Indian Textile Sourcebook | House & Garden

Unlike ancient ceramics and metalwork, India's earliest textiles have long since turned to dust, shrouding their history in uncertainty. We can only speculate, for example, when pattern was first woven into a fabric, based on drawings found in caves or carved in stone. However, one thing we do know is the monumental role India has played in the global history of textiles. In Britain, we have a particularly close relationship. Indians dressed the Empire for hundreds of years, their skills and ingenuity surpassing ours and leaving us with an extraordinary legacy, much of which is now housed as a collection of more than 10,000 fabrics at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Avalon Fotheringham, the V&A’s curator of South Asian textiles, has chosen 300 of these to illustrate the range of techniques and styles produced across India, all of which testify to the remarkable work of weavers and printers, and expertise passed down for millennia. They range from a humble cotton block print worn by villagers to the finest silk brocade woven for royalty, and 18th-century panels from Ashburnham House, Sussex, in which silk chain-stitched birds and squirrels scurry across flowers and leaves.

This is primarily a brilliantly organised sourcebook for anyone seeking inspiration and a greater understanding of the history and technical side of the production of these textiles, though lovers of pattern and fabrics will also enjoy this feast for the eyes. I found the introduction to different styles of weaving fascinating and with just enough information for me not to feel overwhelmed with detail. Having said that, there is an excellent amount of cross-referencing by theme for those seeking deeper understanding of the subject.

  • Indian Textile Sourcebook | House & Garden

    Yardage (detail) Probably Sanganer, Rajasthan, c.1850 Block-printed mordant-dyed cotton

  • Indian Textile Sourcebook | House & Garden

    Borders (detail)
    Probably Gujarat, 1650-79 Woven Silk with silver gilt badla

  • Indian Textile Sourcebook | House & Garden

    Gown (peshwaz; detail) Hyderabad, Telangana, 19th century Muslin trimmed and couched with silver-gilt badla, coloured foil, sequins (tikki) and kalabattun

  • Indian Textile Sourcebook | House & Garden

    Skirt cloth (detail) , Mochi community, Kachchh, Gujarat late 19th century Silk embroidered with silk in ari-chain stitch

  • Indian Textile Sourcebook | House & Garden

    Rabari man’s jacket (kediyun; detail) Kachchh, Gujarat, 1980s Cotton embroidered with cotton thread in back, buttonhole, interlacing stitch and blind knots

  • Indian Textile Sourcebook | House & Garden

    Hanging, Gujarat for the English market (part of a set from Ashburnham House Sussex), c.1700 Cotton embroidered with silk in chain stitch

  • Indian Textile Sourcebook | House & Garden