Feeling Sari for Myself


OK, just to get my complaining out of the way so we can move on…. Delhi Belly has claimed another week of my life, and I’m getting annoyed about it. My lovely doctor was visited today, and after she finished praising the good Dr. Jolly’s choice of medications and bedside manner, she prescribed me yet another course of antibiotics, so we’ll see. And since I’m feeling whiny, can I just say that I now have a head cold to add insult to injury? Waah, waah, waah.

Glad that’s out of the way. Now I can talk about my fabric finds on my trip, which I’ve been meaning to do for days now.

So, there are fabric stores in India, but I ended up going the sari route instead, since it appears to be significantly cheaper (and more interesting) than buying fabric by the yard. Thus, I am now the proud owner of three beautiful Indian saris which may be morphed into other items at some point. Shopping for these saris was at first a really unnerving experience, but once I got used to it, it was really fun.

The routine goes something like this:

You walk into a sari shop, which is usually not huge. In fact, it will be quite small – say, 250 square feet? There are typically about 5 or 6 people working in this store, despite its size (and it will become clear why in a minute). The walls are lined with plastic bags containing fabric (or just the folded fabric itself). Like so:

As you approach the lovely bundles of joy, someone is on the ready to help you navigate them. Like this kind woman who worked in the sari shop in Delhi where two of my three saris came from. She appears to be doing some serious Vanna-White-style demonstration. Don’t think that we can’t see your belly through that sheer sari goodness, Mrs. Sari Lady!

Upon your arrival, she or one of the other 6 employees persistently beckon you to sit down on the seats in front of the big table. You think: What? Sit down? But I’m not sure I want anything yet and am not ready to commit… No thanks… Maybe later. What’s that? I *must* sit down? And you will bring me orange soda? Hmmm…. I’m suspicious, but OK. If I must, I will sit and drink your cool beverage poured and brought to me by a very cute child worker. That is, as long it contains no tap water, raw fruits or vegetables, and I can see the bottle it came from, because if you didn’t notice from my insanely white skin, I am a careful western traveller. Sure thing.

At this point, you’re feeling pretty stuck that you have to buy something. Shoot, people. How did you woo me with your Fanta??

(And WHY isn’t that boy in school? But that’s another blog post for another time.)

Next comes what I call the Sari Explosion. This is when one helpful employee becomes your salesperson, and proceeds, without your encouragement, to pull out saris from the wall that she thinks you may enjoy. Before your very eyes, stacks of neatly folded saris come out of the wall and onto the table. Do you like this one? No? How about this one? Or this one? Until the table looks like this:

Each sari that is discarded as “not your style,” “too ornate,” “not the right color,” or “not in my price range, please show me something cheaper” is put onto the discard pile like a battered playing card. Then, one of the many male employees that is lingering springs into action to fold that sari back to stackable perfection. Before your very eyes, its 6.5 meters is wall-ready and beautiful again. And then the boy comes back with his tray for that Fanta glass you just finished chugging. This is a magical place.

But then at this point, you are feeling terrible, because they’ve gone through all this work, pulled out 40 perfectly good saris, and you still aren’t even sure you want to buy anything at all. You are, of course, more indecisive than ever, and feel like a terrible person. But then! A sari that meets all of your criteria (that you didn’t even know you had, but 40 saris later has become crystal clear) jumps out at you and you nod your head yes before you can do anything about it. The lovely and patient salesperson asks politely: “May I put this aside for you?” This appears to be the lingo for – “You’re finally buying this one, right lady? Because seriously? It’s going to take my 6 other employees all afternoon to put these away…” Or so you think. But this is not America, where salespeople get resentful. This is par for the course. In fact, you might just be an easy shopper, comparatively speaking. At this point you start to realize that there are probably 80-sari shoppers, and maybe even 120-sari shoppers out there somewhere. Just maybe, you hope.

Anyway, my sari shopping led me to a handful of different stores, and the whirlwind that ensued at each store did not always lead to a purchase, but I did land myself 3 saris, and learned some negotiation skills along the way (never actually show interest in your future purchase. You’ll get a much better price).

Behold sari number 1:

A green little silk number with some paisley and a green border. Perfect for a bag lining, or something delicate.

And sari number 2:

A red and gold silk sari. In the second picture, you can see the hand-sewn heavier red fabric that is designed to allow the bottom of the sari to flow properly. Good to have – if I ever try to wear it, I’ll know which end is down.

And my favorite of the bunch, sari number 3, which is more a heavy brocade fabric:

This one is much heavier fabric (perfect for a nice evening handbag!), with a lot of different designs throughout the piece. It’s double sided, so one side is more red, and the other more teal. It has about three distinct sections, each with a different and flowing design and embellished with gold thread. The salesperson of this one told me it was a big deal that it was all woven with the same thread, and not three pieces joined together.

But what do I know. I’m just attracted to shiny things.

Posted by robyn on June 13th, 2008 under crafts

6 Responses to “Feeling Sari for Myself”

  1. Kristine Says:

    These are absolutely gorgeous! I’m surprised you only have 3 so far! 🙂

    Kristines last blog post..Hawaii

  2. Joleo Says:

    Those saris are beautiful – can’t wait to see what you turn them into.
    Hope you feel better soon!

  3. robyn Says:


    Thanks Jo! I have a hunch that I’ll be using a purse pattern from U-Handbag for the third one. Not sure how I’ll use the first two, though!

  4. robyn Says:


    Thanks, Kristine! I am also quite surprised I only came home with three. I felt quite restrained 🙂

  5. Lisa C. Says:

    Ooh, I love the green one! That shopping experience sounds completely out of my comfort zone. I like to at least find something I’m somewhat interested in before having to speak to a sales person at all!

    Lisa C.s last blog post..Saturday sweetness

  6. Dori Says:

    These are so stunning. Can’t wait to see the results, though it must be hard to imagine cutting up such perfection!

    Doris last blog post..1

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I'm Robyn. Thanks for stopping by! This is my craft blog.

Contact me at robyn [at] dognamedbanjo [dot] com.

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