So you want to hang some fine sea green blockprint curtain panels to spice the kitchen nook or spread a chocolate Jaipur duvet on the California king? Okay, by saying “you” I really mean me and it has been a challenge as I peruse online for affordable choices to suit my exotic sensibilities and tactile textile addiction.
I make a habit of checking neighborhood haunts like Nest on Fillmore carrying known designers of those sumptuous hand embellished cottons, John Robshaw, Kerry Cassill and Roberta Rolling Rabbit (check out new retail outlets in California). Other than the few who truly get the beauty of these prints, it is hard to locate a variety of madras magic in San Francisco let alone on the world wide web. Where does the road to these riches begin?
First, take the Indian shopping course and try the village marketplace – that is, the one at your fingertips.
Etsy: Sure, old reliable Etsy, the source for all things handmade and far-out BoHo, has a supply of Indian textile peddlers: Vendors such as DesiFabrics offer reasonably priced yardage of vintage and new Jaipur prints and embroidered trims which can be the most expedient route to getting what you want – especially if you have a good interior sewer, such as Dreams, to whip up what you want. But yardage is limited unless you order in bulk.
Fair Trade: Organizations such as A Trade for a Trade sponsor artisans in Third World villages who weave to live. Tilonia Home This site offers the best I’ve encountered in the way of ready made voile block print quilts in appealing shades of pumpkin, lavender, classic indigo and slate grey. The Soma Shop in Rajasthan produces some stunning quilts but you must contact the owners to figure out how to secure one of the gems. Unfortunately, Soma’s goods are not yet available in the USA.
IndusDecor is another resource for bedding and panels. Again, the choices are highly limited and I would describe the patterns and quality as less sophisticated than Tilonia or a Robshaw brand, but for ready made panels the orange paisley, floral vines and Sandal prints are pleasant options for the kitchen. The bedding is also a bit glitzy for me -like those rich but overly gilded saris.
If you can’t get the bargains, bring out your platinum card and check out these more upscale peddlers:
Les Indiennes, a pricey line of subdued blockprint duvets, quilts and panels has sales from time to time, and the goods fly out fast. The handsome Elyse duvet in Chocolate runs $450 in a king attesting to the value of these textiles. Meanwhile, the Cosette curtain panels 84″ in length are $250 a pair. A better avenue might be to buy a bolt of their fabric for $500 (just over five yards) to custom your own headboard or bedskirts. Now you’re getting the gist of the slightly pretentious French name! Must cost a bundle to ship this gold from Paris to New York.
In terms of scooping up some fabric, another top notch selection can be found in Robert Kime’s collection at the John Rosselli and Associates website. His Pear Tree on linen is a delightful pattern for drapes or fringed pillows or an interesting ottoman with velvet welting.
Also, Serena and Lily does their own take on the blockprint in typical vivid fashion. Back when I produced their first book, Nursery Style, I suggested they produce blockprint options since they are so hard for us Americans to come by. Serena was making her first trip to India and I think it sparked some ideas. I also adore the quilts by local Rickshaw Design but sadly they focus on baby leaning heavily towards the pastels and most of my favorites only come in crib or twin size, but they do sell duvets in queen size and some fabrics by the yard including their adorable elephant prints.
ABC Home has a limited selected of organic blockprint bedding and only one option in panels, a gold print on ivory fabric. Yala is another good way to go with organic but also is limited in just three sizes and shades (why do they cover this segment for baby and not for me?) and also on the high side. A blue lotus quilt in king size is $440, on a par with Les Indiennes.
Beyond these sources, there is a slew of earthy- crunchy Indian outlets and corporate traders like Cost Plus, delivering panels and spreads that go great with black light posters and bongs, heavily ethnic on cheap fabric with none of the subtle craftsmanship we desire. Think Seventies kaftans and mounds of pillows tossed in an abandoned harem fashion on the water bed (throw in some tasty Alice B. Toklas brownies and you might have a Woodstock moment).
If that’s not your thing, do more homework and check out fabric and home decor blogs that help us to navigate the high quality new and antique textile trail – and one of the best is Fibercopia. I could also spend all day reading Kathy Elliott’s research of cool art, home and food – and have discovered some good sources here as well.
In the end, I’m not so sure arm chair traveling to find the blockprint I desire is better than a real passage to India to barter for some bolts on my own. It’s frustrating to be at the mercy of retailers who pick and choose for us, often coming up short or setting the prices to high. Either way, I’m just fool for paisley and henna and can’t get enough of those tattooed textiles.