At some point in her life, every Indian woman has to contend with the sari – even the unwilling ones have to wear it for their wedding or some other important social occasion. And even these unwilling wearers will attest to the unmatched beauty and elegance of the sari. Draped right, the sari can transform its wearer, irrespective of their height, shape or size into the very paragon of elegance. The sari is a part of Indian culture; every woman’s garment in myriad forms that continues to be a common denominator for women across the country. The sari is elegant and simple yet sensuous; complicated to tie yet practical to wear. A poet might say that it mirrors the paradoxes of its enthusiastic wearer – the Indian woman!
Folding and Storing Saris
The weaver of the sari folds it in a certain fashion after taking it off the loom, and it reaches you in the same way with all folds intact. And what a variety of folds there are! Some of the folds defy logic and it could take someone quite a while to figure out all these variations. Each of the regional styles come with their own special kind of folds. The ‘accordion’ fold from Madurai, the ‘taco’ from Mangalagiri are some of the more complex techniques for folding a sari. And then there is the Orissan ‘double gate’ – that could have you in a bend for a while!
After washing and cleaning your saris, you will want to fold them in the right way before storage. Usually, saris are folded to half their length first. The top side of the sari usually faces outside when folding. The sari is folded repeatedly in the same pattern until one has a 13” – 15” wide piece of folded cloth. This is further folded to get the final folds in place. Here’s a neat step-by-step explanation on how to fold your sari.
- Find the top edge of the sari. This is the edge which also has the pallu. Hold it in your left hand.
- Trace lengthwise along the border to find the other end.
- Bring the edge held in one hand over to the other. Ensure that the pallu is facing outside at this stage.
- While the two edges are held together in one hand now, trace back to the central fold of the sari with your other hand.
- Bring the central fold over to the edges and fold again.
- Fold repeatedly in the same fashion.
- Stop folding when you have folded up the sari to a width of 13” – 15” with the borders at the top and the bottom.
- Now, fold this in half such that the borders at the top and the bottom are now on top of each other. You can slightly offset the borders to avoid bulk.
- Fold the sari again in half – and lo and behold, you have a sari folded and ready to be stored!
- If you are sitting on the floor while folding the sari, let the floor support the weight of the sari while you fold it.
- Never fold the sari across its length – you may end up with a crease running all around the sari’s length creating an ‘equator’ effect!
Many children in India learn how to fold saris early in their life – watching and then helping their mothers fold their saris!The salespeople in your local sari shop will display immense skills in this area. They unfurl dozens of saris, tossing them open with an artistic swish, all to dazzle the prospective buyer. And once the customer has made their pick, many skilled helpers materialize and fold these saris at a shocking pace. What would have started off as a mountain of saris is quickly transformed into orderly stacks of saris ready to be unfurled for the next customer.
Saris folded in this manner need to be stored away from light and dust – just like all other textiles. You can stack them up one over the other on a shelf in your cupboard, or put them in a storage box under your bed. Cloth needs to breathe, so we do not recommend putting saris inside plastic covers.
An old-fashioned and effective way to store your saris in to make a bundle out of an old bed sheet or any large piece of cloth. Ensure that the cloth is washed and cleaned before storing saris in them. You can place a stack of saris diagonally in the center of the cloth and then tie the opposite ends together to form a loose bundle. This is the way merchants in India carry their saris – this way there are no big boxes to carry, nor is it costly and the knot at the top serves as a handle to carry the bundle.
You can convert your old pillow cases into storage bags for your saris. Take two or three saris folded neatly and place them carefully into the pillow cases. Close the flap of the pillow case and you have the perfect recycled sari bags.
Another common practice is to store wedding saris and fancy silks in a chest or trunk. A cedar chest is perfect for storing your saris. Many women also choose to secure their saris in a galvanized steel trunk with a lock.
In India, you also need to ensure that your sari is protected from bugs. Every big occasion has the faint smell of mothballs hanging in the air, since most women choose to throw a few mothballs into their cupboards to protect their precious silk saris.
It is important to air your saris once in a while for a dose of fresh air. You can increase the life of silk saris through the occasional airing of the sari. In very humid climates, airing the sari is a necessity. This is required to chase away stale odours and dampness. Just leave the saris out for a few minutes once a month; however do not expose them to direct sunlight for too long. The best thing to do, however is to air them for a couple of hours in the shade.