Chandni Chowk to Chiang Mai

As Kenny mentioned, I purchased 3m of Indian silk on MG Road in Bangalore back in December, with the intention of getting a Western-style dress tailored. I ran out of time to get anything made in India, so I carried the fabric in my backpack all around SE Asia, hoping that one of the many tailors here in Chiang Mai could make something for me.

Little did I know then that finding a tailor is actually quite a process. Most of the tailors in town seem to specialize in men’s suits, and few of them actually do any sewing on site – they take your measurements, sell you some fabric, and then send the material out to a sweatshop to do the bulk of the work. So the “tailors” are basically fabric salesmen.

Fortunately for us, Lasanna at Pat’s (our guest house – highly recommended) knew about Uangdoi Design School, the only accredited fashion design school in Thailand.

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Uangdoi Design School

We immediately had a good feeling about the teacher, Krisna, a sweet Thai woman who welcomed us into her shop and offered us water. It seemed like a good omen that an incarnation of Vishnu would be the one to handle my Indian silk. :) She was excited to hear that we were from Seattle, as she had a former student from Seattle who had recently won a fashion design contest in Friday Harbor. I provided a photo of a dress to use as inspiration, and after a quick analysis she described how she would construct the dress – how many pieces of fabric she would use, how she would make the buttons and design the A-line skirt. Then she took a few measurements and told me to come back on Monday, when she would have the lining completed. A few shots from the Monday fitting:

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Krisna making a few adjustments to the dress lining. I was apparently very intent on standing still.

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Krisna describing her plans to add a backing layer of fabric on the silk so that it wouldn’t catch

On Thursday evening, we returned to pick up the final product. The dress came out exactly as I had envisioned, and there was even a bit of fabric left that I may use for a small purse.

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Krisna showing off her creation

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Final dress fitting

India Shopping Spree

Inspired by most of our Indian friends who make visits to the motherland, we spent much of the past week stocking up on all kinds of goodies to take home with us. It started in Bangalore, where we acquired:

  • 2 tiffin boxes
  • An appam pan
  • 1/2 kg appam flour
  • 1 kg ragi flour
  • 1/2 kg ragi
  • 1/2 kg rava
  • Garam masala
  • MTR sambar mix
  • 1 Indian shirt for Kenny and 2 for me plus a pair of earrings at Anokhi
  • Various arts and crafts gifts from Archana’s mother’s crafts collective, including 4 purses for sisters and friends, 4 necklace/earring sets for mothers and sisters, and an elephant figurine for Gio

Then the madness continued here in Delhi, where we have added:

  • A pressure cooker
  • An idly stand
  • Chicken tikka masala seasoning and roasted chana at Roopak in Karol Bagh
  • A long kurti set for Kenny, several tops for me, and a shirt for Shawn from Westside
  • A shirt for Kenny from Fabindia
  • Another couple of shirts for me from various other shops in Karol Bagh
  • Two shirts for Kenny at the State Emporiums
  • A scarf for Jessica and an elephant-mobile for Jadon near Janpath

Good thing we bought that pressure cooker, ’cause we’ll need the box to carry all of this extra stuff home. We also bought a roll of packing tape to seal the box as checked baggage. Next time I come to India, I’m bringing an empty suitcase.

Kanya

Last weekend we went shopping for wedding clothes for Chandrika and Kirill’s Bangalore wedding. After a bit of browsing in the fancy saree shops on MG Road (including Deepam, where we acquired Kenny’s sherwani), I determined that I wanted a woven silk saree. It turns out this is a very traditional South Indian style, and Archana’s mother’s saree shop specializes in this very thing. Sean also assured us that Archana’s mother’s designs were much nicer.

Archana took me to her family’s house the next day to browse. The saree shop – called Kanya — is a small storeroom in their house lined with lockers, full to the brim with beautiful hand-woven Kanjeevaram silk sarees. Archana’s mother, Pramila Prasad, designs the sarees herself and employs a team of weavers who make the sarees. She told us that the designs often come to her while she is dreaming.

I had originally planned to purchase one saree, but in the end it was difficult to narrow my choices down to just two. ;)

A short description of the shop from the Bangalore City Project’s Malleswaram City Walk:

This saree boutique was founded by Ammani Iyengar in 1930 and is now run by her daughter-in-law Pramila Prasad. Smt. Ammani Iyengar, a lady with keen business acumen, started a chit fund to enable the women in the neighbourhood to purchase her Kanjeevaram sarees. She had her looms in Kanchipuram and designed them herself. The 110+ year old house in which this boutique is run, was originally the coach house to the property that belonged to her father-in-law Venkatranga Iyengar, one of the founders of Malleswaram. Her son Mr. S R Krishna Prasad continues to live here with his family.

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Me and Pramila before the wedding reception. She gave me an expert lesson on how to drape the saree (we’ll see if I can actually do it without her…)