Loominous "Bleeding" Madras GMTO: A Classic
Will Ship To: Anywhere
It's back after 45 years! SF is Ground Zero for the return of handloomed "bleeding" madras. Only 20 available. Ends Cyber Monday, November 30th.
Shirts may be ordered here:
My theory (as it relates to men’s clothing) is that a style of clothing—or a specific item of clothing—only becomes a classic if the elements of design are pleasing to the eye and, functionally, the garment works.
This is true of shirts made from madras AND specifically “Bleeding Madras”.
I am talking about the madras that all the “cool” guys were wearing back in the 1960’s. Twin boys wore matching madras shirts to church, their father wore a madras sport coat, their mother a madras scarf. It was the "King of Style!"
Hand loomed in India, they were dyed in such a way that the colors blended together and didn’t fade away, creating a unique and beautiful patina, like an old favorite wallet or a brass bell. The demise of bleeding madras occurred only because the dyes were deemed environmentally unsafe. Authentic bleeding madras has not been available for more than forty-five years.
I remembered bleeding madras, loved it, and took on the challenge of duplicating a madras fabric that was environmentally safe and possessed the same character as the original. Environmentally safe dyes were already available. All that was missing was the dyers and weavers who remembered the process.
It was a long search, but ultimately I found a village in India with one elder who did.
I knew the original Madras shirts were made by Gant in New Haven, so made in New England was another requirement. That's why the New England Shirt Co. is making ours.
They received the initial shipment of yardage in July. By August a retailer in Portland, Maine, who was excited as we are was offering on a trial basis the first bleeding madras shirt for sale in over four decades. The proprietor is old enough to remember the character and comfort of this shirt (a silky hand), and he felt we had the “Real McCoy”. He sold them out in four days.
Only 4-6 yards can be woven per loom per day.
First the master dyer mixes the dyes with water, until he judges the color of the mixture to be right. Then he dips a pure white hank of yarn into it until it "takes" the dyes. Then, he judges whether it makes perfectly the other hanks he previously dyed.
Then a warp is made by the master weaver. Warps are always made in the early morning, and usually in the shade, because hot sunlight will fade the warp yarns. The warpers first set up a bamboo warp frame, then attach dyed "80s" yarn, a strand at a time, to the beam at the foot of the frame, then "walk" it 60 feet to the head of the frame, and sley it in one of two reeds there. For our fabric, 5,000 yarns have to be "walked" from one end of the warp frame to the other, before the sun grows hot. That's 3 miles!
Then it is inspected, and frayed yarns are replaced, and broken yarns are tied with weaver's knots. Next, starch sizing is slung on the warp yarns with bristly brushes, and burnished with bamboo sticks, to give them a smooth, even finish for weaving. And finally, the warpers tie off the yarns by colors, roll then up on the beam, and carries it to the master weaver. Warping is arduous, painstaking handwork.
Pushing foot pedals attached to the harness, the master weaver raises and lowers the warp yarns, while he sends the shuttle flying and weaving through then, with his hands.
Once the weaving is finished, it is washed in spring water in a "washing hole" which gives it a special softness and texture.
It's spread in 25-foot lengths of cloth in the water and then soaked. Washers work the cloth back and forth with their hands and bare feet, cleaning and finishing it.
After the cloth is washed, it is spread out to dry. And at day's end, the ground would be totally, colorfully covered with hundreds of lengths of Madras cloth, drying in the hot sun. Beautiful!
Here's the link to the first pattern being offered (the same one that sold out in four days it was so popular):
Edited by aucociscokid - 11/21/15 at 7:28pm