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.