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Expert: Karin Hellaby Karin Hellaby

Tamilnadu and Kerala Textile Trail

Indian textile crafts are some of the oldest and most diverse in the world. Indian textiles are a riot of colour, textures, motifs, materials and mediums, with each region, village and community having its own distinct style. The history, climate, geography and wealth of a region are just some of the things that can impact the types of textile art that can be found in any given location. Techniques and skills are passed down through families, or within communities or schools. In the past, a person’s caste dictated which crafts and arts they could practice.    On this tour we’ll be exploring the textiles of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In Tamil Nadu we’ll explore the ornate Kanjivaram saris that were originally manufactured as gifts to goddesses and therefore smaller in width and made of pure gold. The sari is sold depending on its weight, which is directly related to the amount of silk and gold used. Kerala’s textile industry is mainly focused on their handloom fabrics, which are well known for their quality and variety. Products are made of cotton, coir (coconut fibre), jute, sisal and palm fibres. The textiles and handlooms of Kerala are renowned for their craftsmanship, design and colours. Tour expert, Karin Hellaby, said: "I am delighted to be leading a textile tour to Southern India next January. The itinerary takes us to visit exciting places such as the French influenced city of Pondicherry and the sleepy backwaters of Kerala. I am looking forward to the Stitchtopia mix of culture, temples, palaces, history, landscapes, spices and of course a wide range of crafts, some of which will be hands on. I will be showing you how to make Siddi Kawandi quilts, incorporating Ikat and sari fabrics some of which can be purchased and stitched whilst we are travelling. January is a pleasant time to visit this mesmerising country, I hope you will join me for a fun, action packed and informative textile tour."

Your Tour Includes

  • Flights London to Chennai and Cochin to London
  • 14 nights’ accommodation on a half board basis in 4 and 5-star hotels
  • 1 night's accommodation on a full board basis on a deluxe houseboat
  • Tour accompanied by Karin Hellaby, who will provide a project for you to work on, kit included
  • Lunch each day in hotel, local restaurants or during visits
  • Services of an experienced Tour manager and English-speaking local guide
Experts
Karin Hellaby

Karin Hellaby

Karin Hellaby is an internationally known quilt teacher and author of 11 quilting books and numerous patterns. She is a regular teacher at the Houston International Quilt Show and has also been invited to teach at quilting symposiums in New Zealand, Dubai, Paducah and the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Oregon.

Her teaching travels have taken her all over North America, the Middle East and several European countries. Her style is very much multi technique always finding ways to make patchwork simple, quick and fun to learn. Karin started Quilters Haven in 1993. It became one of the largest quilt shops in the UK and she sold it in 2016. This has given her more time to teach and travel, especially in SE Asia where two of her sons are based.


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Itinerary

Overview

Meet Karin Hellaby and your Arena tour manager at London Heathrow airport for your overnight flight to Chennai.

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Our flight arrives in the early hours of the morning. Upon arrival we’ll transfer to our hotel where early check-in has been arranged. You’ll have plenty of time to unpack, rest and freshen up before our first hand-sewing workshop with Karin at the hotel this afternoon.

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Overview

A full day to enjoy this exclusive private event curated and hosted by Tina Katwal, one of the founders of the India International Quilt Festival. During the day we will try our hand at Kowdhi, a hand-quilting technique originating from the Karnataka region of India; enjoy an exhibition of work by an international award-winning quilt artist; share tea and cake with local quilters during a show and tell session and visit a one-stop shop for all the best quilting supplies and fabrics. For those that would like to participate, there is also the opportunity to exchange a 12" quilt block with an Indian counterpart.

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Private textile event

Overview

On this morning’s specially crafted textile tour we’ll learn about Chennai’s amazing heritage as a textile hub from ancient days including weaving, hand block printing and hand painting with vegetable dyes. In the afternoon we visit the Kalakshetra Weaving Foundation, which is an arts and cultural academy dedicated to the preservation of traditional values in Indian arts and crafts.

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Kalakshetra weaving foundation

Overview

Today we leave Chennai and drive to the ancient town of Kanchipuram. En-route we stop at Mahabalipuram, known in Marco Polo’s Day as the “Seven Pagodas”. The port is famous for its stone carvings, which have World Heritage Site status. We’ll visit the Shore Temple, the lone survivor of the Seven Pagodas, before seeing the 17th-century Arjuna’s Penance – a magnificent monument to Mahabalipuram.

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Mahabalipuram

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Kanchipuram is known as ‘The Silk City of India’. This morning we visit the Kanjivaram Weavers Service Centre and the Weaver’s Society. We’ll see weaving in process and learn about the distinct markers of the Kanchipuram saree and how to identify it. Our day in Kanchipuram concludes with a visit to the Varadharaja Perumal Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

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Kanchipuram

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Today we drive to Puducherry. Dubbed the ‘French Riviera of the East’ and formerly known as Pondicherry, Puducherry is made up of four entirely separate enclaves along the Indian coast that were colonised by the French in the 18th century. We’ll stop at Auroville, a unique community born in 1968 as a place where people of all races and creeds could live together in harmony. Here we’ll visit Upasana Design Studio, an ethical fashion brand, before taking part in a dye making activity. We’ll eat a vegetarian lunch at a community kitchen, where residents of the town eat every day, before continuing to Puducherry. After checking in to our hotel, we enjoy a workshop with Karin.

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Puducherry

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From Puducherry, our tour takes us to Thanjavur (Tanjore) – an important centre for South Indian religion, art and architecture. After checking in to our hotel we’ll have a chance to see the Veena bronze making. From the initial wax process, master sculptors will demonstrate how a bronze sculpture is made, including the casting involved in making a bell. We also see master craftsmen making handmade jewellery and the unique style of Thanjavur painting.

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Thanjavur

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Today we drive to Madurai where we visit Thirumalai’s Nayaka Palace, which was built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak with the help of an Italian architect. Enjoy a rickshaw ride to admire the exterior of the Meenakshi Temple. A major religious centre that attracts pilgrims year-round, it is a riotously baroque example of Dravidian architecture with gopurams (towers) covered from top to bottom with a breathless profusion of multi-coloured images of gods, goddesses, animals, and mythical figures.

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Thirumalai Nayak Palace

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Our exploration of the area continues as we visit Kaithari Nagar in Thirupparamkundram where we see spinning and weaving of Madurai cotton and silk sarees. We’ll learn about the history of Madurai pottery making and have a chance to try the art of using a potter’s wheel. Later, outside the famous Sri Meenakshi Temple, watch the evening Aarti ceremony in which Lord Shiva is carried in a palanquin accompanied by musicians, temple singers and priests to the temple of his consort Parvati to spend the night.

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Sri Meenakshi temple

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Today’s drive takes us into the rolling foothills of the Western Ghats Mountain range to the town of Munnar, a hill station and former resort for the British Raj elite. After checking in to our hotel we visit one of the tea plantations, which, established in the 19th century, are an integral part of the history of Munnar.

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Munnar

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The Srishti welfare society is dedicated to the rehabilitation and generation of sustainable livelihoods for differently abled children and young adults of Munnar’s rural plantation community. During our visit, we’ll see them creating handmade products through sustainable techniques, methods of upcycling, recycling, and using natural products. Huge containers filled with dyes prepared by mixing various coloured natural ingredients are used for tie and dye, and block printing.

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Munnar’s rural plantation community

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From Munnar, our tour continues to Alleppey. En-route, we stop at a Rubber Plantation. Introduced to India by Dutch colonists, rubber is now one of the most important industrial cash crops. We’ll see how the sticky, white latex is extracted and collected before being processed to produce natural rubber. On arrival in Alleppey, we embark a houseboat for an overnight stay and leisurely cruise on the peaceful and picturesque, palm-lined network of rivers, lakes and lagoons known as the Kerala Backwaters.

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Alleppey

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After disembarking our houseboat, we join a member of the Preserve Alleppey Society for a walking tour of the town that served as the main port for the backwater region under British rule. We’ll see the Gujarati quarter, canal banks and the old wholesale market from where spices, tea, coffee, cashews, and coir were shipped out via the fan of canals. We then drive to Kochi and check in to our hotel before enjoying a Kathakali dance performance. Performed by men, the pantomimic dance-drama is a combination of facial expressions and body movements, which brings out the thoughts and emotions of the character.

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Alleppey

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Today we discover the Chendamangalam story including the context from which Chendamangalam handloom weaving emerged. We visit the Palace of the local chieftains under whose patronage the local handlooms flourished and a local workshop where weavers will show us how the textile is still handwoven. After visiting the historic Jewish synagogue, we learn about local bell-metal craft and pottery. This evening we enjoy a cooking demonstration followed by dinner with an Anglo-Indian family.

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Handloom weaving

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After checking out of our hotel we transfer to Kochi Airport for our return flight to London.

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Perfect for Textile Lovers

Perfect for Textile Lovers

Uniquely created for textile lovers, this Stitchtopia textile holiday is the perfect way to discover fascinating fabrics and cultures, whilst travelling to some of the world’s most inspiring places. Our talented stitching expert will be on hand throughout the holiday and host creative workshops with beautifully designed projects inspired by your travels.

Accommodation

You will be staying in Chennai at the 4-star GRT Grand Hotel for 3 nights, and then Kanchipuram GRT Regency Hotel 4-star for 1 night, Pudocherry Accord Hotel 4.5 stars for 1 night, Thanjavur Great Trails River view 4 star for 1 night, Madurai the Gateway Taj Pasumalai 2 nights, Munnar Amber Dale 5-star 2 nights, Alleppey Lakes & Lagoons Houseboat 2 nights, and then Kochi Trident hotel 5-star 1 night.