Indian Textiles, Indigenous crafts of India

7th of August – National Hand-loom Day

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A hand weaver on a jacquard loom weaving a Kanchivaram silk sari

I learnt to weave at a young age, assisting my grandmother. She used to spin her own yarn and weave on a back strap loom , once a common feature in most homes in the north east of India. Ever since then I developed a love for crafts, textiles, textures and colour.
After graduating from school in Shillong (1988) I went to Bombay to pursue my higher education and joined Sophia college for women. There I realized that one can study design and make a career of it , those days design especially in the North East was relatively unheard of.
I then, much to my father’s dismay gave up a regular degree course and joined the Sophia Polytechnic to do a three year course in textile design, with a specialization in weaving. I use to spend most of my free time in the library reading about various art,design and craft forms.

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A Naga weaver on a back strap loom, like the one my grandmother used to weave in.

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A basic 2 shaft loom which is used in many places in the subcontinent, here a woman weaving a gamosa, a traditional cloth used in Majuli, Assam

My love for crafts and particularly hand crafted textiles, nurtured into a dream to create contemporary styles and designs using the variety and refinement of traditional Indian textile skills (weaving, dyeing and embellishment) when I started SUTRA, knots on cloth, a textile studio in 2001 at Bangalore, to address the gap that I perceive in the Indian textile market and moved into garments that embody my belief in combining traditions of skill with the 21st century India.
So a few days ago on August 7, 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi said “ innovative design backed by good marketing is essential to promote hand-looms in India and global markets.” while inaugurating the first National Hand loom Day I was quite ecstatic and hope that this will lead to an awareness campaign on the effort of the hand skill and time taken to produce textile where each piece created is different unlike mass machine produced ones where the look is so uniform and lacks individuality.

In this post I have put together a few images of different tools and discipline used in some handloom weaving that create fabrics unique to India.indigobath

workers preparing an indigo bath

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A worker spinning yarn

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a master dyer and his wife setting threads for warping after tie dyeing the yarn for an ikkat pattern in Andhra.

The National Hand loom Day is of historical significance as it marks the launch of the ‘Swadeshi’ Movement on August 7, 1905.
Hand loom weaving is one of the largest economic activities after agriculture, providing direct and indirect employment to over 43 lakh weavers and allied workers. This sector contributes nearly 15 per cent of cloth products. Nearly 95 per cent of the world’s hand-woven fabric comes from India, said an official press release. A spectacular range is created by weavers across the country, from the Madras checks and Kanchipuram weaves of Tamil Nadu to pashmina and shahtoosh of J&K, from the tie-and-dyes of Gujarat and Rajasthan to the eri and muga silks of Assam. Hand loom is also more sustainable as it has a smaller carbon footprint.

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A weaver setting up the punched cards on the loom , that will enable him to form intricate patterns to weave in Varanasi

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Brocade silk weaving , Varnasi

For the prime minister, the revival of hand loom in his constituency Varanasi was a repeated and emotive campaign promise. Last month, a delegation of designers met with Textiles Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar. Among the initiatives proposed at the meeting were setting up dyeing centers, providing subsidized yarn, a campaign for hand loom along the lines of Incredible India.

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A carpet weaver in Kashmir, following the counts on the notes attached to form the elaborate patterns

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flat rug weaving in Rajasthan

Personally I would define luxury as the ability to posses exquisite hand crafted  products – fabrics, clothing , rugs, furniture, jewelry, utensils or shoes etc.

Many wars have been fought and the country was subjected to almost a century of foreign rule partly for trade in these valuable goods. ( if interested please check a previous blog – chintz, designs on other markets. one of the handcrafted textiles that were in great demand)

Image and some text courtesy – http://www.google.in

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