

What started with couple of employees at a single unit in Kochi, is now a production house with over 30 units spread across Kerala employing more than 200 women! In all these 30 years, we have stayed away from machines - depending solely on our women employees in these units.

Our units are spread out as far as the Malabar region in the north and the capital city down south.  This means that women don't have to come to us for work, our decentralised system allows them to do work in their house environment.

They could be educated, skillful ladies but who are chained to the household for various reasons. Financial freedom through regular work is what Tara is offering these underprivileged women of our state. No strict deadlines also mean that their duties as a wife, mother or daughter-in-law are never forgotten.

Nor is there a penalty for a wrong design or pattern. On and off, the design that comes back to the headquarters does not resemble the original sketch. However, the magic of hand-embroidery is such that even a wrong design could end up as a lovely new design.


Monday, 21 July 2014

How to Wrap Your Baby Well

Baby infants sleep blissfully when wrapped in a cotton sheet as it gives them a secure and snug feel just like in the mother's womb.

Most people tend to buy synthetic/acrylic sheet as they believe it would keep the baby warm in cold climate. However, it is not good to have synthetic material next to the baby's skin.

Step by step process
It is always better to wrap the baby in a cotton sheet as it is gentle on their delicate skin. It is very easy to swaddle the baby, once you learn the right technique. If you feel that it is still cold, you can put a blanket over the baby to keep him or her warm.

Once you begin the to wrap the baby before nap time, they also catch up on the routine quickly. So every time you wrap the baby, they also get ready to sleep.

From newborn age till they begin to make movements, i.e, up to 3 months, you can continue using wraps for babies.

Tara adds delicate hand-embroidered designs on to the soft cotton sheets making it an adorable accessory for nap time. You can check out our collection here  - choose from cute blue star designs to vibrant farm scenes.

Blue Star Cotton Wrapping Sheet

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Goodness of White for your Baby

White, specifically white cotton fabric, is the first choice for new-borns (irrespective of their gender) and this trend stands good across countries and races. Milky white is the chosen one not just for clothes, but the linen, diapers, towels are all picked keeping in mind the pure colour.

The reason for this is a bundle of convenience, comfort level and climate.

Once the excitement over the baby starts wearing off, you slowly wake up to the real infant world filled with pee and poop. Some new moms even complain that these seem to be the only things the baby is doing, when he or she is not crying for food. And this needs your immediate intervention as there are chances of baby suffering from rashes or allergies, if they stay wet for long.

Here's where white works the best.   You will certainly notice when a white diaper is soiled. You will then immediately change the clothing and lessen the discomfort for the baby. 

With the extra load of laundry to wash every day, white fabric makes it far more easier to ensure that clothes are thoroughly cleaned after washing.

You need to be extra cautious with kids’ clothing and make certain that no dirt is sticking on to the fabric. Say in a custard yellow cloth, you may not be able to so easily spot when it is soiled or confirm that it is thoroughly cleaned.

Next let us look at the climate - hot, sultry weather does not suit the baby. And the babies would be highly uncomfortable, if they are made to wear dark or bright garments that are usually made from synthetic fabrics.

Babies predominantly need breathable fabric (like the cotton) that is gentle on their sensitive skin. And the white ones ensure that no extra heat is absorbed by the fabric - providing a pleasant time to the babies.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

About Button Books & Fabric Pages

Life at Tara revolves around clothes. Clothes work almost as a substitute for paper/books. Instead of tearing out pages from a book, we try to make-do with small shreds of garments.

Button Books

Notes made on fabric
We even have an in-house cataloging file which is aptly called the Button Books. Square or rectangle pieces of white polycot fabric are stitched together to form a book. 

Buttons or  embellishments are stitched on to these ‘fabric pages’ along with corresponding notes on the side. These help in keeping track of dress items and the matching embellishments. If we a message needs to be send to a unit regarding a faulty garment, it is written out on a piece of fabric, which is then stitched on to the product.

Fabric can come in handy for many other tasks too. Like the long strips of discarded fabric that are
Bundle of towels tied with cloth
Choolu tied with strip of cloth
used to tie up the bundles of garments during
transportation. We also have the age-old brooms (choolu) made of sticks held together by a string of fabric.

Our earlier workers even used to take these discarded pieces of clothes and make pillows or cushions out of them.