Common Texture Journal
Read the latest articles on the Common Texture blog.
It was a happy day at the Common Texture office when our dearest Hop brought her earring collection to the design table. The most lightweight earrings I have ever worn, beautiful natural tones, ornate fret work inspired by the Moghul palaces of Jaipur, finished in laser cut wood, all hanging delicately from sterling silver or gold plated hook, with five designs to choose from. They are my go-to pairs these days. Every time I wear them I like to think I’m carrying out a 5000 year old tradition, produced with the modern technologies of the 21st Century and inspiration from the 14th Century. The amazing history of earrings.
During our stay in India we were surrounded by the most amazing textile arts, from weaving to silk painting and everything in between. The technique we really fell in love with was the traditional art of block print.
There was a lot of opportunity to participate in courses and workshops all over India, after we had a few under our belt, we were bitten by the bug. We toured block printing studios all over the country during the early stages of Common Texture. Block Print is a technique steeped in history that dates back to 12th Century India. It all starts with a piece of wood called a Bunta, the blocks are carved from seasoned teak by highly trained craftsmen. They etch a pattern on to the wood for the woodcarver to create a stamp.
The Bunta is given to the Block Printer, a Master in his own right. The stamp is dipped into a natural dye pigment set on a large ink pad that floats on a trolley to follow them around the fabric. The outline printer is usually an expert as he is the one who leads the process.
Some patterns will use 3 or 4 different blocks. Each carved for a specific color since the colors need to dovetail to create a 3 or 4 layered pattern. Different regions in India have perfected their own unique style with all the inherited skills from their ancestors.
Some studios we have been to have amassed whole libraries of beautiful Bunta blocks, images used for sarees, borders, table cloths, bedding, upholstery, tents, paper and clothes. Some blocks we found that were still in use are over 80-100 years old. Just beautiful objects in general, each one cleaned by hand after each color and soaked in oil to preserve the wood. Some block print designs can look very busy and layered with many floral motifs a lot like Persian carpets, it gives the fabric a very ethnic aesthetic.
We preferred the deconstructed look stripping back the layers so that there is just an outline. Then we discovered the geometric patterns enlarged had so much impact in their simplicity. We loved the idea of pairing this with a placement print, just to add detail but give the solid colored fabric some texture and focal point.
We work closely with the team of colorists first, they mix the natural pigments and resins together to create our base color and we test this on the fabric. Then we do a block test to see how the patterns best fit our end products like our pillow cases.
When all the details are finalized we go into production, each print handmade one piece at a time. The fabric is then cured with steam this sets the color permanently to the fabric.
Our time spent at the block print studio can best be described as peaceful inspiration, with the constant rhythm of the blocks being thumped by the back of the hand. It’s mostly outdoors under the trees.
It is so lovely to see our fabric hanging on the drying lines at the studio and even better once its all stitched up into our completed collection.
Our pure linen bedding collection has been specifically designed with a complimentary color palette so that everything can be easily mixed and matched. Enjoy combining our colors and prints in your home.
My favorite Common Texture product is our linen duvet cover, I have had so much fun mixing and matching all the color rich shades together. If you have trouble deciding on a color I recommend trying the reversible duvet cover, this gives you more options and half way through the season you can add a different set of the hand block printed pillowcases to give it a lift.
One of the things I love about our linen is the three dimensional feel of linen on the skin, like it is floating slightly above your body. Flax fibers are different to that of cotton. They have a hollow core acting as a thermal conductor which regulates your temperature as you sleep. This is what makes you cool in summer, but in fact pure linen is the perfect natural fiber for winter warmth as well.
Having just finished our summer in Australia I'll share a tip with you. I used my pure linen duvet cover as a sheet for most of the season. Sleeping under two layers of linen was perfect for the warmest of nights and the occasional cool ones too. I was surprised to discover this versatile product perfect for all seasons. I look forward to the weight of the linen around my down duvet for the winter months I have coming. If you would like more help choosing a color please refer to our style notes in the production description pages.
Have a fantastic season in both North or South!
The idea for our Do Good Yoga Mat Bag originated from the time us three co-founders were all living in India. You can't live in India without trying out some form of yoga right? So many kinds of yoga classes, so many ashrams, retreats, workshops and master classes to choose from. It was inevitable that one of the Common Texture team would be bitten by the bug.
The second thing you can't avoid whilst residing in India, is textiles. Besides the regular stores we visited stalls outside of the commercial areas. Some shops were neatly constructed with stacks of folded fabric from the floor to the ceiling and others just have it in piles on the floor for rummaging. We were astounded by all the beautiful high quality fabric that could be found. After a few visits to those fabric areas, we started asking questions about where this fabric came from. We were told they were mostly remnant fabric off cuts from the large textile factories in South India.
Surplus fabric waste from garment factories producing for big multinationals. Leftovers and surplus fabric end up in landfills or at best in these local neighborhoods where fabric sellers try to make a living reselling it. India is one of the world's production front runners in the textile industry and they are left with a byproduct of this mass production which is the enormous amount of fabric waste.
We had decided to produce yoga mat bags as our first collection and we kept coming around to the fact that we didn't want to add to this fabric waste by producing our own run of textiles. We set out to produce a yoga mat bag by combining perfectly fine textile, destined to be waste and polluting the earth, with our yoga lifestyle of compassion and awareness towards the planet and use what is already out there with a zero waste attitude.
It led to us developing the coolest yoga mat bag we could dream up - the Do Good Yoga Mat Bag. We made some good connections and found really great quality cotton canvas fabrics in many shades and stripes that we could mix and match together. This involved hours of hand selecting, sorting and rummaging through piles of textiles and trimmings, ensuring only the finest quality fabrics were being used.
The design of our Do Good Yoga Mat Bag is minimalist, staying close to the quietness and a serene yoga practice. Combining soothing colors and stripes in 100% cotton canvas using upcycled fabrics and trimmings in an attempt to reduce waste and turning something negative into a positive.
The result is a yoga mat bag for daily practice with a strap for over the shoulder or crossbody wear and deep side pockets for wallet, keys and phone. It makes it easy to carry your mat to class and store it at home rolled up, keeping your mat in the right shape, clean and protected.
Our yoga mat carriers are truly handcrafted one piece at a time, ethically produced and most importantly earth friendly, with each design a limited edition. Browse the Do Good Yoga Mat Bag collection.
‘happy earth goods with clever design and superb quality.’
Meet Haseena! She’s working on one of our new handwoven bag designs. Haseena is part of the women cooperative in South India that help us create our beautiful bag collection made from sustainable natural banana fiber. We work directly with the cooperative ensuring that each bag we sell helps improve their livelihood and supports education for them and their children. Find out more about the way we work.
Last week Common Texture travelled to Thailand to attend the Chiang Mai Crafts Fair 2017. The spectacular weather was a great back drop for all that was on offer in this laid back city.
First up were these lovely intricate indigo pieces. A typical fabric dyeing technique used here is resist dye in indigo. Popular with women in hill tribe villages in Northern Thailand. This technique is like a fusion of block print discharge dyeing and Batik free hand patterns.
The pattern seen here in the video will eventually be the white sections amongst the indigo blue. The artisan uses a resin heated on coals in a scoop with a hole. This is used like a pen, once the black pattern is dried it is then dipped into indigo where the resin will resist the color.
The result is a stunning piece. The crafts people will sometimes highlight borders by stitching a thin red strip of fabric to enhance the depth of the Indigo. This process has been passed down from generation to generation and are very popular with tourist and textile fans alike.
Another technique we were introduced to is cutout fabric borders. A 10 meter piece of colored cotton is folded many times, the artisan then uses chisels and a hammer to create the pattern through multiple layers.
Traditionally these decorative perforated fabrics are used in Buddhist temples and for various festivals celebrated throughout the Thai calendar.
The Crafts Festival showed us other ways we could use them and we're very fond of using them as umbrella trimmings. Yet another skill being rejuvenated here at the festival. Exposure of ancient techniques to a new generation of designers is imperative for their survival.
Umbrella making from Bo Sang Village, the makers of these beautiful Umbrellas use a special paper called Saa paper, this was introduced by a monk from Myanmar to the skilled makers in Bo Sang, Chiang Mai Thailand. This paper has the perfect lightweight and water proof properties needed for an umbrella. These umbrellas are then lacquered and hand painted with your own custom design.
Every year they are on display in a spectacular festival for all to be admired.
Embroideries from the hill tribes were also on display; beautiful skilled techniques in white cotton against indigo blues. Bright reds and pinks and some very modern clothing enhanced with this ancient technique was also a hit with the festival goers.
All in all a great day learning new techniques with great workshops and super networking with the actual artisans from many walks of life. Lots of inspiration for future Common Texture projects.
We love road testing our products! Our recent trip to Indonesia was the perfect occasion to test our Malay Bangles. We wore them for the entire two weeks to see how tough these rattan works of art really are. Hand washing, swimming in chlorinated pools, salt water pools, ocean swimming, wave crashing, beaches, diving of boats, scorching sunshine, rinse and repeat.
The results were quite astounding. No change in color, no change in size, dried reasonably quickly in between swims, no snags and they kept their shape.
It seems the makers were correct indeed. Rattan is produced from a jungle vine, which is constantly wet and dried, which makes it super durable. We loved wearing our bangles and got lots of compliments along the way too!
We have a limited stock available now, choose your unique set here.
Common Texture took a whirlwind trip to Sarawak, a Malaysian state located in the northwestern part of Borneo Island. Its population is diverse, comprising of many races and ethnic groups and has more than 40 sub-ethnic groups, each with its own distinct language, culture and lifestyle. So you can imagine our joy whilst discovering this handicraft haven. From beading to weaving and everything in between. It was amazing to meet some Kuching locals that are very enthusiastic about keeping these diverse cultural traditions alive for future generations. One group we met had started up a weaving dream factory, specializing in Songket weaves. It was great to see these fantastic looms in operation and a younger generation mastering the complex math which is needed to create such intricate cloth. Each piece can take up to 3 months to complete.
We also saw a fantastic display of rattan crafts, plaited and woven mats, baskets and bangles. Our local friend says she can tell by eye which piece has come from each community, depending on the pattern or the material they use. Extensive travels through the wilds of Borneo to remote villages has honed her eye for the fine details in such crafts.
A lot of these handicrafts are used on a daily basis in the rural villages. A small supply to the local craft shop gives these isolated communities a little exposure and income which is mostly put towards youth education. We were lucky enough to meet Aseley from Ba Selulong and Jenny from Long Meraan, they weave and plait lovely bangles out of rattan. Rattan is a vine that only grows within the forest environment, the communities are very mindful when harvesting this resource to maintain its sustainability. These young women were very modest about their skills which they have been practicing since they were young. Jenny told us 'the elder women in the village teach us so we can teach our children and our skills will not be lost’.
We were also treated to another form of weaving found in this district, which is the art of Ikat. A trip to a local gallery found us looking at examples of this textile dating back 200 years. Yet another complicated process which involves tie and dye of the yarn into a selected pattern then weaving on a back tension loom. We also discovered an amazing selection of beads in this gallery. The trading of beads from all over the world goes way back in this part of the world and amazing pieces were then produced and then traded as jewellery.
Once you start digging into the handicrafts in this part of the world, you will be amazed at the things you can discover and opportunities to learn these techniques also exist. There seems to be many exhibitions, workshops and symposiums held annually in the city of Kuching. We had a lovely time amongst the friendliest people that showed us endless hospitality.
Shop our Malay Bangles
Common Texture was out on the road again last week scouting for handicraft gems. This time we went on a whirlwind tour of the Luang Prabang Province in Laos. Many types of hand-looming examples can be found here, specifically using an indigo dye in hand spun cotton.
The master weavers use textiles to tell their living history, stories that would not be passed on if it wasn't for these depicted weaves. When purchasing a piece of woven art in Laos, don't get bogged down in the technical details, choose a composition that speaks to your heart, find out about the weaver and how long it took to produce. If you are going to hang it, you can also find the special wooden wall holders to display the master piece you have chosen in your home. If you approach the intricate fabrics like choosing art, you can't go wrong. Having a tale to tell of that fabulous journey into the lush green hills of Luang Prabang. Let's see what we find next.
Read more about our other crafts here.
Everything has a story 〰 our bangles certainly do. Handwoven by a small indigenous community in Malaysia, smaller versions of the bangles were originally reinforcement rings for blowpipes used for hunting. We love how lightweight they are! Sold in sets of 3, they compliment just about any outfit.
To pick up a set click here >> https://commontexture.com/bangles
Block printing gives a product that one of a kind look. We love the natural irregularities, inevitable in handwork, that appear on the kantha print shown here on our linen pillowcases. Call it a maker's mark! By choosing this ancient craft we try to invigorate new generations of hand block printers. Three different prints are available in a range of beautiful linen colors. You can shop our block print range here: http://bit.ly/2qA5p2T
For us slow design is a deliberate choice. It's our road map to get to an end product. We choose eco-friendly materials and try to reduce waste wherever possible, support local communities and collaborate with artisans to keep ancient crafts alive.
We are proud to introduce our table linen sets. Each one has been block printed by a skilled pair of hands and made from durable pure linen 🌿.
We are super excited to announce that we will be part of The Handmade Pop-Up, a curated online market featuring handcrafted goods from artists and artisans around the world.
We are so in love with our banana fiber range! We love the natural look, color, strength and durability that comes with hand weaving a product from a natural fiber.
Another fact we love about the banana plant is that almost all parts of the plant are used. You can eat the fruit of course, but the flower, peel and stem are also edible. In South India the beautiful long leaves of the banana plant are used to serve food on during special celebrations such as weddings.
The fibers from the outer skin of the stem, are made into rope that can be used as a natural thread for handicraft. The case for our cross body bag, clutch and big carryall is handwoven with this natural thread. Our carryall bag uses 100 meters of hand rolled rope and takes 3 days to complete! Our weavers are part of a small cooperative of women in rural South India. The focus of the cooperative is improving the living conditions for women and rope makers in the village, as well as education for them and their children. The cooperative is entirely sustained by the sales of their products. See our range of handwoven banana fiber products.
We have been obsessed with pure linen bedding since the first time we slept in it. What a difference! We all know that pure linen looks great and just feels fantastic on the skin due to the natural soft and wrinkly texture. But besides linen being ever so stylish, did you know that linen has many additional benefits too?
Linen flax has many health benefits, it's hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial and linen absorbs more moisture than cotton allowing your bedding to stay fresh. To assist you with a perfect nights sleep, this breathable fabric will keep you cool in summer and cozy and warm in winter. Linen bedding is suitable all year round.
The use of linen fabric dates back to Ancient Egypt and has been considered a luxury fabric ever since. Linen fabric is made from the fibers of the flax plant Linum usitatissimum. The long fibers of the plant get combed and spun into yarn from which the natural fabric can be woven. Flax plants need more looking after and are more labor intensive than cotton; the weaving process is more difficult making manufacturing more costly. The higher manufacturing cost is reflected in the price, however pure linen is that much stronger and durable than cotton, your bedding will last for generations to come. Best of all, linen becomes even softer and smoother with each wash.
A stylish, healthy and environmentally conscious choice.
Grey and turmeric dye prepared at the block print studio for our printed linen pillowcases. We work solely with water based certified eco-friendly pigment dye. You can read more about our crafts at http://commontexture.com/explore
Happy Sunday! Have you browsed through our new website yet? If you are in the mood for some travel pictures don't miss Common Thread, a selection of images from our travels throughout India and Europe which reflects our inspiration and product creation.
Block printing is an art in itself, dating back to the 12th century in India. To create a finished piece of hand printed fabric it requires a wood carver for the pattern, a colorist for the dye and a stamper to apply.
Our products are handwoven, hand-stitched and hand-blockprinted. They become all the more special once you know who made them and how they are put together.