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SARONGS AT A PICNIC

Garden Party Batik Sarong
Garden Party Batik Sarong
The Milando family awaited the beginning of the school year with mixed feelings. Arturo couldn’t wait for school to begin. He had made the varsity soccer team and was eager to get out on the field. Schoolwork came easy to him, and he never dreaded the start of a new year. Cesar was just as bright but less focused. He wished the summer would go on forever.Celia, their mom, knew she’d miss the unpressured family time they had during the summer. She wasn’t looking forward to another over-scheduled school year, but she was looking forward to more time to devote to her fledgling art gallery. So when her effervescent friend, Margit, called with one of her characteristic great ideas, Celia was ready to jump on board.

“Let’s have one last, terrific, blow-out, end-of-summer picnic. We’ll invite all the kids’ friends, all our friends, our book group, everyone. We’ll give the summer one big good-bye party,” said Margit, in what seemed like one breath.

“Count me in,” said Celia. “It’s got to be beautiful. Casual but beautiful. I’ll be the artistic director.”

While Margit was lining up great food, Celia was planning the decorations. Borrowing an idea she had seen at a recent wedding, she got gorgeous imported sarongs as tablecloths for all the picnic tables. She splurged for some extras and hung them along the fence to provide both privacy and beauty. Still other sarongs served as picnic blankets.

When the day of the picnic arrived, Celia was up at the crack of dawn decorating the picnic area. It was a riot of color. All the guests ooh’d and aah’d as they arrived with gourmet food and drinks. Two guests were in a band together, and live music rounded out the afternoon. People grabbed sarongs as impromptu costumes and danced to the music.

“Isn’t this the best picnic ever?” Celia and Margit kept saying to each other. The departing guests all said, “Let’s do it again next year!”

Taking down the sarongs, it dawned on Celia that she could use them to decorate her art gallery. “They really are works of art,” she said to Margit as she folded the last one.

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Sarongs at a Wedding

Tropical Foliage Sarong with Red Background
Want a great idea for an unusual wedding favor? How about a sarong?

A Most Unusual Wedding Favor

 

When a customer called wanting a dozen brightly colored sarongs, it didn’t seem that out of the ordinary. She said she was going to use them as table coverings at her outdoor wedding. That’s a terrific idea, one that other customers have come up with, too.

 

When the same customer, Lisa, called back the next day wanting 50 sarongs, I couldn’t help asking what she planned to do with them. Turns out her original plan were this: at the end of the wedding meal, when all the dishes were cleared, she’d have a drawing.  The winner at each table would take home the colorful sarong covering that table.

 

As soon as Lisa ran this idea by her friends, she ran into a mutiny. “You can’t have just one person per table take home the sarong,” they told her adamantly. “This is not a vase of flowers or even a personalized glass. This is so unusual that everyone will want one. Never mind want. Everyone will demand one. They’ll never forgive you.”

 

It’s possible that this lovely young bride has a group of very pushy friends, or it’s possible that sarongs are just so irresistible and enchanting that the lucky winners would be mobbed by their fellow guests. In any case, Lisa didn’t want her wedding to descend into chaos. She decided to let her friends guide her, and came back to buy enough sarongs so that each guest could take one home.

 

“Lucky thing I’m having a small wedding,” she told me. “Imagine if I had to buy sarongs for 200 guests!”

 

Sounds pretty good to me.

 

PS. Lisa emailed me when she got back from her honeymoon. The sarongs were a huge hit. All the women and most of the men immediately draped the sarongs around themselves and started dancing. The band, a group of good sports, shifted into Polynesian music, and the guests danced in their sarongs for the next two hours.

 

Lisa also told me to expect a call from one of her bridesmaids, Allana, who had another unusual idea for her own upcoming wedding in the fall. Stay tuned.

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Sarongs and the Art of Batik

Blades of Grass Batik Sarong
Blades of Grass Batik Sarong
We like to focus on the amazing versatility of the sarong, but did you ever wonder what gives sarongs their stunning and original designs and those vibrant colors? It’s the batik process that’s used. Batik is an ancient art that has been practiced over the centuries in different parts of Asia, Africa, and India. Indonesia and Java are noted for their long history of making fine batik clothing and decorative items.

Tahitians brought their art to the island of Hawaii long before it was part of the United States, and Hawaii has developed its own tradition of batik.

The ancient tradition of using wax and dye is still practiced in many of these countries. Areas of the cloth are brushed with wax, and the cloth is then dyed. The areas covered with wax resist the dye and retain their original color. Highly skilled craftspeople repeat the process for more elaborate designs. After the process is complete, the wax is removed and the piece is ready.

The word “batik” is thought by some to be derived from a Malay word meaning “to write.” Others say it’s from a Javanese word, “tik,” meaning “to dot.” The art is, in fact, very common on the island of Java. When batik was first developed in Java, it was for the exclusive benefit of royalty and nobility. Royal women practiced batik as a hobby. Particular designs were the property of aristocratic families. The family’s status could be ascertained through these proprietary designs.

Today, tradition holds that certain designs have their own meanings and that they confer good luck and prosperity to those who wear them.

Batik artists today work with various fabrics such as silk, cotton, wool, and leather. Batik is also done on paper. The ancient craft is practiced in China and Europe as well as in the traditional strongholds of Malaysia, Java, and India.  Here at Turtle Island Imports, we are proud to carry stunning sarongs and other items of beauty and originality from the Indonesian island of Bali.

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KIDS HAVE FUN… WITH SARONGS

Colorful Animal Print Sarong
Colorful Animal Print Sarong
Do you think kids can only have fun when there are dozens of toys available? Or when they have access to video games? Actually, kids have a grand time when they can let their imagination have free reign. Sometimes the fewer the toys, the better the game.

Marci found this out by accident when she got stranded with three kids at a riverside campsite. Not one of the kids was Marci’s. In fact, Marci didn’t have kids. Truth be told, kids made Marci nervous. What was worse, she barely knew these three kids. As she tells it, she did not volunteer to watch the kids.

It all started when she and the other campers were packing up to leave. Her friends and fellow campers, Mark and Leslee, parents of said kids, began to haul the kayaks to the trailer, a distance away. They called over their shoulders as they staggered along with the kayaks, “Marci, would you keep an eye on the kids for a minute?” Then they disappeared from sight. And didn’t come back.

As one minute turned into five and then ten, it became increasingly difficult to keep the kids close by. Thinking fast, Marci rummaged through her bag and found her sarong. She had brought it along as a cover-up and had only worn it once. “Hey kids, look at this!” she called out. The trio trooped over to where she was securing one end of the sarong to the picnic table with a few heavy rocks.

“What are you making?” asked the oldest. “Where’s Mommy?” asked the youngest. Marci kept working. She, too, wondered where Leslee was, but she wasn’t about to let the kids see her nervousness. She continued with her project, securing the other end of the sarong to the ground with more rocks. Voila! A play tent.

The kids caught on immediately, diving into the tent and beginning a game that took their minds off their missing parents. The makeshift tent was a fort, then a pirate hideout, and finally a secret clubhouse. They played and played, much to Marci’s relief, until Mark and Leslee reappeared, full of apologies.  On their way to the car, they happened to discover a campers who had slipped down a bank and sprained his ankle badly. Mark had gone looking for a ranger and Leslee had stayed with the injured camper until help came. They both admired Marci’s ingenuity and vowed to try it themselves in their backyard.

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A Sarong by Any Other Name

Moon & Stars Sarong
Would a sarong by any other name be as beautiful and useful?

We know that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Would a sarong by any other name be as beautiful and useful?

 

We’ve talked about some of the many uses for a sarong or pareo. Perhaps you’re wondering about the countries where these versatile garments are used, and the different names they are known by.

 

When you hear the word “sarong,” you may picture a beautiful Balinese woman wearing one. Sarongs are worn in many countries, from Malaysia, Indonesia, and other parts of Southeast Asia, to parts of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In some places the rectangular lengths of fabric are worn by both men and women. Malaysian men wear their checked-pattern sarongs only when attending Friday prayers at the mosque. Women in Malaysia wear theirs every day. Arab fishermen in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean also wear sarongs. In Sri Lanka, sarongs are traditionally worn only by men and mostly as casual dress at home, since the culture views them as a sign of the lower classes.

 

The word sarong derives from a Malay word meaning “sheath.” The sarong is the traditional clothing of Java and the Malaysian archipelago, where it is wrapped around the body and tied, usually at the waist.

 

In different cultures, sarongs are called by different names.  In certain parts of Africa, sarongs worn by men are termed “kangas;” those worn by women are known as “kikois.” In Saudi Arabia, one hears the name “izaar;” in Oman, they’re known as “wizaars.” In the south of India you might hear the term “mundu,” referring to sarongs worn at religious ceremonies. The better-known name for a sarong in India is “sari,” which means “strip of cloth” in Sanskrit. Saris tend to contain more fabric and be tied differently than the Southeast Asian sarong.

 

In Jhumpa Lahiri’s bestselling novel, Unaccustomed Earth, the title story’s protagonist speaks of her Indian mother owning 218 saris. That does seem like a lot. But when you consider the many different colors, designs, fabrics, and patterns, well, it still seems like a lot. Then compare it to the number of shoes some women own. Okay, we admit it. 218 is a staggering number of sarongs/saris. We’d love to hear from readers about the number of sarongs you or your friends own and the different ways you use them.

 

A sarong by any other name is still a comfortable, convenient, beautiful, and versatile cover-up. The possibilities are numerous, and we’ll explore more of them in future blog articles. Watch this space for more great ideas for using your sarongs this summer.

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Going Camping? Pack a Sarong or Two

Bright Red, Purple & Orange Artisan Batik Sarong in Premium Quality Rayon
Use your sarong as a clothesline

Sun protection

After you’ve successfully filtered and enjoyed your morning coffee you pack up and hit the trail. The sun gets hotter and hotter, and you start to wilt. A flash of inspiration: you reach into your backpack, take out your sarong and drape it over your head and shoulders. You suddenly have cool, lightweight protection from the sun.

Baby Cover-up

At noon, you meet up with your friends, bravely hiking with their two-month-old baby and their lively five-year-old. You all settle in for lunch, grateful for the break. Baby wants lunch, too—right now—but your friend is shy to nurse her in public. Another fishing expedition into the backpack. Another brilliant use for the sarong:  a lightweight, effective breastfeeding cover-up. Baby is fed, and peace descends over the picnic lunch.

Clothesline

After lunch, everyone except the baby takes a quick dip in the lake to cool off. This delightful dip generates wet clothing and towels that you don’t want to stuff back into your packs. The five-year-old alone seems to have gotten several towels wet. You again reach for the sarong, spread it diagonally, and twist it into a rope. Securing each end with a twist-tie from the lunch food, you hang it between two trees and drape the wet laundry over it.

Everyone takes a little siesta, and when you’re ready to hit the trail again, you find that the wet things have dried and you’re ready to be on your way.

Happy camping with your sarongs!

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Sun Protection with a Sarong

Multicolor Web Artisan Batik Sarong
Use your sarong at the beach

Heading for the beach this summer? Trying to travel light? Remember how, last summer, you lugged all manner of paraphernalia on the long path from the parking lot to the beach, picking your way carefully among the loose rocks and slippery dry dirt, and arrived at the beach tired, achy, and grumpy? You resolved not to make the same mistake this year, but as school ends and beach weather begins, you may be wondering how you’re going to keep that noble resolve.

Lose the Umbrella

One awkward, unwieldy item in last year’s burden was your beach umbrella, right? The one that kept getting blown over by the wind once you finally made it to the beach. Tip for this year’s excursion: Lose the umbrella.

Sarong to the Rescue

Of course, you still need sun protection. Even with the new 70, 80, and 110 SPF sunscreens, you can’t sit in the sun all day. It’s intense. Warming, life-giving—yes;  and still, intense. So you get down to the beach and you find that there’s not a bit of shade to be had. Here’s what you do: Look around till you find two sticks. Surely there are some twigs, branches, or stick-like materials of some sort around. Plant them in the sand and secure them with stones around the base. Then—ta da ta da ta da—unfurl your sarong.

Very Clever

Dig around in your beach bag for the two rubber bands you always keep there. You do always keep two rubber bands in your bag, don’t you? Attach two corners of the sarong to the sticks. Bring the rest of the sarong out as far as it will go, and place some rocks, shoes, or such along its edge. Can you see it? You’ve just created a little tent to shelter you from the sun. You still have a view out the sides, diffused light coming in, and a pleasant breeze wafting through. The only thing you don’t have is the hot sun beating down on you mercilessly.

When you get back from the water and remember that you ditched your towel, too, the sarong can always double as a quick-drying beach towel. Pretty clever, wouldn’t you say?

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SARONG SAVES THE DAY

Short Sarong - Purple Sarong with White Dolphins
Short Sarong – Purple Sarong with White Dolphins
If you’re planning a trip this summer, consider the sarong as a faithful travel companion. You may be wondering how you’ll fit everything into one suitcase. With airlines charging for bags these days, we’re all trying to pack lighter. Tucked into otherwise wasted spots in your bag (yes, that’s singular) this summer could be at least two sarongs. And you may not wear either one in the usual fashion.

A Sarong’s Not For You?

You may feel that wearing a sarong, or pareo, is not for you. It simply doesn’t fit  your own image of yourself, and previous urging have not swayed you in the slightest. I understand. Don’t wear it. Pack one or two anyway. They have myriad uses, some of which may not have occurred to you. Modesty, for example.

Modesty? Really?

Possibly modesty isn’t the first thought that enters your mind when you hear the word sarong. You may picture a lovely Balinese woman in an exceptionally becoming, tightly wrapped sarong. But imagine this: you’re in a foreign country,  dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, standard apparel for summer travel. In your wanderings, you come upon a hauntingly beautiful house of worship. It somehow captures your heart. You’d dearly love to go in and experience this piece of local culture. But the sign clearly indicates that visitors must be covered up. It says so in three languages, and in case any doubt remains, there are sketches that make it perfectly clear that shoulders, upper arms, and legs have to be hidden. You don’t even come close to meeting these requirements, and there’s no time to dash back to your hotel to retrieve more appropriate clothing. And today’s your last day here.

Made It!

If you have a sarong tucked into your tote—they’re so lightweight you may have forgotten it’s there—you’re in luck. With a little practice, over there under the tree, you can drape it over yourself in such a way that all “objectionable” areas are covered. Whew! You made it! You step into the cool, peaceful interior in time to hear the beautiful melodies of this culture’s worship. For years afterward, you’ll think of this visit as the highlight of your trip.

That’s how a sarong has saved many a day for travelers, and that’s one reason to pack a couple of sarongs this summer.

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Thanksgiving Sarong Use #2 – Save Your Table from the Turkey!

Turkey on Sarong
Turkey on Sarong
n Autumn colors, perfect for Thanksgiving decorations, that looks pretty on your table. Fold it around an old, clean bath towel and place at the head of the table where the turkey will be carved. Place the platter on the table, on top of your sarong mat, folded so it leaves a few inches around the platter to catch any spills.

The juice from that gorgeous, juicy bird on Thanksgiving day will be absorbed by the sarong mat and save your fine table linen from irreparable damage. The best part is, the sarong is easy to launder and will likely look great after a wash, ready to be reused again and again, for other purposes in your home and then on the beach!

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Bring Autumn Colors into Your Home

I love this time of year. The first rains bring that wonderful smell and the leaves are gold and brown, the gardens are still full of veggies to harvest. I even love when the rain makes the leaves all soggy like raisin bran left too long in the milk. What can I say, I’m an Autumn girl.

I am plotting to bring some autumn colors into my house without blowing my holiday budget before November even starts.

My goal is to find some sarongs to cover my tables and to make some good winter curtains because I can’t afford to replace our old windows with double paned units.

The table covers are easy – I’ve narrowed it down to these two sarongs.

Purple & Brown Artisan Batik Sarong in Premium Quality Rayon
Purple & Brown Artisan Batik Sarong in Premium Quality Rayon

Gold & Brown Floral Artisan Batik Sarong in Premium Quality Rayon
Gold & Brown Floral Artisan Batik Sarong in Premium Quality Rayon

The winter curtains are harder. I always like to reuse materials – saving money and loving the earth. I have several yards of lavender flannel that I bought a few years ago. But purple is not exactly an autumn or winter color… So, I will use it as a lining, sandwiched between two sarongs. I will just cut the flannel piece slightly smaller than the sarong and top-stitch it. Then I will fold over and sew one end to slip the curtain rod through. Easy peasy!

Hopefully this will bring autumn colors into my home while keeping out the crisp autumn air!