Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy News!

Word came today that we are having a grandson! Now I can start buying in earnest.. hahah.. guess I need to pull out the embroidery machine as well. When my daughter decides on colors I will start planning a quilt. Baby is due 3rd week of May.

The other baby in the family is adjusting well. Her name is Lucy... also known as Princess Lucy. She doesn't stand still to take a picture!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Our new fur baby

We were in the right place at the right time and will have another Tonkinese kitty on Sunday. She is a real cutie but did not want to be still long enough for me to take a picture

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading my blog and commenting.. both here and on private emails. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pictures of my gift

Front Cover

1st page    

2nd page
3rd page
4th page

5th page

back cover

This book is absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much Carole. I am still in awe.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Special Friends

I am not a particularly religious person, but there are times I think there is someone out there there watching over me. I have been very lucky in my life to have made some wonderful friends and recently that has expanded to cover internet friends as well. I "met" Carole in an online class a few years ago and we really hit it off. We were lucky to have had an opportunity to meet for lunch last year when I was in her neck of the woods and it only confirmed what we already knew. We have been trying to make plans to spend some more time together, but life has conspired against us and all the plans we made have had to go on the back burners. In the midst of all her family issues she found the time to make me a fantastic gift to help me get over the loss of Sammy. Carole has been making paperbag books which are drop dead gorgeous. I received one in the mail today and it actually brought me to tears. First off, it is stunning. Second, it is made with so much feeling that it practically jumps off the pages. I could not wish for a better gift and it has come at a perfect time. Please go visit her blog HERE. She forgot to take photos before she sent this off and I will do so as soon as I have more time. This is truly a work of art and of love. Thank you so very much Carole. For icing on the cake, she even ordered some of my fabric! I am very lucky indeed.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More on textiles

I am a sucker for bright colors and comfortable clothes. I love that leggings and tunics are back in style and I have been wearing shawls for the past 9 years. If you have followed my blog for any length of time you will have seen my wall of shawls. Ned has been bringing them home from his trips to India and China. They are mostly the inexpensive ones and I have built up a collection of close to 100. Indian clothing is bright and it is comfortable.... so of course I succumbed!
The most popular and most identifiable Indian clothing is of course the Sari. The old traditional sari's were 9 meters of fabric. The more modern ones are a mere 6 meters. The history of the sari goes back more than a thousand years and was initially made from the cotton that was grown in the area. It was just wrapped around the body. It was not until the British arrived that an underskirt and a blouse (called a choli) was worn. Poor British sensibilities! You first put on what looks like a tube skirt and the choli (more on that in a bit), then you start to wind the fabric around and pleating it as you go. The fabric has a border along the bottom and sometimes the top as well.  As you pleat , you tuck in the edges into the underskirt to help hold it in place. This is a learned skill! Safety pins come in very handy. You continue to wrap and pleat till you get almost to the end. The end of the Sari is usually more decorative than the rest of it. This part is tossed diagonally across the body and over the shoulder. The most beautiful of the sari's are woven out of silk with gold threads in the design. Special sari's, like those for weddings can easily be encrusted with additional embroidery and beading. They get very heavy and of course very expensive. Sari's are made out of just about anything these days and cost can be a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Hand loomed ones take anywhere from a couple of months to 2 years to weave. Choli's can be plain or also embroidered and run the gamut from a simple blouse type to fancy styled ones... some pretty sexy and risque.

I love the look of the sari and would love to walk around in one.. alas, I would look pretty silly here in the U.S... But I did buy one... I am going to cut it up and make something else from it. I bought this at one of the street markets and bargained it down to about $12.00. It is raw silk with lots of gold (not real) beads. The front end has open lace work as well. One of my many bargains!

My real favorites though for comfort is the Salwar Kameeze with and without Dupati (shawl). This consists of a tunic top which can be long or short and a pair of leggings which also come in different styles. They can be out of a cotton stretchy knit or a trouser with a tube bottom for the legs either in cotton or silk. The leg part is very long and is meant to pool at the ankle. The other style is like a harem pant that narrows at the ankle.  So I went a bit overboard... I bought 10 such outfits including a tunic jacket made out of a Pashmina. Some of these I picked up in the market stalls and some in real shops. Some were dirt cheap ($8), most were inexpensive ($25-40), a few a bit more ($75) and I splurged on the jacket .... $100... but the matching pants were $8. Other than the real cheap ones, these were all 3 piece sets. Here is the eye candy:

Long silk tunic, cotton pants, silk shawl
Long silk tunic, cotton pants, silk shawl

long hand embroidered silk tunic, harem style cotton/silk blendpants and silk shawl
short cotton top with hand embroidery, cotton leggings

Long silk tunic, silk/cotton harem pants, silk shawl

short cotton tunic, leggings

Pashmina tunic
Some of the other outfits I was wearing in photos so no need to add them here.

Varanasi or Benares is renowned for their textiles. Many of them are done with gold and silver threads and are gorgeous, but because of the prices for gold these days, these have become pretty pricey.  Besides saris, they make wall hangings, table runners, shawls, and throws. They also make non  metallic fabrics woven in gorgeous designs as well and these are more to my taste. We bought a table runner in a silk and wool blend as a gift, and here is where I picked up my silk yardage ( see previous post). The photo of the runner is not true to color. The red is really a much deeper wine color. The interior design is a small paisley. This is only half the runner.

There are some other pieces that I cannot post as yet because they are being given as gifts and the recipients do not have them as yet.... after Christmas I will post those.

This last piece is the my most favorite as art. It is going up on a wall. It measures 79" x 100" and is an antique piece. It is made from old silk fabrics with heavy metallic embroidery, mirrors, stones (not sure if glass or semi precious). There were 3 of these in total but in other colors. I wish I could have afforded them all... not to mention I have no place to put them. I have pictures of the others....These were priced by weight... and they are heavy.  I am putting up an overall but a slide show of some of the detail works. I just have to figure out a way to hang it. It's OK to drool on the screen :-).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Back to some Textiles

I purchased some trimmings. Not sure what I am going to do with them but they are lovely. These we got in Ahmedabad.

I don't usually buy touristy type stuff but I succumbed to one piece... it is hand made and it was cheap and it really epitomizes what people expect. I bought it on the street in Mumbai. It is just this side of tacky but I will put it somewhere.  You will notice that some of the pictures are against my lavender shag carpeting. I do not have another area in my house big enough to spread out some of these and I did not want to deal with shadows.

I bought 2 vintage silk quilts. They are made from old sari silk and all hand stitched. One has been given as a gift. They are over 50 years old.
They are about queen size.

I love shawls and throws and I love Pashmina. Pashmina wool comes from the pashmina goat which is indigenous to the high altitudes around the Himalayas. They are hand spun, woven and embroidered traditionally in Kashmir and made from fine cashmere fiber. Pure Pashmina is very gauzy and fragile so now it is blended with 30% silk. Some are 50% silk but I did not get those.  Because of all the unrest in the Kashmir area, many of these craftsman have moved elsewhere and are part of cooperatives. We visited the showroom of one of them.. and I went a bit nuts.  I bought 3 king size throws and some shawls. By Indian standards these were very expensive. By our standards they were cheap.... and I know where to get more. We had most of this stuff shipped home. Some of the big name international designers have been contracting for these throws. They are ordering 80 in each design and colorway. It takes a weaver 2 months to make one so extras are made in case something goes wrong. Each weaver has his own "hand" so someone else could never fill in and finish it up. Each is slightly different from the others. The extras are sold for a fraction of the price the branded ones. I bought 2 designs by Etro and one who I have now forgotten. I love paisley.

The third one looks like the style of Klimpt who I also love. I had to stand on a ladder to photograph most of these!

Next were some shawls. I had a very hard time choosing. One was more gorgeous than the next. At least when I need my next fix I know where to get them. They will photograph and ship!

This next one I really splurged on. It is made from Vicuna and was designed by the store proprietor. It is sooooo soft.

I did of course by some inexpensive silk and cotton blend scarves to give as gifts.

And of course some silk yardage.

To be continued!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Yikes! Besides the comments left, I got a bunch of emails asking to see the earrings. So here they are. These are pretty simple by Indian standards.

Agra, Day 21

This is our last day in India and unknowingly, I saved the best till last. It was a very long day that started early in the morning and left us at the airport at midnight for the trip home on the first of our 3 flights leaving at 3:15 a.m.

Again we got up at the crack of dawn but I forgot to ask for a breakfast box to go. We were really tired and cranky from the night before after having to sit for 3 hours in the airport waiting for our flight back to Delhi. We had hoped for an early and relaxing dinner. We had to arrange for our bags to be picked up that we had left at the previous hotel figuring we would get them on the way back from the airport. Didn't happen that way and we didn't get to bed till after 11:00. We had to pack everything up and we had a 5:30 a.m. pickup to take the train to Agra where we would be met by our guide and car. At least the weather was nice.

Not a bad train ride.. a bit over 2 hours and our guide was waiting for us. Sunil was really good! First stop was a good hotel so we could use the facilities. I guess I forgot to mention bathrooms... in many places they were just holes in the ground... I have run into this before so it wasn't a shock but I am not as young as I used to be and not as flexible. ( if I recall correctly, the top of the Arc D'Triumph in Paris had one of these ).I passed these up. Some with toilets were also not the cleanest, but I run into that problem here in the U.S. as well. We managed.

Our first stop of the day was the Taj Mahal. I don't care how many pictures you have seen, they don't come close to doing it justice. Besides being drop dead gorgeous, it is also massive in size. It is  very deceiving unless you see it in person. The setting is beautiful.

Gateway into Taj Mahal complex
Agra became an important city during the reign of Akbar in the 16th century. He built what is now Agra Fort and created one of the richest kingdoms. It was in the 17th century that Agra reached its peak during the reign of his grandson, Shah Jahan. It was Shah Jahan who expanded the Fort and built most of the buildings in the city, culminating in the magnificent Taj Mahal. It is made of white marble and is a mausoleum to his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who is said to have died in childbirth delivering her 14th child. It took 22 years and 22,000 workers to build from 1631-1653. The complex of the Taj consists of the tomb, mosques, gardens, gateway, and fountains.The Taj Mahal sits on a platform that is almost 22 ft high and covers an area of more than 1000 sq. ft. Four minarets are at each of the corners and stand 136 1/2 ft high, each set in such a way that if there is an earthquake they will fall out rather than in. Each side of the Taj is 185 ft long. The stone inlay work is incredibly intricate and is made from precious stones. The technique was passed down from father to son and remained in the family. Women were not allowed to know how it was done for fear they would pass it on to their new husbands family. These skills are being kept alive today and a few family's still create the most gorgeous inlaid marble pieces. We bought a small piece.. they are expensive and heavy, but worth it. Photography was only allowed of the outside of the Taj. We wound up buying an "official" book because I wanted pictures of the interior. The intricate work of the inlays and the lattice is simply stunning. The gardens are serene and peaceful and we didn't want to leave. The only disappointment is that renovation was being done on the waterways and fountains so they were empty. I am so glad we did not see the Taj at the beginning of our trip.
Main entrance to Taj
Inlay with semiprecious stones

Our next stop was one of the local marble cooperatives where we were shown a demonstration on how they created the beautiful inlay work we had seen. It is a very tedious and exacting skill. Lunch in one of the good hotels was delicious... Uh Oh, I was really getting use to and liking Indian food! I never thought that would happen.
small piece we bought


Our next stop was Agra Fort. Most of it is off limits as it is being used by the Indian Army. It is no small complex. Shah Jahan spared nothing when he expanded the fort area. The Palace is built of the same white marble as the Taj. The red is the sandstone. The details of the inlays are exquisite and said to be done by the same artisans who did the Taj Mahal. It sits across the river from the Taj Mahal. In his later years, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his third son Aurangzeb and imprisoned in the Palace in what is referred to as the Jasmine Tower. He died 8 years later in his daughters arms looking across the river at the Taj. He was buried next to his beloved wife.

Fatehpur Sikri entrance
Next on our agenda was Fatehpur Sikri fort which sits about 39 kilometers from Agra. It was the first planned city of the Mughal emperors and was constructed by Akbar. It took 14 years to build but was soon abandoned as it did not have enough water to sustain the population. It was built to honor a Sufi saint who predicted the birth of a son to Akbar. The construction shows the influence of Hindu, Jain, and Islamic styles. Local lore has it that Akbar had 3 wives.. one Hindu, one Christian, and one Islamic. Each of them had their own areas in the complex and some of the designs here would seem to support this. This was the end of our official sightseeing, but not the end of the day.

As I had mentioned in previous posts, our guides were very tuned into my interests. Sunil was no different. He took us to a place that did Zardozi embroidery. This is a 3 dimensional technique where the artist builds up layers and layers of stitches and then adds gorgeous colored silk threads, gold and silver threads, and gemstones to produce very rich and intricate pieces. It has the look of trapunto but it is not. This art form was patronized by the Mughal emperors but because of the price of gold these days has become very expensive. You can see this type of work on evening bags, saris, and wall art. I forgot to take pictures! The pieces were beautiful, but not my style. 

Since the beginning of our trip, I wanted to buy a pair of earrings that were Indian in flavor but not big. Most of the places we looked were either geared for tourists or just did not have what I was looking for..... and I didn't want to haggle. Gold is expensive these days and I did not want to spend another fortune on something I didn't really need. Sunil is engaged to be married in February and he took me to his mother's jeweler who was nice enough to stay open a bit later for us. Most jewelry in India is custom made.... you buy the weight of gold you want and then you design the pieces which are made from it. We walk in and first thing we see is a guard sitting with a shotgun in the vestibule! We had seen this in other places but they were large stores that catered to more mass market. I really did know what I was looking for and unlucky for Ned, I found a lovely pair of earrings that were well within the budget I had set. It was a nice way to top off a fantastic last day in India.

I asked Sunil lots of questions about Indian weddings and customs and he was more than willing to answer my questions. His is an arranged marriage as are most Hindu marriages, however, both the prospective bride and groom had to agree. I suspect this is not the case in the outlying villages. I wish them both a lot of luck.

He dropped us off at the train station for our trip back to Delhi where we were picked up by the local representative and taken to the airport for our trip home. If you haven't figured it out yet, we loved India and had a fantastic trip! I intend to go back.

Next posts will be of the textiles we bought. Some won't be till the end of the month because we bought some as gifts and I would like there to be some surprises.

I know many of you have been following our trip and I thank you for taking the time out to read the posts, and a special thank you to those who have left comments and written privately to me. I really have enjoyed writing this up. I have never kept a journal before so this is a way for me to have something besides pictures.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Varanasi, Day 20

We had to get up at 4:30 in the morning for the sunrise cruise on the Ganges. It was well worth it. The only downside is that it was very hard to take pictures from a moving boat and not have them come out fuzzy. Sigh, I wasn't awake enough to remember I could change the settings. Oh well.

Our way down to the river was a repeat of the night before but with fewer people. Our guide had arranged a boat for us and we bought some small offerings to be floated on the water at sunrise. Our oarsman rowed us upriver and then we floated down. Everyone seemed to be doing their own thing. Bathing in the river is a big thing and some went in fully clothed, others disrobed. Yogis were calling out chants at the different Ghats that we passed. It was very serene and peaceful.


As the sun started to rise, we lit our offerings, made our personal prayers and floated them on the river. Further downriver is the area they do cremations. Huge piles of wood surround the area. I thought I would be very upset by this, but to my surprise, I was not. Maybe it was the mindset I was in this morning. There was a cremation ceremony going on as we passed by. They do not allow photographs past the woodpiles but I doubt I would have taken any anyway...just didn't seem right.

We arrived back at the Ghat and our next stop was to be the Golden temple by way of the narrow and winding alleys of Old Varanasi. We shared the way with pilgrims, cows, residents, and tourists. It was pretty busy. Along the way I was blessed by a priest.

The Golden temple is known as the Kashi Vishwanath temple and is the most famous of the Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt several times and its current structure is believed to be dated back to 1780. The temple spire and the dome are plated with 1000 kg of gold donated by the Jatt Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, in 1835. Security near the temple was extraordinarily tight. No cell phones, no keys, no pocketbooks... only a wallet and glasses if you needed them. Two lines were formed just to get into the outside area... one for women and one for men. I don't think I have ever been felt up quite like that before besides the wanding! Since we were not Hindu, we were not allowed inside. It was teeming with people. On the way back where we picked up our belongings was a very nice shop... I bought some lovely silk and cotton blend scarves to give as gifts.

Back to our hotel for a shower and breakfast. The afternoon was to be spent sightseeing and then back to Delhi for dinner. We went to Sarnath and first stop was the Archeological Museum.. see post of Day 19. Sarnath was considered the first place Buddha went after his enlightenment and where he gave his first sermon. Dhamek Stupa was built to commemorate this spot and house relics of Buddha and his disciples. It is 128 ft high and 93 ft in diameter.
Buddhists come to visit this place for circumambulation of this sacred stupa and to worship the Buddha. Tibetans Buddhists circle the Stupa chanting the mantra 'Om mani padme hum'. The first discourse of the Buddha was on the 'Wheel of Law'. The wheel symbolises samsara (world), the eternal round of existence which goes on and on. 

The whole area was busy... the following day was a big Buddhist festival and all the temples were being decorated. There were streamers and garlands of flowers everywhere. Monks in colored robes were quite in evidence. Large stone slabs have been carved with Buddha's first sermon in more than a dozen languages.

All along the roads in Varanasi we passed schoolgirls coming going to or coming home from school.

Our next stop was one of the big Benares silk making factories. The textiles were gorgeous. The saris were spectacular but I resisted. I did buy some silk pieces though. We were dropped off at the airport for our flight back to Delhi. I was hoping for some time for last minute shopping but it was not to be. Our flight was delayed by 3 hours and we did not get back till late. This would be officially our last night in India... at least one were we slept in a bed.

Tomorrow.... Agra.