December 14, 2011

New Year's Eve Sari

A good friend of mine and his wife are having a big New Year's Eve party, and this year's theme is India. In keeping with the theme, they've asked that everyone wear traditional Indian clothing, which means I finally have an excuse to wear a sari.

Saris are the beautiful, long fabric wraps traditionally worn by Indian women. I have always been fascinated by the gorgeous fabrics and embroidery that go into one. However, I have been unable to find a place nearby where I can purchase one. Most website ship directly from India, which means the sari might not arrive in time for the party. This left me with one option- to buy some fabric and make my own (it's tragic, really).

Now, it turns out that your neighborhood Big Box Fabric Store actually sells sari fabric. It's in the brocade section. Both edges are finished with a traditional border and all you need to do is buy enough yardage to wrap it and make your matching blouse (called a choli), which is about 6 yards. I thought, lucky me! But unfortunately, none of the stores in my area had enough yardage on the bolts I wanted.

Not to be discouraged, I searched around and found a home dec taffeta in a gorgeous dark red. I knew I had to make my sari out of it. I even found a golden embroidery thread to coordinate. I got 7 yards because it was on sale for $4 a yard (from $25 a yard, I believe) and I wanted to make sure I'd have enough extra to practice the embroidery. I had never done free motion machine embroidery before, but I imagined it couldn't be much more different from free motion quilting than using embroidery specific needle and thread.

First thing I did at home was to cut out the pieces I'm using to make my choli. I used a modified version of a pattern I already owned to make the choli. Then I reduced the width of the remaining yardage down from 54" to 40" because I am not very tall (typical sari width is 46" or so).

To do this, I made a small cut at one end and tore it across the lengthwise grain. This is easy to do with most fabrics, and it certainly took me a lot less time then cutting it. Because it tears across the grain, I know it is straight across the entire yardage. It puckered a little, but as that edge was going to be turned under and hemmed, it didn't make a difference.

I stitched up all the raw edges and then washed the fabric (feel free to throw polyester taffeta right into the wash). Then I started the border embroidery across the bottom and left edge. I made a little diagram to illustrate what I did:

 If you have the fabric laid out in front of you, decorative side up, this is what you'd see. On the left is the undecorated end, which is the first part you tuck into the petticoat. The yellow lines are the 5" decorative border I embroidered first. To the right of the dashed line is the elaborately decorated pallu. The pallu is the part that drapes over your left shoulder, so it looks really stunning.

I have not yet decided on a design for the pallu, so for now I just have the border. I think I might do a peacock, but I might find something else that strikes my fancy more. Stay tuned for a second post when it's finished!

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