History of Madras
In all the world, there are but precious few hand woven fabrics left. In South Eastern India, on the Bay of Bengal in the capital of the federal state of Tamil Nadu, there is the center for the hand weaving of cloth in India ever since there has been cloth woven there.
In about 3,000 B.C., Madras cotton assumed its rightful place as king of fabrics for this hot climate. And, in the 1500's, a much refined Madras cotton was first block-printed by hand with floral or temple designs, and became the traditional garb of Madras villagers until plaids came into vogue in the 1800's.
Remember bleeding Madras? The bleeding Madras fad of the 1950's and '60's, brought the world's attention to Madras, both the cloth and the city. And in the cloth's heyday, over 150,000 new plaid patterns were fashioned, using homemade vegetable dyes that bled, ran and blended to create a stunning effect. Today, of course, Madras no longer bleeds, because it is dyed with man-made, color-fast dyes. But this, really, is the only difference, between then and now, in the making of the cloth.
Madras is hand-dyed, hand-warped, hand-woven and hand-finished in almost 200 tiny villages in Tamil Nadu. And all these precious, time-honored crafts are encouraged and protected by the government of India, which should make hand-weaving buffs the world over sleep easier for years to come.
Making clothing remains essentially an art form. And, maybe, nowhere else on earth is this more true than in Madras. There, are found people who dye, warp, weave and finish cloth with their hands, eyes, and hearts, giving it pattern, grace, beauty — and most assuredly, "life". These people, who live and work in the middle of farm fields in the heart of India, continue the ancient tradition of weaving cool, cotton Madras plaids continue even as we approach the 21st century.