As Robert Plant hums the song, it is easy to say that tie and dyeing has been a tradition world over. 'Tie-n-dyeing' literally means dying a fabric after tying parts of the fabric so that they will not absorb dye, giving the fabric a streaked or mottled look.
Tie-dyeing, method used by hand-loom weavers of ancient times, became popular during the craft revival of the 1960s. The fabric to be colored is tied or knotted at intervals before being placed in the dye; the knotted areas remain untouched by the dye and create random patterns frequently resulting in a sunburst effect. Also known as Bandhej, Tie & Dye is one of the most widely accepted and traditional method of textile printing in India as well. Most of the Bandhani produced in India is made in Kutch, Saurastra and in other neighboring districts. Perhaps, the most important traditional handiwork of Kutchi people, 'Bandhanis' are very closely associated with deep rooted social customs. Discovery of dyed cotton fabric dating back to the Indus valley civilization shows that the art of dyeing using penetrating was well known to the dyers about 5000 years ago.
Though simple, tie & die is quite time consuming and tedious process. A single piece of cloth, with intricate bandhej design, takes more than a week to prepare. In this process, each section is carefully dipped in paint and tied again to bring yet another contrast in color. Usually the women are assigned to the fine craft of tying while the men prepare the dye.
The material to be used is folded more than a few times until reduced to a square or rectangular piece. It is spread on wooden table and desired designs are marked on it with a wooden block using 'Gheru' or Red oxide mixed with water. Then, it is taken off the table given to a Bandhani crafts person, who purposely allows the thumb and the finger nail to grow long so as to use them as a pair of tongs for trying the marked portions into tiny knots. The decorative designs indicated by the block are sized and skillfully tied with thread thus retaining the original color of the material in that portion. Then, it is dyed in a light color. The area requiring the light color is again tied and later dyed in red or another required dark color. Thus, the different colors required are introduced into the materials. After the process of tying and dyeing, the cloth is washed with soft water to remove the color impurities. Then, to remove the color knots, the process of hitching is done. Two ends of the cloth material are caught by two persons. It is a little hitched in the open air or in the sunlight so that the knots are automatically removed and the tied parts are free. The colors that are traditionally used in the process are vibrant with yellow, black, red and green being the predominant ones. This technique is used on lighter shades of browns, turquoise, blue and pink giving a stunning effect.