When it comes to Indian fabric and handmade crafts, every word would fall short to define the excellence of art and the artist as well. Tangaliya & Toda Fabric is a unique way of weaving with intricate textile design patterns that highlight the artists’ single-mindedness. They were enthralled by the prospect of completing their numerous projects in a timely and precise manner.
Women from the Bharwad shepherd community in the Wankaner, Amreli, Dehgam, Surendranagar, Joravarnagar, Botad, Bhavnagar, and Kutch areas wore the textile as a shawl or wraparound skirt.
The technique, which is woven on home pit looms, involves weaving knots in colors that contrast with the warp color to create the effect of raised dots. The weaving is based on mathematical calculations that are extremely precise. To produce geometric patterns, the weaver must count the warp yarns each time before hand-knotting the dot in acrylic yarn. A single blunder can make the final design look shoddy. Because of the raised surface of the dots, the pattern has a tactile feel that is similar to braille. This has become the textile’s signature style.
The visual effect of dots, which is most striking and appealing on dark color bases, especially black, is another important consideration. The craft’s unique appeal comes from the graphic quality of white dots mixed with other brightly colored dots. White dots were also common due to the ease with which white color yarn could be knotted compared to colored yarns. Most woolen shawls used to have graphic patterns of white and maroon color dots on a black background.
The textile’s beauty also comes from its longer wearability. With each wash, the cotton textile becomes denser and the dots between the warp and weft become even more finely integrated. Because customers prefer less coarse textures, the traditional craft of weaving with unprocessed camel or sheep wool is no longer practiced, but we must not overlook the inherent beauty of Tangaliya weave. There is still a small, niche market for the original form of the craft, and tapping into this market could help to resurrect this dying art form.
The exquisitely finished embroidery appears to be woven cloth, but it is made with red and black threads on a white cotton cloth background. The embroidered fabric can be used on both sides, and the Toda people are proud of their heritage. Embroidered cloaks and shawls are worn by both men and women.
The Todas (also known as Tudas, Tudavans, and Todar) who create this embroidery live in a single small community of 1,600 people spread across 69 settlements. In the Nilgiri Hills, in the higher elevations of the Nilgiris plateau, in Tamil Nadu, about 400 of them are said to be engaged in embroidery work. They are involved in the tradition of making many handicrafts items, in addition to their vocation as buffalo herders and grassland farmers. This includes the women of the community’s traditional black and red embroidery. The embroidery is usually done on their “Pootkhuly” cloaks, which are worn by both men and women.
Embroidery is distinct in that the patterns are determined by the thread counts, as opposed to modern embroidery, which is based on pre-determined patterns and designs. The most fascinating fact is that indigenous Toda women who lack modern numerical literacy can embroider geometrically precise patterns without the use of scales or patterns. Another feature that sets it apart from modern embroidery is that the reverse side is equally lovely, with no evidence of hanging threads or knots. Naturally, this necessitates a significant amount of time and effort, but the final product’s beauty more than compensates. The embroidery is done using specific fabrics and colors. Red and black are the primary colors used. The pattern is finished with an embossed look thanks to the thickness of the thread.
Handwoven unbleached matted and loosely woven cotton cloth, needle, and two-ply woolen embroidery thread were the major raw materials employed. The materials were purchased in Kapoor, Tamil Nadu, near Tirupur. The women were ordering 1000-meter bundles of fabric. The embroidery threads are wool, which is readily available on the market.
Fabric with wide red bands at both ends on which dramatic geometric motifs are embroidered is used in the traditional shawl. On a single piece, it’s not uncommon to discover more than nine detailed motifs.