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Authentic Handwoven Bleeding Madras Cotton Plaid fabric

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

My Journey to rediscover authentic Bleeding Madras cotton plaid fabric


My passion to work for myself started when I came across a blog discussing about cotton garments available at Chennai, India. This triggered an interest in garments for me and I started exploring the various types of garments and its manufacturing locations at various parts of India.

While exploring one such blog, I came across a gentlemen request looking for Bleeding Madras Cotton Plaid Fabrics. Till that time I didn't had an idea about that fabric and its past glory. I searched the internet and came to know of its history, so much fascinating and exciting.

I was confident that I can get that fabric since it originated from my region and I can feel the life of it. I started calling manufactures of hand-loom fabrics; the call was not only confined to my region but across the country spanning many states. Many answered the call, and replied that the fabric is available, but retaining only the name 'Hand-loom' many manufactures were supplying cotton plaid fabrics which were manufactured using Power loom, Auto loom etc.

Photo Credit : Internet Sources


The search went in vain and the word 'Hand-loom' was no more reliable. Whatsoever Hand-loom fabric made available in Weavers′ Co-operative Society were in the form of Cotton or Silk Sarees, Ladies Dupattas and Kurtis materials but not as plaid fabrics.


Photo Credit : Internet Sources


At last one Weavers society threw some light by agreeing to send some sample Hand-loom Cotton Plaid fabric and those were the happier moments when I waiting for the courier to deliver the samples. After couple of days the sample arrived, but to my dismay, what I received was a sub-quality fabric.

At one point, I was willing to accept even the sub-quality Bleeding Madras (BM) fabric and went ahead to test its bleeding quality. I soaked the sample fabric in a tub filled with crystal clear water. I waited for few hours and the wait extended for couple of days, but the water remained crystal clear and there was no sign of bleeding. The disappointment reached its peak and I halted the search for the Bleeding Madras fabric for a while.


Courtesy : HHEC


Few days passed, I shortlisted some villages Mangalam, Ladavaram, Randam located south-west of Chennai and planned to meet the Hand-loom weavers deep inside the village.

One fine early morning, I set for journey along with my brother as per my plan. After 4 hours of travelling I reached village Mangalam, but there was no sign of any handloom weaving, I enquired about the availability of handloom fabrics in that village and a person advised me to get in to another village named Nookambadi located 15 kms away and I continued my travel and reached the desired spot.

The village was well populated with handloom weavers and there were shops everywhere filled with handloom silk sarees. I spoke to few handloom weavers and understood that the location is familiar only for silk sarees and not for Handloom cotton fabrics. He then redirected to a different village named Kalasamudram located 110 kms away which was not in my plan and my journey continued, by then it was afternoon and I halted my travel for Lunch.

After Lunch, I reached the village the weaver was pointing to, and I met few more weavers’ works under a master weavers. They were in dilemma whether to introduce me to the master weaver or not as they were not in good terms with their masters. After few minutes of pleading to them, I met the master weaver and told about my passion for the search of Bleeding Madras.

To my surprise, the master weaver was one among the weavers in 1960's / 1970'2 who produced Bleeding madras in bulk and exported the fabrics to the United States. He was too old to help me with a sample but he spared time to make me understand the know-how to produce the Bleeding Madras Cotton Plaid fabrics.


Courtesy: HHEC


He further advised me to stop searching for ready-made bleeding fabrics as it is not available any more in India. My joy new no bounds, not able to find any word to express my happiness, was so happy.

From that point, it didn't take much time to re-discover the fabric. Being a mentor the master weaver guided me in very stage of the fabric development. Each and every process was executed with perfection and I reached the stage where the yarns were loaded in the loom for the weaving.


                              Vegetable Dyes


                                 Yarn in Hank Form


                                 Hand Dyeing


                                             Colored Yarn Drying


                                                    Dyed Yarn


I thought that I can reach my goal in a week, but bad time followed. Unfortunately cyclone thrashed southern part of India and there was flood everywhere followed by the weaver sickness, which made me to wait further for few months. I lost patience and made a visit to the weaver’s village and understood that he was in the last stage of recovery and he comforted me that he will start the work in a day or two.

                                  Yarn Warping


                                      Yarn Starching


                                      Finally Hand-loom Weaving


After few days I received the call from the weaver that he courier sample cotton fabrics to my address. I felt very happy, regularly I was inquiring my family members whether the post-man delivered any parcel or not. The sample arrived and I carefully unpacked the parcel to find the plaid cotton fabric.



                       Recently Weaved Bleeding Madras Cotton Plaid Fabric



With no loss of time, immediately I took a swatch and immersed in a small tub of water, it was an excellent moment, the fabric didn't bleed profusely but the color of the water changed mildly overlapping other colors of the plaid fabric........The resultant is, the fabric bleeds the way it has to bleed.



Edited by nillam - 1/12/15 at 6:16pm
post #2 of 14
make sure you check the shrinkage.

the bleeding madras, I had years ago, shrank more then 5%

good work.
it looks fantastic
post #3 of 14

It does look great!

post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 



The Bleeding Madras Fabric which i produced shrinks only during the first time when it goes through the dyeing process where it is soaked in water for one full day, as you said the shrinkage shall be 5 to 7%. After that i found no shrinkage even after multiple washes. It all depends upon the kind of quality yarn used for the fabric.

post #5 of 14
A great post Nillam,

My father used to buy fabric in Madras from a factory in the 1960s with a similar look to your plaid.

Very easy to order but deliveries were shall we say on time Indian style.

You sound like you are having fun - best of luck with your adventure!

I am curious how many times do you need to wash your fabric before it stops bleeding?
post #6 of 14

Great post.


We've been looking for authentic bleeding Madras for a while. I have several sources in the south that can produce authentic bleeding madras in the traditional silky 40's x 60's quality, but the minimums are 500 metres/design. Too high for a small company like ours.


Do you plan on making this commercially available?

post #7 of 14
Originally Posted by spiermackay View Post

Great post.

We've been looking for authentic bleeding Madras for a while. I have several sources in the south that can produce authentic bleeding madras in the traditional silky 40's x 60's quality, but the minimums are 500 metres/design. Too high for a small company like ours.

Do you plan on making this commercially available?
if they want 500m minimum then they are running that on modern equipment
this fabric was made on looms older then you are!
i remember this sort of madras in 20 yard rolls or they may have shown up flat folded.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Dear Sam Hober,


The Bleeding Madras fabric bleeds slightly during every wash until it losses all its colors.

post #9 of 14
Originally Posted by Shirtmaven View Post

if they want 500m minimum then they are running that on modern equipment
this fabric was made on looms older then you are!
i remember this sort of madras in 20 yard rolls or they may have shown up flat folded.


No, these are handlooms, but facilitated by an agent, not direct. It's not worth their time to do less than that. The guys I'm in contact with make cloth for both RL and Gant. There are entire villages in the south that in each little hut has a loom and family members run them. I've seem them first hand. These are not auto or powerlooms.


I can easily get 40x40's in low quantity, as the yarn is readily available, but it's not the same.


Just another quick point, because of the short, slubby yarn and the loose weave, shrinkage of authentic bleeding madras off the loom can be as high as 12%.  Powerloom and Autoloom will shrink less.

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 

Dear Spiermackay,


Yes, i do have the plan to make it commercially available. The bleeding madras fabric pictures shared in this blog is made of 2/80's combed yarn, but can be customized according to requirements. I can produce fabrics even at a low of 110 - 130 yards per design.

Edited by nillam - 1/16/15 at 10:26am
post #11 of 14
I love threads like this.
post #12 of 14
I'm the "gentleman" to whom Yogesh Gagendaran graciously refers. I started posting on blogs such as this one, FNB, and AskAndy searching for sources of authentic "bleeding" madras by-the-yard. At the time, I naively thought that all one had to do was walk into the modern-day (or Indian) equivalent of the old Beckenstein's and - viola - they'd have "bleeding" madras. Production in India was halted in the early 1970s because the vegetable-based dyes were harmful to the environment. Environmentally-safe vegetable dyes have since been developed, but - in the intervening years and even in India - everybody wants to be doctors and lawyers and computer programmers and nobody tailors, cobblers - let alone weavers and dyers of authentic and traditional "bleeding" madras. It is an incredibly painstaking process to dye and weave - in some cases requiring weeks (or months) just to dye the fabric. Not to mention the skill-level and craftsmanship of weavers. I encountered Yogesh on a blog called IndiaMike just by incredible chance. He is (or was) in IT and was looking for alternative careers. I don't think he even knew that much about madras when he responded, but he took up the challenge (see his blog.) He's an incredible "go-getter," showed considerable initiative and resourcefulness on his own. Our fabric is beautiful. it has "soul" in the opinion of Lee Johnson of Old Bull Lee (shorts). I have a call out to Rikky Khanna (Spicer and McKay) who has an incredible knowledge regarding "bleeding" madras and has been helpful in giving us guidance as to the "reed-and-pick" count of the cotton we wanted to use, to see whether we can get something commercially started. Any others can send commercial inquiries to me (or Yogesh) via PM. (Apparently, the cotton used in the 1960s wasn't very good, which is perhaps responsible for so few of the garments from that period having survived to the present and gave it a very rough "hand." Although, I bought a deadstock "bleeding" madras shirt from the 1960s on etsy for over a $100; The Weejun I think "scored" some too and he's had offers from Japan for incredible amounts of money. Rikky also tells me that he knows of an fabric merchant in Delhi (?) who has several meters of the 1960s stuff with which he will never part, even for a "king's ransom." Thanks to Rikky's advice and guidance, our fabric is being woven from a cotton with a high-enough "reed-and-pick" count to make give it a very silky hand, and yet a durability to survive many, many launderings.) Hey! The feedback here is incredible and shows a market exists. Let's all see what we can do to get going! Thanks to all who have taken the time to read the blog and postings here.
post #13 of 14

I have been searching off and on for bleeding madras for 40 years.  I just saw your comments today.  Please direct me to a site where I can buy authentic bleeding madras cloth and or shirts.

thank you,


post #14 of 14


I thought for a moment I might be the gentleman inquiring about bleeding madras because I made many inquiries about 5 years ago, prior to a trip to India.  I am only interested in buying a few shirts for myself and my brother.  We both had bleeding madras shirts in the 60's and remember them fondly.  Are there a few websites from which they can be purchased?


Thank you.



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