Weaving and embroidery work in Bangladesh
According to the Heritage Lottery Fund application, all the fabrics for the project were to be sourced from the UK. However, this was changed for several reasons. First, the partners at V&A and Museum of London thought that it would be better and more interesting if the fabrics were produced by handlooms in Bangladesh using historical methods, which would be closer in looks and structure to the original muslin fabrics that came from Bengal in earlier centuries. Second, the fabrics sourced in the UK would look very different and would not generate the quality and appreciation of the recreated dresses. Third, many of the relevant dresses in museums and other places had woven designs and intricate embroideries incorporated. Finding fabrics in the UK with the right kind of design woven would be an impossible undertaking and commissioning embroidery work in this country would be very costly. The participants also did not have the skills and ability to undertake any intricate embroidery work themselves. Fourth, handlooms in Bangladesh are able to incorporate intricate woven design while weaving the fabrics. Fifth, many handloom weavers in Bangladesh were the descendants of muslin and other Bengal textiles producers of earlier centuries. This meant that this project would help add this very important heritage dimension to the project.
The orders and specifications were taken to Bangladesh for the work to be undertaken entirely by hand, using traditional methods. One of the important requirement was to hand weave a large amount of plane white materials, some with a variety of woven designs, using thinner cotton threads than currently in use to achieve as near as historical muslin as possible. Some of the designs included coloured threads. Although historical Bengal weavers used very fine cotton threads to work on producing a range of muslin fabrics, currently, as today’s cotton lacks the strength of the past, the weavers use thicker threads and work mostly on producing mixed silk and cotton textiles. The width of the fabrics currently produced is just over forty inches so the weaver in Bangladesh had to adopt their looms to produce a one yard width fabrics to meet the requirements of the past.
The weaving work was carried out by a family of Jamdani weavers, headed by Mohammed Abu Mia, situated in Rupganj, about twenty miles from Dhaka City in Bangladesh. There exists a Jamdani village in the location, created by the government of Bangladesh. It acts as a cluster designed to help the important traditional hand weaving skills and Jamdani textiles survive and become sustainable. Some of the plan fabrics, after being woven, were then taken to ‘Idea Boutiques and Taylors’, based in Taltola Market in the Khilgaon area of Dhaka, to undertake the embroidery work entirely by hand, mostly using the tambour method.
The end products brought back from Bangladesh were very high quality, which took just over one month to complete. When the finished items were handed over to the group they were positively surprised and very impressed by the outcome.