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Nomadic. Rooted.

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The image above captures the glorious freedom of spirit and strong sense of identity that is associated with the nomadic “Banjaras”. The nomadic tribes originate from the desert sands of Rajasthan and Gujarat from where a group journeyed through to the Northern part of Karnataka in Southern India. The tribe is known as the Lambanis.

The heavy, layered style of jewellery, the chunky pieces complimented with delicate dangling chains and bells, the borders framing theirs attire meticulously embroidered in square and round mirror-work, the colourful continuum of patchwork, into which are sewn in conch-shells and finally the stunning array of silver coins accenting the edges…these are merely the few ornaments adorning the braided hair and covered head!

There are delicate nose-pins or nose-rings, chokers in beads or silver, longer neck-pieces with pendants, bracelets commencing on the wrists that then are layered right up to the armpits, amulets, anklets and the usual rings et al.

The skirts are always in brilliant colours, flowing, layered and swirling around the ankles in consonance with the majestic gait that is the hallmark of these striking handsome women. The cholis or blouses are each, individual, works of art. The centre piece for the yolk is traditionally rectangular with larger and small mirror and patterns created in patchwork and the sleeves are perfectly symmetrical and compliment the structure and form of the yolk. The back is open and pulled close using tie-back with tassels at the ends. This allows for the blouse to fit over the course of a woman’s lifetime! Its comfortable, convenient and gorgeous. They don’t dress, to follow or create fashions. They dress to express and be who they are. Banjaras.

There is often supreme irony in the role perception plays in social commentary. The nomadic tribes are the timeless travellers and journeymen. In my view, they anticipated and as part of their view of a natural order, lived the life globalization has over the last decades triggered in countries across the world. We’ve witnessed unprecedented migrations of people from rural to urban, as globalization, powered by the internet and open markets, created opportunities for skills-development and employment.

The Banjaras, have for centuries, travelled from one place to another, displaying their unique crafts, their products with an innate entrepreneurial streak and a natural ease of doing business. Their women have sung the songs of creation and sewn together patches of clashing colours, different textures and then embroidered patterns that reveal the glory of Nature. Their mystical tattoos symbolize their unique interpretation of an eternal order. These are never random or devoid of meaning. On the contrary, each is always perfectly uniform in content and form and consistent, in keeping with the origins of the tribe and the individuals place in the universe which is never constant but always dynamic and evolving. To one tattoo is added another as the person experiences the next milestone. Every piece of ornament, every piece of garment and every tattoo is in harmony with the individuals roots and place in the world.

If we took a hard and honest look at the nomadic tribes, we would discover that they were indeed the first expressions of what was to follow as an emerging global world-view. They did not choose to champion this change nor is there any evidence of their attempting to influence existing social orders, as they walked besides the established status quo, at their own pace, following their own rituals and traditions, inhabiting an alternate and parallel way of life. In truth, the were never considered for any permanent membership in any social context nor expected to participate integrally in any fashion. Their lot and their choice remained, in perpetuity, at the periphery.

The Banjaras have remained rooted in the most holistic meaning of the word even as they travelled from place to place. We, the other part of humanity, that formulated written and spoken language and attributed meaning to words that came from our singular reference-points, have referred to their state of being, as nomadic or “rootless”. As though being rooted was a physical state of being!

As migrations increase and cities expand into bordering villages and the lines become more blurred, there are growing concerns of traditions being eroded, cultures being diluted, indigenous populations being overwhelmed by the influx of “outsiders” or migrants and the migrants themselves, dealing with the angst of “loss of identity”.

A few moments of gazing into this photograph would help draw attention to the reality that in a transient, impermanent lifetime, the Banjaras and Nomads, exemplify what being “rooted” should be. To be free to roam freely, to journey through life working to earn an honest living, to engage with all peoples equally, to belong everywhere and no where, to carry one’s rooted and identity within oneself and wear it on one’s person with abandon, these are life’s best lessons and there are no schools and universities where these can be learnt.

The Nomads are perhaps the finest icons of lives well-lived. Free yet rooted.

Kapaas: Rendezvous with a Legend

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This crop of humble origins begins its genesis as fluff around the seeds of the cotton plant, held in a brown casing to keep it secure. This “fluff” of humble origins and grass-roots appeal, has been the stuff of legend. Its references are found in ancient Indian scriptures dating it back to over 2,000 BC. Its revolutionary zeal stood proudly revealed during India’s independence struggle as it became a vehicle and an idiom for the Swadeshi movement when Mahatma Gandhi called for a boycott of all Colonial goods and imported yarn. He led tens of millions of people with the simple, patient turning of the Spinning wheel and they followed his example, to weave the cloth they would wear as a symbol of National pride and resistance against British oppression.
Growing-up in free India, we had no such struggles. There was no wheel to spin; only yarns of the verbal kind! We used Cotton everyday in every which way. It lit the glowing ritual diya for that extra-special joy of commencing prayer.  It was always at-hand to wipe wounds with, or to be worn as tops, skirts, draped sarees and more. All enjoyed its comfort in pillows and all furnishings at home, rugs, curtains, sheets, towels. And yes, it was a lifesaver in wiping-off mascara. I knew about it well. I’d simply never met with the legend in person.
The time had come to make acquaintance with the land and people who’ve accepted me into their fold and given us a place to put down roots again. To this end, I travelled across 445 miles of the State of Karnataka from Bengaluru to Navalgund and then another 200 miles out and about. On arriving at these fields mid-afternoon, I felt compelled to stop, get-out of the car and walk out into the endless fields of green, dotted with white smiley faces of “fluff”. They overwhelmed me with their simple stoicism and lightness of being.
This rendezvous had to be acknowledged and their story, simply had to be shared. That right degree of heat from the sun, the dark fertile soil and flowing waters, produced in a delicate, pristine white Cotton ball, the potent force that not so long ago, gave the land and its people freedom.
Some legends simply are. Respect.

Respect Origins; Support Fair Trade Eco-Friendly Banana Fibre Products

Welcome to the Origins. A place within us all that stands still as Time moves past. Untouched, pristine and Centered. One with Creation, in harmony with Nature and our deepest selves. Humankind has evolved and perhaps, far beyond the realm of the imagination of our fore-fathers/mothers. We open a can or packet to feed ourselves and all manner of produce and products are available to one with the right printed-paper in one’s wallet.

However, the Origins remain intact somewhere deep within and this is evidenced in the joy of peeling opening a fresh Banana and devouring it to the very end before sending the selfless Banana-skin flying-out into the nearest bin or oftentimes just about anywhere it can reach! Its bio-degradable and disturbs our conscience less. Yes, we all do still have one. Remember? The Origins, they remain intact!

In the Southern states of India, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, the Banana tree is a mainstay and life-source with the fruit, in raw form and in ripe form, providing every nutrition in fresh form and also, as Plantain Chips and Savories that made to be preserved over a long time.

The hardworking women of the villages have over time developed a fantastic fibre from the external bark of the matured Banana trees. The bark, once soaked, becomes soft and pliable-enough to be used at the spinning-wheel to spin into yarn. This fibre makes for amazing, esoteric, environmentally-friendly and classy one-of-a-kind handmade products. Dining-table Mats, Stationery holders, Kitchen Baskets and even Cool and Savvy Wine-bottle holders!

Each product is entirely natural and safe and every purchase is sourced directly from the hands of the women in remote village that toil to collect, spin and then make every individual product as a small group in their rural communities.

With the power of the internet, widely pervasive telecom infrastructure, mobile communications and e-payment gateways, any one globally can exercise the choice to participate actively in energizing sustainable eco-systems.

Do Good. Feel Better. There’s only One You. Be Unique. Buy Unique.

Photos Courtesy CraftsBazaar: www.craftsbazaar.com

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Women in Red

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This painting by an Indian artist evokes a strong response of fear, exploitation and silent inadequacy, if you’re a woman. I imagine it evokes revulsion and outrage for the majority of men viewing it. No reasonable person remains untouched by the scourge of inequality and injustice.

For societies on either ends of the hemispheres, and all those in between and around,  one among the top three challenges to humanity and perhaps, by far, the most abiding and impossible to comprehend, remains the inequality of women. In a universe where Creation itself rests within the folds of a woman’s being, how did this utterly illogical, imbalanced and regressive approach find room to plant it’s seed, gain egregious ground and proliferate exponentially?!

How did women allow themselves to become unequal victims, in mind, body and soul? Why did they not arise and offend their silent, patriarchal oppressors, as mothers and grandmothers, if they were unable to do so as wives? When did it come to pass that a daughter deserves less in life and perhaps no life at all?

I lived past fifty and these questions moved past their expiry-date and were cast away into the vast unknown of mysteries that won’t in my lifetime have an answer for my mortal, limited-edition selfhood. I did, as far back as I can recall, never think myself less equal as a girl nor as a woman. Nor did I for an infinitesimal moment think any other woman or man was less equal. I wasn’t in la-la land nor was I stupid. I realized circumstances were unequal to people and that therefore, people were less or more able to do with themselves as they would like. I did recognize, very quickly though, that with this thinking, I was in the minority and my environment did not see me or indeed all humans, as equal. That gender, was an insurmountable lifelong birth-defect and while you could get successful, rich, powerful and spiritually evolved, the world would never allow you to be more than you could be because you are born a woman. One could be born poor in financial terms and that was a burden that buried generations under its weight before it could be shaken off, in some or good measure. Being born a girl-child though has no redemption in sight. No lottery or great entrepreneurial effort or streak of good-fortune could shake-off that absolute judgment.

The truth is liberating. While still quite young, this understanding at a fairly basic level that I am not and can never be perceived as being equal to any man, was fantastically liberating! It let me just be. It let me just be a young woman who no longer needed to carry the burden of proving she “can be equal”. And that was enough of me to breathe, strive and most importantly to give. Hamlet’s words, “I have that within which passes show..”, resonated silently and powerfully. It connected me to an ocean of empathy, creativity and nurturing that women are blessed with as a significant piece of that birth-defect!

It’s quite irrelevant why we are where we are or who caused this shift to happen. The great opportunity lies in the historical fact that the shift towards imbalance did happen and by that logic, yet another shift can also happen to take us back to balance, the natural state of Creation.

No answers need to be sought out. Only efforts need to be made, very mindfully, to work towards a balanced, equal, natural order. Its materially important that support be offered and leverages provided to enable women be equal and even the first citizens of the Universe, as the creators of life, nurtures of values and builders of character.

I seek out all who can support in every which way and those who need support. I reach out and will do so, as far as I can see because I will not be that matriarch who’s face appears as a specter to the girl-child of future generations who wants to know, as I once did, “Why did women and men remain silent and let us come to this?” Nor should you.

One Night and a Stranger.

November 2006, London

It was about mid-night and as is the reality of a multitude of employees in the  Global IT industry, I’d commenced yet another day at dawn, to sync-up with India, which is always ahead in time zones from its Western client-geographies and was about to wrap-up with a review call with teams and Management in the US.

My son, a little over 5 years of age, was in his tiny cot in a room that was an extension of my own by about 4 X 4 feet. Cozy, appropriate, quite typical of a One-two bed apartment in the Greater London area. As I started to clean-up and prepare for the morning, I felt my head-swimming and my legs giving way. I scrambled to my couch and passed-out long-enough to have a visitation from my grandfather in sparkling white attire with a surreal glow around his person. He’d left for his Heavenly Abode about ten years ago and even in that state of “zoning-out”, for want of a better comprehension of what it was, my whole being felt this great fear deep within that it was time for me to join him in the Afterlife. I would die and have to leave my child behind! That single gut-wrenching fear, snapped-me out of “the zone” and I reached for my cell-phone and rang the neighborhood Cab-stand that I walked past every day at least twice, responding to their greetings and making small talk. They’d always hoped I’d use their service and I’d always walked right past them to the Tube-station down the High-street. I never took a cab except for the airport. No one does!

That night I called from a dark, desperate, terrified place and someone responded. The man on the phone gave me clear instructions to stay on the call, to stay awake, to unlock the door and to wait. “I’m on my way..I’m right there..”, he spoke in his Pakistani-Punjabi-British assuring voice. Unable to get myself up, I slid down the stairs and unlocked the door. The man arrived and started to help me up to get me into the car and to hospital. I was mumbling, crying that my child is alone and I can’t leave him and I neither heard what he said nor processed what he was doing. It was as though I’d turned to Lead and my insides were headed to Heaven but my body couldn’t follow…..my child was alone.

This comforting stranger rushed up, gathered my little boy in his arms, managed to scoop me up and into the back seat of the cab where I passed-out again…but I could now hear my son’s crying and his fear. I could hear it within the deepest layers of my being. I was being separated from him and I was in my state of deep sleep, but fighting to wake-up.

When I came to my senses it was morning. My son was fine and fast asleep, my husband had been on calls with the hospital, my friend had been orchestrating various affairs…so I heard the nurse tell me. I managed to get myself up, determined to find my child and leave for home instantly. As I peered through the curtains of the ER cubicle that I’d been in, felt the blood warm-up inside my veins and start to flow. My heart, like our old car that would suddenly splutter and respond to the ignition, after playing dead for longest time, was beating loudly. I have no recall of hearing it thumping quite as purposefully ever before that moment. My fervent gaze found that precious sight it was yearning for. My child. I saw my child fast asleep in the lap of a bearded man.

I could not have recognized this very person had I walked past him on the street. He was just another stranger. Yet in that moment I knew him. I knew who he was and I knew his soul and spirit. He was a Messiah who’d answered a strangers call and left his warm Dispatcher’s Room and brought me to the Emergency Room of the hospital. He had called three numbers that were the most dialled recent numbers on my phone, including an overseas one, to contact my family. He hadn’t done that and left. He could have and most people would have. Instead, all night, he sat outside my cubicle, on a plastic chair, being comforting sentinel and family, to a little-boy who was even in his sleep clinging on to his collar, just as he would have to his father’s, for security. It’s as if he knew this stranger was not a stranger.

As time days went by, I was questioned by family and friends as to why I didn’t dial 911?! I didn’t have an answer then and I don’t have one, 10 years on. I dialled the first number on my cell phone’s Contacts list. C for Cab. Perhaps, my survival instincts trusted the kind-faced strangers and their proximity more than it did an emergency service. Maybe my maternal instincts chose to place faith in people who took a moment to nod graciously as we, mother and son, rushed between day-care and office. I had never looked them in the eye or stopped to speak. We simply wished each other in passing with a nod of heads and a courtesy greeting.

Perhaps this or possibly, that. I can’t really say. I ran that scenario over in my head like what felt like a million times over, as years rolled on.  Without the slightest sliver of doubt, I knew, that on that mystical night, I had been guided by a powerful Force into the safest hands. On that night when I felt myself being taken away from my child and into a world beyond the living, the kindness of a stranger, brought me back to our child and life.

The kindness of a stranger in a strange land; Heaven is a place on Earth.

Pursuit of Excellence: Petit Point Embroidery

As the name suggests, this craft is of French-origin and has become a fine addition to the Indian repertoire. Petit point or quite literally, small point, has the fine needlework associated with fabulous European Linen and tapestries due to the ability to use tiny stitches that come together to create complex patterns.

The craft is naturally quite labour-intensive, requires a great deal of creativity quite like that of a miniature painting and he execution has to be flawless to deliver the expected fine results. The craftsperson can apply great detail to every piece and significantly, to create the natural depth and multi-dimentional aspect of each part of the whole, various hues of every shade used are deployed in a highly effective manner. The result is a lifelike, fine piece of needlework.
I’ve found the most delightful and exquisite works being done by sisters in the Convents at  the Nilgiris, in Tamil Nadu, as well as, Calcutta. Small groups of women have been trained to learn this craft that requires the elusive traits of infinite patience,  an ability to work to a pattern and follow the plan, the application of skill and tenacity in the face of an error that result in hours of toil coming to nought!
This craft is not for those who seek a creative expression to while away the hours. It requires monastic dedication and a lifetime in pursuit of excellence. Those who appreciate these qualities will seek-out, appreciate and enjoy the simple elegance of Petit Point.

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Tikuli Art; Coasters & Home Products

Tikuli Art has its origins in Bihar, Eastern India. The “tikka” or dot on the woman’s forehead is believed to be the inspiration behind this art-form. These would have been the most expensive “tikkas” ever! Its a refined expression of art which has evolved from being one requiring painstaking effort, in working with melting glass to form thin sheets, upon which layers of gold foil and gems would be applied under the patronage of Royalty, to its modern-day avatar.

Tikuli Art is now a painting that includes Madhubani motifs and is done on hard-board using deft paintbrush strokes, enamel and bold colors, usually against a dark, black background for great effect. The process renders the board heatproof and waterproof. Fabulous products such as trays, coaster and wall-hangings are increasingly popular.

Artisans offer their products to you directly on CraftsBazaar. Buy Direct, Cheaper, Better!

Exclusive Pearl Jewelry from Hyderabad

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Andhra Pradesh’s Capital, Hyderabad city, has been the stuff of legends, with the famous Salarjung Museum and the history of riches in gem collections, fine jewellery and opulent lifestyle prior to the Independence of Indian and the abrogation of Princely States. The Nizam, it is widely known, loved his strings of pearls and diamonds.

The Pearl decorated royalty while also being used in pastes to enhance the facial glow and add lustre and beauty to skin. “Tula-baar”, or weigh equivalent to one’s weight was an ancient tradition where grains and pulses were weighed and distributed among the less fortunate. This tradition in Mughal India was taken to new heights as precious pearls and gems were used in place of grains. This attracted pearl merchants to Hyderabad making it, “The Pearl City”, as it soon became the trading centre on account of its being a port city as well.

Kashmiri Walnut Wood Carvings

Walnut Wood from Kashmir, India, has been used exceptionally well by Kashmiri craftspersons over centuries. The Walnut Tree is a native plant and among the range of fruits and dry-fruits produced by this abundantly-blessed Himalayan Valley, this has been used to create fabulous products for Home Decor and Gifts.

One finds a range of gorgeous Jewelry boxes, Cigar-cases, Stationary boxes and the larger pieces of furniture, to include, Writing desks, Bedsteads, Centre-Tables and Revolving Book-Cases. The warm tones of the wood simply glow and acquire a rich hue over time.

The wood is carved into with the most enduring motifs being Nature’s gifts to the region. The Chinaar or Maple leaves, Floral vines, Birds and Animals, Always perfectly symmetrical!

An amazing product below is the Cigarette Holder. It has mechanical lever that, when pushed down, takes the ducks beak to the box in front that slides open to allow for the picking of a single cigarette! These products are all available online at CraftsBazaar. You can even have something made to order and customized specially for you to be delivered globally.

Buddhist Thangkha Paintings

 

Thangkas depict the life and teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist monks embrace austerity, discipline and a life dedicated to learning the teachings of the Buddha. Thangkas are spiritual expressions and it is believed that the subject of each Thangka, reflects the aspirations of the person who acquires or commissions it.

These are made on plain fabric using natural colours although the more affluent have options in fine silk with elaborate borders. Each is a work of dedication, fine craftsmanship, skill and spiritual expression.

The connotations are always sacred and reveal a higher truth that mankind aspires to learn about in its quest for meaning. The Mandala, a diagrammatic representation,  remains a widely recognized work. They are believed to bringing prosperity, longevity and grace.

The painter of these Thangkas is Surya Lama. He was born in 1961, in Lhasa, Tibet and in his teens became a monk at the Lamayuru Monastery in Ladakh, India. He dedicated himself to training on becoming a Thangka painter for 3 years prior to choosing proxity to the Buddhist spiritual Head, the Dalai Lama, in McLeodganj. This is His Highness the Dalai Lama’s home. Here, he spent 5 years to study the craft further at the Norbalingka Institute for Tibetan arts.

Anyone can commission an Thangka from Surya Lama and it will be ready for delivery in 6-8 weeks. Please visit http://www.craftsbazaar.com to browse or order one.

Kashmiri Cuisine; Tinned Wazvaan Online!

All Kashmiris, irrespective of denomination, ethnicity and political leanings have in common a pre-occupation with food! What’s been cooked, how it turned out, what should be cooked next and what will be eaten through every day of every week and month, season, festivals, freezing cold and burning fever is the chief topic worthy of discussion. Global warming, political manifestoes and the Olympics stand no chance what-so-ever. Further, every meal is subject to due diligence, analysis, passionate reminiscence and articulation about how well it was cooked by mothers, grand-mothers and even their ancestors..

Most human beings meet, greet and proceed to ask each other, “Hey, how’s it going?” or, “How’re you doing?”. Ah ha! Most human beings are not Kashmiris though!! Kashmiris meet, greet and ask even absolute strangers, “So, what did you eat today??” Its THE ice-breaker in the simple, food-besotted culture of every breathing, walking Kashmiri Homo Himalayan!

The cuisine is legendary but what’s specially endearing is the delicious, pure, abundance of the fruits and spices of Jammu and Kashmir that are unique in that these are, for the most part, dried and non-perishable to offer options for the winter months when the Himalayan people of the valley of Kashmir, were cloistered-in, with no access to the plains and warmer climates where vegetables and fruits could be sourced from.

Tomatoes, apples, bottle-gourd, eggplant, apricots, figs and even ginger and spices that are generally used fresh by most Indians, were sun-dried through the summer months and ground into powder for ease of use. Even fish was dried! Below are some images of these delicacies. These are now delicacies because in times of abundance, when all produce is available across all seasons, when supermarkets and home-delivery are the norm, these foods from the “good-old-days” are now fervently sought-out by yearning hearts with mouth-watering memories!

Fortunately, with the use of technology-platforms, such as CraftsBazaar.com, these rare speciality foods are now being delivered to doorsteps worldwide.

We can’t bring Kashmir to you…but its flavours, aromas and uniquely wondrous foods are yours at the click of your fingers.
Enjoy.

http://www.craftsbazaar.com

 

Tribal Paintings: Collectors Artworks

The Gond & Pardhan Tribes In the Gondwana region of Central India derive inspiration from festivals when women decorate the main doors & walls of Homes to welcome in prosperity and good fortune.

Please Browse & Enjoy this Natural Expression of Tribal Art.

There are a wide range of traditional Indian art available directly from the artists at www.craftsbazaar.com. You can choose what you fancy or simply have a work commissioned to your taste at no extra cost. A standard size typically takes about 4-6 weeks to get it delivered worldwide.

Forged Iron Products: Source Online

Forged Iron Works have held their own in the wide array of the Indian metal works repertoire. One finds small, entrepreneurial dwellings and workshops where the products are created, piece by piece, to suit the evolving tastes of the contemporary household. Starting at the outdoors, these were traditionally use to make decorative railings, planters, holder and now we see delightful door decors and accessories. Each piece is interesting, innovative and creative.

This craftsperson is Ashu from a village that skirts Delhi, India’s Capital city. He makes holders. These are unique door or wall accessories, to hang-up your keys, clothes, towels or tennis rackets on. He also makes a range of interesting desktop-top holders for pens and stationary. Some of his works are simply artistic expressions of common place things like cycles and rickshaws, that are made by incorporating wood to create light and adorable decor. Heavy metal never looked so good!

Grass Baskets: Eco-friendly Home and Living Ideas

Grasslands have fed wild animals, human populations and in general, protected earth from denudation and drought. Their contribution to Nature is plentiful and vital.

In many rural areas across the world, grass is used to make products like hats, baskets, even various forms of household items for everyday use.

One such type of grass, in India, is known as Sikki grass and this grows in Mithila, in Bihar. This place has the unique distinction of being the birth-place of Sita, the celebrated and highly venerated wife of King Rama, widely regarded as the epitome of virtuosity and sacrifice .

Women in this region source, dry and die this grass in a various hues to make products like baskets, table mats, trays, toys, dolls and almost anything that can be of utility or interest! The grass is coiled tight and a needle-like implement called a Takua, makes itself useful, to assist them in giving these creations shape.

This environmentally-friendly and sustainable means of livelihood lends dignity, creates employment and makes it possible for urbanites to find beautiful, handmade, eco-friendly products that are light on the pocket, in product- weight and also, on ones conscience.

Live well; Choose wisely. Ditch the plastic..go for Grass.

 

 

 

Crochet Mats and Tops – Andhra Pradesh

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Crochet Table Linen, Women’s tops and girls pretty dresses hav ealwasy been highly sought after. Crochet, French for a hook, with which yarn, in cotton or wool, is looped continuously, using the hook which draws-out the thread from the loop repeatedly, resulting in a lace-like netted fabric.  The effect is mesmerizingly beautiful and delicate.  This craft came to India with the French and British colonists and is now small units of local women artisans supported by self-help groups, make products to suit the export markets.  

CraftsBazaar promotes these artisans and their products online. 

 

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