Whenever I look at works of other jewelry artists, I tend to look closely at the materials they use and if something is interesting or new, I try and research it. That is how I stumbled on Sari ribbon two years back. It looked beautiful, vibrant, expensive, new, yet very very familiar and I was intrigued. I found a few vendors abroad selling it, though they had no description regarding the material, the zoom ups revealed sewn up fabric scraps. I had a “Aha!” moment for I had realised what they were – They were Silk Saree Scraps!!
I forgot all about them, until the recent bead soup blog hop when my partner Lilik mentioned that she would like some Sari ribbon from local markets. I could not control my laughter – I was like ‘buying sari ribbon here, thats a good joke’. I think I might have shocked her a little. Its funny as it is equivalent to buying old newspaper from a store, which you probably sold to them in the first place. If it sounds confusing to you, just humour me, keep calm and read on ( my apologies for a long post!!) . Before going on to the technicalities of the ribbon, let me give you some background.
Saree and the Society
Traditional (read many years ago) Indian silk sarees, particularly the ones bought during weddings were heavy and had real silver thread or zari in their borders. Unlike the north, where wedding sarees had hardly worn, they are worn regularly in the south. Thus due to wear and tear, they literally tear or come apart after a few years. The artistic ones would convert them into cushion covers, curtain or make clothes for kids as the sarees were quite expensive to begin with. But they would soon end up with small tears unable to take the pressure of the sewing machine and would be relegated to the attic as people dint know what to do with them.
Then in mid 2000s came maverick saree stores with new interesting designs and light weight silks enticing the younger crowd by offering exchanges. Brand new pattern saree in exchange for an old one, whatever be its condition..
The Saree Recycling business
This Masterstroke of a marketing campaign led to small business selling lots of new light weight sarees with silver plated or silver finish zari which was a drastic reduction in quality and durability compared to the old ones but people were okay with it for several reason – chief of them not spending money out of their pockets and secondly not having to ask their husbands or inlaws before buying them.. Generally women never bought silk sarees for themselves, by themselves, unless they were public figures or very rich ( This did not extend to cotton or synthetic sarees, simple silks or salwars that women wore on an everyday basis). Even when the woman worked, it would always be a parent, sibling, husband, inlaws or son who paid for the sarees chosen by the woman though this has drastically changed now. This was not merely due to financial dependance as buying a silk saree was considered a gesture of love and duty, something that is sadly missing nowadays.
The stores made up for the difference by recycling the zari into metal and silk part into fibre pulp and selling them. But for the most part the silk portion was considered waste – until someone had the idea to chop them up and sell them as ribbons.
Thus was born the Sari Ribbon!!
|Types of Saree materials – Polyester, Poly cot, silk cot, pure silk (mulberry), Tussar silk, Jute Silk, Viscose-poly blend|
So when I saw sari ribbon being sold, I marvelled at it, being a pro recycling designer but it also saddened me thinking that it will never work here in India. I remember, in 2011, when I used a frayed silk ribbon in a metal necklace, almost everyone I showed it to accused me of putting a “good pendant on scrap fabric” and reducing its value. Three years later the situation is still the same. An average Indian prefers shiny metal over patina, bright colours over muted tones and perfect mould finished over raw natural work. I am being neither judgmental here nor apologetic, for even I am like that sometimes; maybe its what suits our skin tone better.
But seeing people here go to great lengths to import organza ribbon and gross grain and people in the west do the same with Indian lampwork beads and fabric ribbons – I can safely say that it is the classic case of grass being greener on the other side
|Types of Saree materials –Cotton, Silk crepe, Printed poly crepe, printed cot poly, tie dyed poly, embroidered poly|
The main reason for writing this post – is to bring awareness regarding this material. So much of the fabrics I saw during the blog hops were not silk sari ribbons– most of them weren’t silk (mulberry, tussar or eri) they were spun silk which is polyester and most of them weren’t from recycled sarees. They were just cut out of new fabric and washed to give a worn out feel freaking out the fashion designer in me. And I felt really sad that people using them, didn’t realise it. Some even mentioned that they didn’t know how to recognise sari ribbons or even identify silk. Somehow I felt some strange sense of duty (?); wanted to clear some myths and give tips to recognize real sari silk.
Sari ribbon Facts
1) Sarees can be made from any material – not necessarily silk (please see the picture of sarees of different fabric above). Silk is a fibre and Sarees are 6 yards (or more) fabric that is worn as a garment. A pure silk saree can be a plain silk saree, brocade, jacquard, chiffon, crepe and even Georgette. Tussar, Eri and muga are non mulberry silks. Ahimsa silk is made from cocoons discarded by silk worms.
2) True recycled sari ribbons will not be crisp – they will be soft – have a worn in feeling – water spots and iron marks will be seen in larger widths.
3) To identify silk – just smell it – It should smell like hair – If you burn a strand it should smell like eggs or burning meat for Silk is basically a protein.
4) Silk thread used in jewelry is an embroidery thread made of viscose, it is not the silk yarn that is used in weaving.
5) Sari ribbon is different from border ribbon or borders. Borders resemble woven saree border designs (may/may not have sequins/stones fixed on them) and are usually attached to sleeve hems of blouses to match with the sarees. They are also stitched on to plain sarees, kurtas, skirts, bags and home furnishings!!
6) Sarees can be made with tie and dye techniques too ( Bhandini, Ikat, Sungudi), so ribbons cut from them might have differential dyeing effects – usually with patterns (e.g above green saree with pink stripes called leheriya) but they are different from silk shibhori ribbons.
7) Traditional silk sarees are woven in single colors or dual colors (double shade) and can be either solids, stripes, checks or patterned but they will rarely be dyed in different colors across the width. That rules out most of the so called recycled/authentic ribbon I found available on US sites.
That sums up what I know on silk sari ribbons. I don’t claim to be an expert on this topic and Apart from cutting out worn out sarees at home I haven’t really played with the “manufactured sari ribbons”, so any addition of that knowledge will be appreciated. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
I hope you find it interesting