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, clothing made in India strikes 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.
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.
— 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.
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.
Artisans throughout India use the following process to dye fabrics with plant-based or vegetable-based dyes.
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.
Clothes made in India with reactive dyes use the following process.
Learn more about this process by reading our blog post.
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 clothing made in India, or else symbols relating to Indian beliefs and customs.
Block printing involves the following process for clothes made in India.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Handwoven fabrics are a great way to practice sustainability in style. At Passion Lilie, we offer a range of clothing and accessories made from handwoven fabrics to suit anyone’s tastes. Want to learn more about the benefits of handwoven fabrics? Check out our comprehensive guide below!
You might be wondering, how do handwoven fabrics fit in with sustainability? Handwoven fabrics are made by hand using a handloom, which does not require electricity or produce any pollution. In addition, the lack of automation presents weavers with many more opportunities to reduce waste and engage in sustainable practices.
At Passion Lilie, we take this a few steps further to make our handwoven fabrics even more environmentally friendly. Our process is dedicated to preserving the environment through the use of natural energy, waste reduction, and water reduction. Our artisans wash fabrics by hand in local waterways, dry them in the sun, and use any leftover pieces for other handicrafts or accessories.
As a fair trade company, Passion Lilie also creates a sustainable environment for our workers. All of our clothing is made by fair trade artisans, which means we pay them fair wages, offer them stable employment with time off and other benefits, and ensure they are working in safe, healthy, empowering conditions. These opportunities permeate our artisans’ communities as they spend their profits in their local economies, start their own businesses, and share their skills. This leads to sustainable societies and a better world for all of us, even the most disadvantaged. Learn more about our artisans or how you can support the fair trade movement today.
Our sustainability isn’t the only thing that sets Passion Lilie’s handwoven fabrics apart. Many of our handwoven fabrics are also colored through an ancient ikat dyeing process. “Ikat” originates from the Indonesian word “mengikat,” meaning to tie, bind, or wrap around. It uses reactive dyes—the same dyes used for modern tie-dye—and bindings that resist dye penetration to create beautiful and original patterns before weaving. These dyes are especially resistant to bleeding, which keeps them bold and vibrant. Watch the video below or read more to learn about Passion Lilie’s handwoven ikat fabrics.
Due to their intricacy and lack of use by mainstream, fast fashion retailers, many people have questions about handwoven fabrics. And we have the answers!
Compared to knitted fabrics, woven fabrics are much more stable when it comes to shrinking and do not react as severely to stresses. A small amount of shrinking is still possible, so if you’re concerned about shrinking, we recommend using cold water and laying flat to dry.
Unlike synthetic-based knit fabrics, which are made from one continuous thread and stretch all over, woven fabrics only stretch diagonally—or as we say in the sewing world, on the bias—giving them enough flexibility to be comfortable while still feeling sturdy and looking fitted.
Of course, comfort is subjective and largely depends on the materials being used and the wearer’s preferences. That being said, many of our customers have commented on how soft and comfortable our handwoven cotton fabrics feel.
This depends on your sensitivity and on the materials being used, but handwoven fabrics are no itchier than any other fabrics. At Passion Lilie, our handwoven cotton fabrics do not itch. Handwoven fabrics also tend to breathe much better than polyester and other synthetic fabrics, making them more comfortable.
On a visit to India in the summer of 2014, I met with a new group of handloom weavers. They lived in a little village that looked like a small plot of land in the middle of nowhere on Google Maps. It was there that I spent a full day absorbing the unique and ancient process of tie and dye, also called ikat fabric, and discovered just how complicated and intricate handloom weaving can be.
With its rich ties to Indian culture and widespread use throughout the country to this day, I set about learning as much as I could about the handloom weaving process and why the clothing it produces is still so valuable today.
As dyeing and weaving go hand in hand, let’s take a quick look at the dyeing process.
In India, ikat is a special technique used to create patterns on textiles through the process of resist dyeing. Yarn is first stretched and marked according to the designer’s intended pattern. Then it is tightly wrapped in dye-resistant bindings that will create the chosen pattern and dyed.
If additional colors and patterns are going to be used, the yarn must first be fully dried after its initial dyeing. The bindings can then be changed to create another pattern, and the yarn dyed again in a different color.
This is very similar to today’s tie-dyeing technique. With ikat, however, the dyeing is done on yarn before it has been woven into a fabric. Aside from binding the yarn, other resistance methods, such as wax or a paste, can be used to create the patterns.
Main sources for traditional dyes over the years have included shellac for red, iron shavings for black, and turmeric for yellow. Today, plants and vegetables are often used to create natural dyes.
The dyeing and handloom weaving process is a source of livelihood and tradition for artisans all over India. These handloom weavers and dyers must have incredible skill and creativity to produce fabrics in a variety of designs and with complete precision. Each finished handloom product is distinct with its own character and pattern.
Today, very few countries still use the handloom weaving process. According to Elle India, India is responsible for producing 95% of the world’s handwoven fabrics. Let’s take a look at the steps involved in this ancient art:1. First, several rows of yarn are stretched out through the length of a house. This length is approximately 10 meters and will create 24 meters when woven into fabric.
7. If a second or third color is used in the design, then steps 1–6 will be repeated for each color needed. This allows for a great deal of variety, providing designers with endless pattern and color options.
8. Once the yarn is completely dry, and all colors and patterns have been applied, it is then placed on cones on the loom. It takes 32 cones of yarn to make 24 meters of fabric. The handloom weaving process can be complicated, as the weaver has to precisely dye the threads and then place them exactly in the right pattern on the loom so that it is woven correctly.
The design process takes up to 5 hours to complete, while the dyeing and drying process can take another 1–3 days for 24 meters. A handloom weaver takes 16 hours to spin 24 meters manually, or an electric loom can spin 24 meters in about 12 hours. Once the loom has been spun, the 24 meters of fabric are ready!
There are two main kinds of looms used today: a manual and an electric. While most of India still uses the manual handloom, many other countries in the world have taken to the electric loom, which works at a quicker pace.
The electric loom takes about 12 hours to spin 24 meters of fabric. It wasn’t until around the 1850s that the electric loom became widely used with the demand for faster fabric production.
While its speed is beneficial, the electric loom doesn’t give the same amount of freedom and artistry that the traditional handloom still used in India can deliver. It is also less sustainable than a manual loom, which does not require electricity.
Slightly slower than an electric loom, the manual loom can take up to 16 hours to spin 24 meters. Handloom weaving plays an important role in the Indian economy by providing employment opportunities to artisans and increasing economic development. Because the manual loom does not require electricity to operate, it allows artisans who do not have access to electricity the ability to weave fabrics.
Weaving is a vibrant part of Indian history, and the manual handloom has been a critical part of the process. Its flexibility allows for the introduction of new designs that are often not able to be replicated by the electric loom. The handloom is still widely used in India today to create sustainably handwoven fabrics.
At Passion Lilie, we pride ourselves on our traditionally crafted, handwoven clothes. By shopping with us, you can help keep ancient dyeing and handweaving traditions alive in India.