Women in the Indus Region of the subcontinent [
] have traditionally been the harbingers of the historical tradition of producing beautiful textiles as the “Ralli” quilts. Adorned with bright colors and bold patterns, the quilts are also called rilli, rallee or rehli derived from the local word ralanna meaning to “mix or connect”. Pakistan
Quilt making is an old tradition in the region perhaps dating back to the fourth millennium BC judging by similar patterns found on ancient pottery. Muslim and Hindu women from a variety of tribes and castes in towns, villages and nomadic settings make the rallis in the southern provinces of Pakistan - including Sindh, Baluchistan and the Cholistan desert - as well as the provinces of Gujarat and Rajasthan in India.
Rallis are made from scraps of cotton fabric dyed to the desired color. The most common colors are white, black, red and yellow or orange with green, dark blue or purple. For the bottoms of the rallis, the women use old pieces of tie-dye, ajrak or other shawl fabric. Ralli quilts have a few layers of worn fabric or cotton fibers between the top and bottom layers. The layers are held together by thick colored thread stitched in straight lines. The women sit on the ground and do not use a quilting frame.
The number of patterns used on ralli quilts seems to be almost endless, as there is much individual expression and spontaneity in color within the traditional patterns.
The three basic styles of rallis are: 1) patchwork made from pieces of cloth torn into squares and triangles and then stitched together, 2) applique made from intricate cut out patterns in a variety of shapes and 3) embroidered quilts where the embroidery stitches form patterns on solid colored fabric. A distinguishing feature of ralli patterning in patchwork and applique quilts is the diagonal placement of similar blocks as well as a variety of embellishments including mirrors, tassels, shells and embroidery.