Guest Editors

Flame Stitch

CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.

Flame stitch - that bold, often colorful, zig zag pattern - is hot.  Think of flame stitch as a design rather than needlework, especially when considering how it is used today.  While flame stitch is trendy now, it has been around forever, probably since the 13th century.  Let’s take a quick look at flame stitch’s history.

The origin of flame stitch is murky and romantic.  Most scholars agree that it is primarily Italian, with either a dash of Hungarian or Middle Eastern roots thrown in.  Flame stitch could be a hybrid of two stitches, the brick stitch and the Hungarian stitch (seen in the 13th century German altar curtain below) brought to Italy by a beloved Bohemian princess on her many trips there.  Alternatively, flame stitch may have a Middle Eastern relative, given its resemblance to ikat, that traveled to Italy via the Silk Road.

CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.

While we can’t DNA flame stitch, one of the earliest surviving examples is found in England.  There, in the Elizabethan manor, Parham House, an entire room is still upholstered in Italian wool from the 16th century bearing a flame stitch pattern. The principal bed at Parham House also is adorned with flame stitch.  Surely it is not coincidental that Mary, Queen of Scots (who ruled Scotland then) was Marie de Medici’s sister-in-law.

CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.
CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.

Italy has few extant early examples of flame stitch.  Some 17th century chairs wearing the pattern reside in the Bargello Museum in Florence, explaining why flame stitch is sometimes called “Bargello” or “Florentine” stitch.   The French call the pattern “Bergamo”.

Flame stitch remained popular in the 18th century spreading throughout Europe and to the colonies.  It often decorated clothing then, as these British shoes and American pocketbook from that time period show.  It truly must have been all the rage, as the ladies of the Greenwood-Lee family thought it chic enough to include in their c. 1747 family portrait.

CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.
CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.
CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.

Flame stitch never really went out of style.  The Scalamandre flame stitch velvet covering these 19th century settees is period perfect.

CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.

New fabrics are still being created today.  Have a look at these textiles from Schumacher and Zimmer + Rhode, and how designer Nina Farmer upholstered a chaise in flame stitch for her Boston townhouse.

CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.
CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.

In the 1970s, flame stitch wallpaper was all sorts of groovy.  Meg Braff recently updated that old seventies look with a new wallpaper dubbed appropriately, “Flambe.”

CLOTH & KIND // Provenance, Flame Stitch. Guest Edited by Lynn Byrne.

The flame stitch pattern (and its appeal) hasn’t changed much over the years.    With maximalism now in vogue, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a fully upholstered flame stitch room someday soon.

Flame stitch.  Still on fire.

CLOTH & KIND // Lynn.jpg

 

This post was guest edited for CLOTH & KIND by Lynn Byrne. lynn is an expert in decorative arts and design history, who also has written extensively about art, travel, and interior design. She studied decorative arts at Parsons and is well-known for explaining design terms and themes found throughout history.  

PHOTO CREDITS // German altar curtain from Bayrose, ikat example from Hand Eye magazine. Parham House photos by Andreas von Einsiedel for Homes & Antiques magazine. British shoes from Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Pocketbook from Museum of Fine Arts.  Family portrait from the Museum of Fine Arts.  Nina Farmer’s home, by Paul Raeside.  


Nottingham Lace and Madras

Who hasn't been seduced by the image of lace, moving softly in the breeze, with the sun streaming through leaving an intriguing pattern on the floor.  Or perhaps a tuft of lace at the neckline of a beautiful woman.  So romantic.  Kind of feels a bit like Downton Abbey or a Ralph Lauren ad, don't you think?

Well, as it turns out, there is only one remaining mill in the world that continues to make true Nottingham lace (and its cousin, madras) - and it is, natch, the lace that you see on Downton Abbey and couture fashion from brands like Ralph Lauren, and Scottish designer Elizabeth Martin whose designs are shown above.  

Who is keeping this legacy alive? The firm Morton, Young and Borland Textiles, based in Ayrshire, Scotland about 25 miles from Glasgow. 

And what's so unique about MYB Textiles' lace? Two things, and both are irreplaceable.  First it is the looms that their product is woven on.  Nottingham refers to the place where the  machine and technology for making the lace first developed, not the lace itself, and MYB Textiles' looms are over 100 years old.  No other firm has them. 

MYB has carefully maintained their original looms from the company's inception in the early 1900s and acquired additional ones as other companies have gone out of business.  These special looms allow MYB Textiles to create wide width fabrics, with highly ornate patterns or, if need be, simple gauze-like textiles. 

But don't assume that MYB Textiles is lodged firmly in the past.  Rather it is the firm's unique ability to adopt modern technology while respecting it's heritage that has allowed the company to survive and thrive.  

And that brings us to MYB Textiles' second unique feature.  Unlike other companies that produced these textiles,  MYB has installed a carefully orchestrated apprenticeship program to allow skills to be passed down from generation to generation.  Plus, a look at the company's Tumblr account also reveals that they regularly take interns from Britain's designs schools, opening themselves up to fresh new ideas from young designers. 

An example of  MYB Textiles' ability to marry old and new goes to the heart of their business.  They have a vast archive of historic designs that they often draw upon for inspiration.  Yet, those designs are now developed with computer assistance.  The company has found a way to harness it's 100 year old looms with electronic jacquards allowing the use of CAD.  

CLOTH & KIND // Provenance: Nottingham Lace and Madras by Contributing Editor, Lynn Byrne of Decor Arts Now

 Margo Graham, one of just two Nottingham lace designers still in existence (her one-time apprentice, Kashka Lennon is the other) explains, "Designing used to be watercolors on draft paper (seen below, left)  but now it's computer-aided. The techniques are still the same but all the skills have been transferred. All the cutting and pasting had to be done by hand in the past, now it's a lot easier."

Even with the advent of modern technology, however, there is still much done by hand. Those 100 year old looms are quirky.  They run slowly and require careful monitoring.  

CLOTH & KIND // Provenance: Nottingham Lace and Madras by Contributing Editor, Lynn Byrne of Decor Arts Now

Once the fabric is loomed, it is taken straight to the darning room to be checked for imperfections.  A hand darner will "invisibly" correct any error, be it by adding missed stitches to the pattern or by removing an extra stitch, known as seeding. Not surprisingly,  it takes many years to become a good hand darner.

So what's the difference between madras and lace?  With madras, below left, the pattern is woven onto a gauze background, so that only the pattern, not the ground, needs to be designed.  Lace (below right), on the other hand, requires that both the background and the pattern be designed. 

Modern technology or not, its obvious that the lace and madras produced MYB Textiles are imbued with romance from the outset. 

Image Credits // All lace shown is produced by Morton, Young and Borland Textiles. Quote from Margo Graham taken from an article published in Homes and Antiques magazine in November 2014. Fashion designed by Elizabeth Martin and fashion photos came from Textiles Scotland. All other images from the MYB Textiles website.

Lavender

Please welcome a new and extraordinarily talented guest editor to CLOTH & KIND! Molly Velte has joined our team and will be periodically writing in our Journal as a contributor to our Hue and Fab Five columns. 

Molly is a textile artist & stylist based on the east coast, by way of France & California. Her surface patterns are represented by select studios in New York, whose clients include Kate Spade, Anthropologie and Free People amongst others, and she is regularly commissioned to create custom textile prints for companies around the globe. Molly is a past contributor to Bri Emery's wildly popular and well-loved blog, Design Love Fest... check out her Patternfest posts here, and also be sure to spend time on her fantastic personal blog ROOT for a peek into her process, inspiration & creative happenings.

With a similar vibe for textiles, color & interiors, we are nothing short of thrilled to have Molly contributing to CLOTH & KIND's Journal. Welcome aboard, Molly! We hope you all dig her first Hue post below, inspired by Madeline Weinrib's Lavender Remy Ikat fabric, as much as we do.

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Carrot & Red Lentil Soup

Deconstructed Kitchen: Carrot & Red Lentil Soup | CLOTH & KIND

Guest edited, prepared & photographed by Bonnie Berry

I love soup. It instantly cheers me up. And I feel like it always needs crackers. It must be from days as a child when my grandmother gave me soup and crackers. So I decided I should make them, which seemed like an impossibility. I don't know why, but it always seemed too hard. It is, however, surprisingly easy. And with all of the GMO issues and the hidden chemicals in our food these days, and the fact that I like to cook, making things from scratch seems like the simplest way for me. I have made this soup recipe a dozen times and it never disappoints. I have used different kinds of lentils when I have not had red ones and the taste is the same, although it may not look quite as pretty.

CARROT & RED LENTIL SOUP adapted from La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 red onion sliced 1 leek, white part only, finely chopped 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme 2 garlic cloves minced 1 large tomato (blanched, peeled, seeded and diced) 1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste 2 cups carrots (peeled and sliced, about 4-5 carrots) 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and sorted 4 cups cold water 1 bay leaf Sea salt and pepper 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or more to taste)

Top with: Lime juice Coconut milk or cream Chopped cilantro Crushed red peppercorns

In large heavy pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oil, then add onion, leek, cumin, and thyme, cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring until fragrant and the onions are soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomato and tomato paste, cook for 2-3 minutes until tomato has softened. Add the carrots, lentils, cold water, and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the carrots and lentils are soft. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf and transfer to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Return soup to the pot and stir in coconut milk. Reheat and check seasoning for coconut milk and salt and pepper. Serve topped with a dab of coconut milk, a squirt of lime juice, cilantro and crushed red pepper.

Deconstructed Kitchen: Carrot & Red Lentil Soup | CLOTH & KIND

PARMESAN CREAM CRACKERSadapted from Smitten Kitchen

Rolling the dough 1/4-inch thick, I yielded 30 1 1/2-inch square cookies that shrank slightly and puffed to 3/8-inch thick

1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed Coarse salt, pepper, sesame or poppy seeds or whatever you like for sprinkling (optional).

Heat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly dust with flour. Put flour, salt, cheese and butter in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and butter are combined. Add about 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit until a dough forms. If it does not come together, add more liquid a teaspoon at a time, until mixture holds together but is not sticky.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/4-inch thick or even thinner, adding flour as needed. From here, you can either form them into individual crackers (I went for 1 1/2-inch squares cut with a fluted pastry wheel) and bake them an inch apart on your baking sheet (the method I used) or transfer the entire rolled-out sheet to your baking sheet (draping it over the rolling pin will make it easier) and score them lightly with a knife, pizza or pastry wheel to break into crackers after they are baked. For either method, dock all over with a fork and sprinkle with salt or any other toppings you are using.

Deconstructed Kitchen: Carrot & Red Lentil Soup | CLOTH & KIND

Bake until moderately browned, about 12 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature or store uncovered for a few days.

IMAGE CREDITS | Plate & Napkin from Anthropologie. Photography by Bonnie Berry.

Byobu

 

prov-e-nance \ˈpräv-nən(t)s, ˈprä-və-ˌnän(t)s\noun. the place of origin or earliest known history of something.

Guest edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Perhaps the very essence of Japan can be found in the hand painted screens, called byobu, which have flourished as an art form in Japan since the 8th century. Byobu literally means “wind wall”  which gives a clear sense of their original purpose – to block drafts. Over time, their mobility and flexibility allowed them to be used almost anywhere, to block unsightly objects or repurpose a room, as well as serving as beautiful backdrops for tea ceremony, ikebana and visiting dignitaries. Ornate screens and those using gold and silver leaf helped proclaim the status of their owner. Like much of Japanese artwork, screens originated in China but were slowly but surely domesticated and changed in Japan, with a high point being the introduction of paper hinges, allowing the artist a single large canvas to create an image, rather than completely divided panels.

I considered writing on other subjects this month, but with my imminent departure from Tokyo, I realized that I had to cover something very near and dear to my heart. Add to that my discovery, at a big antiques fair earlier this month, a divine silver leaf byobu painted with naturalistic pine in the richest of greens and my topic was set.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Of course this beauty came home with me where I cannot stop admiring the finesse of the painter who implied mountains in the background with the merest hint of line. The silver leaf literally seems to glow as if lit from within.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

The period between the late 16th to the 17th century is considered the "golden age" of byobu painting, with daimyo and samurai leaders commissioning works of art on a large-scale, designed to decorate their castles and awe their constituents with their wealth and power. Screens from this period often continue to reflect a bold Chinese heritage and make free use of bold brushstrokes and Zen themes.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Prosperity under the Tokugawa shogunate from the early 17th century through the mid-19th century, encouraged painters of various schools to create screens in many different styles – not just for the samurai and aristocratic elites, but for wealthy farmers, artisans and merchants. The Kano school is perhaps the most well-known, being the dominant school style for nearly 400 years. The Kano family itself produced many great artists and many students of the school went on to take the Kano name. The Rinpa school, created in 17th century Kyoto, is one of the other most famous schools, known particularly for the work of brothers Ogata Korin and Ogata Kenzan. I have written about the Ogata Korin iris masterpieces before, and they continue to be some of my favorites.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Other schools include the Tosa school, whose subject matter and techniques derived from ancient Japanese art, as opposed to schools influenced by Chinese art, notably the Kano school. However, by the late 17th century divisions between schools had become less marked as the artists willingness to experiment broadened.

As the breadth of topics widened, so too did screen commissioning and ownership. Most common were pairs of full height 6 panel screens, but other shapes and sizes proliferated with specific names and uses. Topics such as the four seasons, flower studies and detailed works featuring the Tale of Genji and other stories were popular. I particularly enjoy some of the more casual screens showing everyday life - like this pair of tagasode screens - meaning "Whose Sleeves?" a common theme depicting beautiful kimonosdraped across a wooden rack. Generally unsigned, tagasode screens are thought to have been painted by local artists whose ready-made works were sold to buyers off the street, rather than being commissioned.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Today, screens are more likely to be hung on the wall rather than stood on the floor. They lose some of their visual movement that way, but it also enhances the viewers ability to encompass the painting directly. I love the parallel between the silver leaf grids in the screen and the Bennison fabric pattern in this room by Windsor Smith.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Finely detailed story screens like this 17th century byobu depicting the Genki Heike Battle between the Minamoto clan and the Taira clan may have had their heyday in that century, but feel just as relevant today when mixed with an antique Spanish refractory table and patchwork boro in Amy Katoh's riverfront home.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Their detail or simplicity, their ever-changing response to light, their functionality and portability and their ability to work in any style decor, make byobu any decorator's best friend. For more images and information about these Japanese beauties, you can visit my blog Tokyo Jinja and my Byobu Board on Pinterest.

Have you used byobu in your home or a client project? We'd love to hear about it.

IMAGE CREDITS | All byobu screens via The Metropolitan Museum of Art, other credits as noted and linked to in the post above.

Guacamole

Deconstructed Kitchen: Guacamole | CLOTH & KIND

Guest edited, prepared & photographed by Bonnie Berry This time of year, when things are starting to really warm up, there's nothing better than a cold Corona paired with fresh tortilla chips and guacamole...and for the young ones, guac is a surefire way to get the kids to eat avocados! Here's a basic, but really good recipe from My Abuela's Table - a fresh and beautifully simple Mexican cookbook by Daniella Germain.

Deconstructed Kitchen: Guacamole | CLOTH & KIND

GUACAMOLE My Abuela's Table by Daniella Germain

INGREDIENTS 3 ripe avocados 3 tablespoons of olive oil salt and pepper 1 tomato, finely chopped 2 tablespoons of red onion, finely chopped 3 tablespoons of cilantro, chopped 1 small chili, chopped (optional)

PREPARATION Peel avocados and mash well in a bowl.

Add olive oil, salt and pepper and combine well.

Add the tomato, onion, cilantro and chopped chili (if using).

Store in the fridge.

Deconstructed Kitchen: Guacamole | CLOTH & KIND

I though the olive oil taste was a bit heavy (and I LOVE olive oil). Next time I make it I will use only 2 tablespoons. I will also add lime juice and garlic because I missed them. But overall a solid guacamole recipe. Also, she recommends you save the avocado seeds to put in the guacamole dish until you are ready to serve it because it will stave off the browning. I tried this and it did not work at all. My husband Josh gave me a scientific reason it would never work and I admit I just smiled and feigned comprehension.

Deconstructed Kitchen: Guacamole | CLOTH & KIND

What's your favorite way to prepare guac?

 

CREDITS | Guest edited, prepared & photographed by Bonnie Berry. Archer Napkins and Caribe Tablecloth courtesy of John Robshaw - thank you so much, John!

Grilled Steak & Sweet Potatoes with Bacon-Sesame Brittle

Deconstructed Kitchen: Grilled Steak & Sweet Potatoes | Guest Edited by Bonnie Berry | CLOTH & KIND

Guest edited, prepared & photographed by Bonnie Berry

There is something about Gwyneth Paltrow that makes me want to hate her. She is just too perfect. So when she came out with a cookbook two years ago I balked at buying it. But buy it I did, and boy am I glad. It is a great cookbook, especially for families. There are a couple of recipes that have become standards for us. Then she came out with a new book a few weeks ago and I bought that one too. The timing was perfect. I had just finished an elimination diet and have found that I do better eating less dairy and grains and more protein and fruits and vegetables. And this cookbook delivers on that score. So I made the grilled steak and it was delicious. The four of us were practically fighting over it and that included the kids. It is a pricey piece of meat, but so worth it for a treat every once in a while. The first time I made it, I grilled it and that is how I would suggest you make it if you can. The dish pictured below was done on the stove a few days later because we ran out of propane (go figure!) and although it was yummy, I missed the caramelization that seems to magically happen on the grill. Oh, I also have a thing for sweet potatoes and when I saw this Bon Appétit recipe it had me at bacon. So make them together or separately, just make them... And I will continue to try not to hate Ms. Paltrow, if for no other reason than she is helping me feed my family well.

Deconstructed Kitchen: Grilled Steak & Sweet Potatoes | Guest Edited by Bonnie Berry | CLOTH & KIND

GRILLED STEAK WITH MELTED ANCHOVIES & ROSEMARY Serves 4

Ingredients: Four 6-ounce pieces of beef tenderloin, at room temperature Extra virgin olive oil Coarse sea salt Fresh ground black pepper 8 good-quality anchovies Leaves from a leafy sprig of rosemary - very, extremely, super-finely choppe

Preparation: Rub the steaks all over with just enough oil to coat and season generously with salt and pepper. Let the seasoned steaks sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking.

Make sure your exhaust fan is in good order if you're cooking inside, then heat a cast-iron pan or a grill over high heat.

Place the steaks in the pan or on the grill and cook until nicely charred on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes, then flip them over. Cook until the second sides are nicely charred, another 2 minutes. This will give you medium-rare steaks. Cook them longer if you prefer your steak more well done.

Remove the steaks to a warm plate or a cutting board and let them rest of at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies and cook, stirring with a spoon, until they dissolve into the oil. Add the rosemary and cook for just 1 minute to let it bloom and lose its woodsy edge.

Slice the steaks, spoon the anchovy mixture over them, and sprinkle it all with a bit more salt.

Dig in immediately.

Deconstructed Kitchen: Grilled Steak & Sweet Potatoes | Guest Edited by Bonnie Berry | CLOTH & KIND

TWICE-BAKED SWEET POTATOES WITH BACON-SESAME BRITTLE Makes 8

Ingredients: 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces 1/3 cup sugar 1 tablespoon sesame seeds 6 medium sweet potatoes (6–8 ounces each) 2 large eggs 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature 2 tablespoons white miso* (fermented soybean paste) 1 2/3-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated (about 2 teaspoons) 2 1-inch pieces scallion (dark-green parts only), thinly sliced lengthwise *White miso, also called shiro miso, can be found at Asian markets and Amazon.com.

Preparation: Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Cook bacon in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until most of the fat is rendered and bacon is starting to crisp. Transfer bacon to a sieve set over a small bowl; reserve drippings.

Return bacon, 1 Tbsp. drippings, sugar, and sesame seeds to same skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar turns the color of milk chocolate, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to prepared baking sheet and use a spatula to spread out evenly; let cool. Break brittle into shards. Can be done 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400°. Place sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until tender, 45–55 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle.

Slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Working over a large bowl, scoop out flesh from 8 halves, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick layer inside skins. Place potato halves on same foil-lined baking sheet. Scoop flesh from remaining 4 halves; discard skins. Mash flesh with a whisk; add eggs, butter, miso, and ginger and stir until mixture is smooth. Spoon or pipe filling into reserved skins. Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Bake potatoes until the tops are lightly puffed and golden brown, 30–35 minutes (potatoes will take longer if they've been chilled). Top potatoes with bacon-sesame brittle and scallions.

Sage-Advice.jpg

I skipped the whole skin presentation thing. It looks beautiful, but frankly it was too much work for me. So I just put all of the potato flesh (mixed with the eggs, butter, miso etc) in one big casserole dish and baked it like that. It was delicious.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY & STYLING Bonnie Berry | RECIPES It's All Good by Gwyneth PaltrowBon Appétit

Toran

prov-e-nance \ˈpräv-nən(t)s, ˈprä-və-ˌnän(t)s\noun. the place of origin or earliest known history of something.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

Guest edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja IMAGE | Antique Toran via The Textile Museum of Canada

A number of years ago I spied a charming doorway textile at the home of a dear friend. Clearly Indian in origin, it was a rectangular banner with small fabric flaps hanging down and tiny mirrors embedded in the pattern. She told me it was a toran, a hand embroidered and embellished door hanging, traditionally made in Gujarat, on the coast of Northwestern India. My fascination with them grew and over the years I have continued to keep an eye out for them.

The word toran (or torana) itself originally referred to sacred gateways in Indian architecture, with roots in Buddhism and Hinduism, like this pair of 12th century sandstone ones in Vadnagar, Gujarat. It is easy to see the connection between the embroidery of the fabric hangings and the detailed stone carvings, as well as in their function to welcome both the gods and people. Decorative toran also play a role in holidays like Diwali and Holi or at weddings and celebrations as they are believed to be auspicious and lucky. The doorway blesses every person that walks under it, showering them with an abundance of love, prosperity, health and happiness. While the heavily embroidered ones tend to be regional to Gujarat, toran in other forms are popular throughout India. In the south, green mango tree leaves are threaded together and hung across the door. In Northern India, marigold flowers are strung together and used the same way. The small flaps that hang from the fabric versions are meant to represent dangling leaves and flowers.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGES | Torana Arch via Vadnagar, An Ancient City & Marigold Garland via Mitai and Marigolds

Often times toran are used in spaces other than actual doors to represent a passageway. This welcoming example from Sibella Court's Nomad book beckons one to enter and cozy up for a restful nap.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGE | via Nomad: A Global Approach to Interior Style by Sibella Court

The Kutch region of Gujarat is particularly well known for its embroidery techniques, with specific tribes and communities having their own particular style. Shisha, which is the Indian word for little glass or mirror, is the most distinctive technique in which small mirrors decorate the textile, being held in place by a framework of overlaid embroidery stitches.  No glue is used and the mirror is not threaded through or attached in any other way. It was believed that the mirrors had the power to ward off evil spirits by trapping or confusing the evil eye. While many of the other decorative stitches, such as the chain stitch, are universal, shisha work is unique to the Indian subcontinent. It comes as no surprise to me that women are solely responsible for these creations and that motif and patterns are not copied or written down, but instead passed along orally.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGE | Antique Kutch Embroidery Toran from NovaHaat.com

Base fabrics and threadwork include cotton and silk and pieces over 50 years old may also have beadwork in addition to shisha work. Motifs are varied, from very naturalistic animals to very stylized patterns and geometrics. Mismatched patchwork is also part of their charm. Museum collections have toran from the late 19th century, but most of the older pieces available on today's market are mid-20th century. Invariably, the vintage pieces have some damage - in my mind, patina - and there are also many newly made toran available as well, although the details and quality of the silks doesn't match that of the older pieces. The decorative possibilities, in particular for children's rooms, are obvious. They make charming valances or would be perfect fronting a bed canopy.  Some toran are as long as 30 feet and I have seen them draping the edges of party tents as festive adornment.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGE | Antique Kutch Rabari Banjara Toran via EthnicIndianArt

In modern-day interior decor, toran can be used in a quite literal context to embellish the threshold, as in this rituously joyful, over the top Indian themed space that was featured in Marie Claire Maison.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGES | Bollywood Boudoir via Marie Claire Maison & Vintage Toran via IndianBeautifulArt.com

But they are also incredibly sweet when taken completely out of context and used in ways you might not expect like here, hanging over a kitchen nook in floral designer Nicolette Camille's Brooklyn apartment. This toran also defines and elevates what would normally be a rather simple kitchen.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGE | Nicolette Camille's Brooklyn, NY home via Design*Sponge

Perhaps best of all is when toran are part of a truly global design aesthetic. In Maryam Montague's Marrakech master bedroom, featured in Elle Decor, this toran-like textile used as a window valence mixes happily with decorative items from many nations, including France, Mali, and Morocco.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGE | Maryam Montague's Marrakech master bedroom via Elle Decor

Have you used a festive toran as decoration in your home, or do you have something else to share with us on this topic? If so, we'd love to hear all about it. Please leave a comment below or email us at info(at)clothandkind(dot)com.

ABOUT PROVENANCE | Provenance offers a scholarly nod to the history of iconic styles in textile & design and is guest edited by Jacqueline Wein of the blog Tokyo Jinja. Previous Provenance topics include: Kasuri & Kuba Cloth.