How Indian Handloom Saree Is Made?
Handloom is an Indian way of life and has been a pride of traditional and cultural brilliance since ages. Draped by the most influential figures, this handloom six-yards wonder has become a ubiquitous attire, but her modern counterpart has lapped it up to reinforce her personal style statement and work persona like never before.Today, very few countries still use the handloom weaving process. According to Elle India, India is responsible for producing 95% of the world’s handwoven fabrics.
If you have ever visited a village of weavers, you would get to know the dextrous Indian Textile weaving wonders. If you haven’t, let’s get into the fabulous ride of the preparatory phases of a handloom saree. The field trip into making the most affluent handloom saree will definitely leave you mesmerised. Let’s take a look at the steps involved in this ancient art.
A handloom saree is often woven on a shuttle-pit loom made from ropes, wooden beams and poles. The preparatory process of handloom saree involves process of winding, warping, dyeing, sizing, piecing, dressing and weaving. Before any of the process comes into place raw material is selected for the process. Cotton, silk, wool, and linen are the most popular raw materials for handloom weaving. Each region of India uses a different raw material for its distinctive handloom products.
Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibers. Staple length of cotton determines the thickness of yarn spun and this is referred to as “yarn count”. Standard measure for a length of cotton yarn is termed “hank”. A hank measures 840 yards. Hank yarn is used typically in handloom production as opposed to cone yarn which is used in mill production.
The process of converting cotton fiber to yarn is complex and the strength and fineness of yarn is dependent on the staple length of the fiber and the skill of the spinner. Yarn can be hand spun in two ways – cotton fiber to yarn by hand, cotton to sliver by mechanical process which is then spun by hand in various thicknesses. Srikakulam in north coastal Andhra remains the only hand spinning belt in the country, where fine yarn up to 100s counts is spun.
The dyeing process involves “scouring” to remove natural oils and dirt present in cotton after which natural or chemical dyes are used for coloring. Dyeing for handloom is done in and around weaving villages by local experts. Dyes extracted from natural materials such as the bark of trees, flowers, leaves and minerals are known as natural dyes. Vegetable dyes are a sub-category of natural dyes, referring to colours that come from plant matter only. Mordants, which are usually minerals, are used to fix dyes on cotton. All natural dyes generally yield lasting colour though some colours are sensitive to sunlight Chemical dyes – direct dyes, sulphur dyes, napthol dyes, vat dyes and reactive dyes – that are used today were developed during the period 1878 – 1956.
Yarn in the hank form is wound on to bobbins in this process. This is the first step in transforming the yarn from the hank form to a linear form. Dyed hank yarn is wound on to bobbins with the help of charkhas. This process enables the laying out of yarn lengths for weaving. Bobbin winding is done by women in the weaver households.
The warp is a set of threads attached to the loom lengthwise before weaving begins. Warping is the process of creating the base yarn that runs along the length of fabric through which the “weft” yarns are filled in to make the fabric. For a 46-inch-wide fabric, over 3,200 individual yarns run along the warp of the fabric. Typically, 1,96,550 yards of yarn are aligned by wrapping them around the circular warping drum.
The warps are stretched out onto two beams and natural adhesives are applied to add strength to the yarn and lubricate it to withstand the rigors of weaving. In most handloom centers, rice starch / gruel is mixed with coconut / groundnut oil and applied as “size” material. Sizing is carried out by weavers or specialists in the village. Since this activity is done on the street, it is called “street sizing”.
Hank yarn for weft is wound onto a pirn. The weft yarn is then inserted into a shuttle. Weft preparation is done on the charka, using the finger tips to give the correct tension to the yarn. This operation is normally done by women.
Pirn is a small bobbin.
Shuttle is a device used in weaving to carry the weft thread back and forth between the warp threads.
The process of weaving is the interlacing of two sets of yarn – the warp and the weft. The equipment that facilitates this interlacement is the loom. A “handloom” is a loom that is used to weave fabrics without the use of electricity. The manipulation of the foot pedals to lift the warp has to be in sync with the throwing of the shuttle which carries the weft yarn. A perfect weave demands coordination between mind and body. The weaver achieves a harmony of motion and rhythm to create a unique product.
“The khadi spirit means fellow feeling with every human being on earth,” said Mahatma Gandhi talking about the true meaning of khadi.
At APCO, we pride ourselves on our traditionally crafted, handwoven clothes. By shopping with us, you can help keep ancient hand-weaving traditions alive.