Clothes made in India using ancient methods are vibrant, unique, and treasured around the world. Many Indian artisans still keep with the traditions of the past by making everything by hand using the purest of materials.
Passion Lilie is dedicated to bringing these gorgeous patterns and materials to the U.S. Although our designs are created in New Orleans, all of our clothing is made in India. Even more importantly, we offer our Indian artisans fair wages and dignified, long-term employment, so every purchase supports these talented artists and their craft.
Today, clothes made in India strike a perfect balance between time-honored traditions and modern best practices. With its skillful artistry and designs that draw inspiration from Indian customs as well as nature, Indian clothing made from traditional processes is some of the most fascinating in the world.
Learn more about the customary practices for making clothing in India and where you can buy clothes made in India online today.
Natural Indian Dyes
One of the first things you might notice about clothes made in India are the bright, vivid colors. What you may not realize at first glance is that these dyes are as safe as they are beautiful.
Plant and Vegetable Dyes
— Black dyes are created by baking scraps of metal and sugar in a jar of mud. The jar is buried and left with the lid tightly sealed for three weeks.
— Yellow dyes are made by boiling pomegranates in water or using turmeric.
— Brown dyes are made by mixing red and black dyes together.
Once a few basic colors have been formed from natural materials, these dyes can be mixed together to create even more colors.
It takes a great deal of skill to identify the proper ingredients for these dyes. For example, the artisan must consider the age of the tree or plant, which will affect the exact shade of the color it produces. Older trees produce darker shades, while younger trees make lighter shades.
From the pre-treatment of the fabric to its final washing, every step of the dyeing process uses elements that are found naturally throughout India. This type of natural dyeing takes time and great attention to detail, leading to remarkable results.
The Plant and Vegetable Dyeing Process
Artisans throughout India use the following process to dye fabrics with plant-based or vegetable-based dyes.
- Natural Bleaching: First, the fabric is bleached through a natural process, giving it a pure white color while ensuring the final product is safe and free of chemicals. It is then beaten on rocks, soaked in water, left in the sun, and boiled.
- Myrobalan Treatment: Myrobalan is a fruit with medicinal properties found in India. Fabrics are pre-treated with juice from myrobalan seeds so the dye can better penetrate the fabric.
- Color Making: The dyes for a few basic colors are made from natural ingredients. Additional colors can be made by mixing together combinations of these dyes.
- Block Printing: A wooden block, hand-carved with the proper design, is dipped in dye and stamped onto the fabric.
- Washing: For the next two hours, the printed fabric is washed in clean, flowing water or freshwater.
- Boiling: After the fabric has dried, it is boiled in copper vessels with additional leaves, roots, barks, or flowers to achieve its desired color. Following boiling, it is re-washed and dried in the sun.
- Starching: In order to fix the dyes to the fabric, a starch is made from rice and spread onto the fabric.
- Additional Colors: If the design calls for any additional colors, the process is repeated with more dyes.
- Final Washing: Before the fabric can be cut and stitched into clothing, it receives a final wash with soap, dries in the sun, and gets pressed and folded.
For a more detailed look at this intricate process, read our Plant and Vegetable Dyes page.
This ancient dyeing process is a unique tradition still used on clothes made in India today.
Reactive dyes have a chemical reaction to the fabric they’re used on. They change the fabric on a molecular level, making them a permanent part of the fabric.
Small variations in the color are normal and part of what makes reactive dyed products so unique. Using this method, clothing won’t bleed or become faded with time, leaving you with clothes that are vibrant, beautiful, and handcrafted.
The Reactive Dyeing Process
Clothes made in India with reactive dyes use the following process.
- The fabric is dyed an initial base color.
- A binder is made by soaking gum arabic resin crystals in water until they ferment.
- The fabric is hand block printed using eco-friendly, azo-free reactive dyes.
- Each piece of fabric is wrapped individually in recycled newspaper and steamed for an entire day.
- The fabric is washed and cured in the sun, which helps develop the colors.
- The process repeats if there are any other colors in the design, each of which must be added one at a time.
- Any gum arabic residue is removed, and the soft, beautiful final fabric is revealed.
Learn more about this process by reading our blog post.
Hand Block Printing
Clothes made in India often incorporate the technique of hand block printing. Block printing was popularized in China and many other East Asian countries, but it was in India where it really hit upon its highest visual expression.
This centuries old art form starts with a simple piece of wood. In India, the native teak tree is preferred for woodblock printing.
The wood is hand-carved into any shape the designer wishes to use. Many times, you’ll see designs inspired by nature in the clothes made in India, or else symbols relating to Indian beliefs and customs.
Block printing involves the following process for clothes made in India.
- The stamp is created by chipping away at the woodblock to make the right design.
- The fabric is pre-washed, most often in a local river or waterway.
- The fabric is dyed its base color and prepared for printing. To prevent smudges or uneven printing, the fabric is laid flat on a table and secured with pins.
- The dyes are mixed, and the block is dipped in dye. Then, the block is stamped forcefully onto the fabric, either by hand or with the help of a small hammer.
- The printing process repeats if any other colors are included in the design. Each color must be applied individually with a separate block.
- After the dye dries, the fabric is rinsed in water and dried in the sun.
As with clothes made in India using reactive dyes, block printed clothing is all the more unique for its small variations and handcrafted tradition. It also takes advantage of natural processes and materials to make a product that is safe and sustainable.
At Passion Lilie, we appreciate the environmentally friendly foundation of these long-standing Indian practices and hope to share them with the world through our clothing made in India. By using materials found in nature rather than forged by harmful chemicals, washing by hand, and drying in the sun, we use less energy than modern manufacturing processes and reduce our environmental footprint.
For more information about block printing, visit our Hand Block Printing page.
Ikat and Handwoven Clothes Made in India
Crafting handwoven and ikat dyed clothing in India is a valuable source of livelihood that is steeped deep in tradition. In fact, India produces more than 90% of all handwoven clothing in the world.
Ikat refers to a resist dyeing process that allows artisans to create patterns on yarn before it is woven into fabric. Weavers must possess incredible skill to dye the yarns precisely according to a desired pattern and then weave them into a final product.
While most countries have taken to using electric looms, many Indian artisans still believe in the creativity, artistry, and rich tradition of the handloom. Though it may take slightly longer, it is a process they feel passionate about, and one that can be used even without access to electricity.
Ikat and handwoven clothes made in India use the following process.
- Several rows of yarn are stretched to their fullest, about 10 meters.
- Lines are drawn across the yarn to mark the pattern needed for the final fabric design.
- The yarn is bound with rubber ties along the marked pattern. These bindings keep the dye from penetrating the yarn beneath, allowing artisans to create the intended pattern.
- The yarn is dyed with a base color. Only one color can be applied at a time, so designs that require multiple colors require multiple dyeings.
- The bindings are removed after the yarn has been dyed.
- The yarn is stretched on poles outside to dry in the sun.
- The process repeats with another dye for each additional color in the final design.
- The dried yarn is placed on cones of the loom and spun into fabric.
To produce 24 meters of fabric, an artisan needs about 16 hours on a handloom or 12 hours on an electric loom. Want to learn more about the handloom weaving and ikat dyeing process? Read our blog post.
Indian Apparel Production
While Passion Lilie’s designs are created in New Orleans, all our clothes are made in India. The talented team of artisans we employ work in a close-knit community, where they oversee the final steps needed to turn our fabric into clothing and accessories before they’re sent to the U.S.
Each Passion Lilie product is cut, stitched, ironed, and tagged by these accomplished artisans, as shown in the video above. From the moment the designs leave our founder and lead designer, Katie Schmidt, in New Orleans, they’re brought to life by talented artisans in India. The result is beautiful, unique, eco-friendly clothing from India available for sale online.