Indian weavers Industry has been the most long-established sector, which is responsible for mass employment before independence and after independence. After agriculture, the Indian Textile Industry which includes weavers embroiders, fabricators etc is the second largest sector and supplier of manpower and machine power. Also it is a self- dependent industry, not depending on the government which includes the training of young weavers. The abundance of homegrown raw material, in-house cheap labour, domestic demand and better technologies makes it affluent for the artisans and workers.
As soon as we talk about Indian weavers, beautiful lines from Sarojini Naidu’s poetry about the Indian Weavers come to our minds.
“WEAVERS, weaving at the break of day,
Why do you weave a garment so gay?
Blue as the wing of a halcyon wild,
We weave the robes of a new-born child.”
The Indian weavers have been creating magic for generations, ever gave a thought about what is weaving and how is it done, following is a brief about the history of weaving.
Humans have been familiar with the concept of weaving since the Palaeolithic era, the country is extremely diverse holds a rich history of weaving and has always been well celebrated for woven textiles. Indian weaving centres are appreciated to have design sarees for royal ones in the 12th and 13th centuries. The archaeologist has found samples from Indian cotton clothing from 5000 years back.
In the early Neolithic era, basic weaving looms were developed, not so complex weaving looms were man-made tools to hold the wrapped thread snugly to further allow the weaver to insert the weft threads.
Some of the looms used in the Neolithic era were-
• The Horizontal Ground Loom
• The Horizontal Ground Loom
• The Draw Loom
Earlier the production force was labour extensive so to isolate the seeds from the cotton fibre, wool was utilized more, but with coming of the cotton gin, a machine that could speedily and effectively separate cotton strands from their seeds. Plain weave back then was favoured at the time with adornments woven into the texture or woodblock printing.
Weaving in India is done mostly on handlooms, it is a loom controlled physically instead of mechanical techniques. Weaving involves the following three actions-
• Shedding: It is the process of raising and lowering of warp yarns by the harness to form shed.
• Picking: This process involves inserting weft yarn by the shuttle through the shed.
• Beating-up: It is packing the weft yarn into the cloth to make it compact.
The warp strings are later intertwined with weft strings at a correct edge, this creating a weave. The warp strings are called the tana and the weft strings are called the Bana, in the Indian weaving vocabulary.
Weaves are mixed with others to create several other different woven patterns. There are different types of weaving, but the basic weave types which are mixed and matched to form all the others are – plain, twill and satin weave.
This is the most simple, inexpensive to produce, yet durable and flat form of weaving. It’s a simple weave, that is an alternate interlacing of warp and filling yarns. Under this type of weaving, each weft yarn goes alternatively over and under other warp yarn. Some of the plain weave fabrics are crepe, Muslin, taffeta and others.
Plain weave is also known as Tabby weave, these weave fabrics if not printed or given a surface finish have no right or wrong side. They don’t travel easily but tend to wrinkle and less absorbing than others. Any type of yarn made from any type of fibre can be produced into a plain weave fabric.
It is one of the oldest and finest forms of weaving. Twill is one of the three unique types of weaving utilised for materials, twill aims to a particular form of weaving that outcomes in an inclining design. In the twill designs, texture has been woven for a great many years, which makes it difficult to analyse where precisely this sort of texture was initiated. Twill is a cutting edge variation of the ancient English word “twili”, which is a half appropriation of the Latin word “bilix”. Hence Twill is generally related to British culture despite the fact that this form of texture has been woven in various societies for any longer. It has diagonal lines which run at angles at 15 to 75 degrees. In some twill weave fabrics, the diagonal effect may also be seen clearly on the backside of the fabric.
It’s a basic weave, has four or more shafts with warp floats. They are interpreted diagonal which is attractive to the eye. It represents floated form in fashion. It is also called as glossy silk weave and is the third most important type of weaving. It requires at any rate five shafts to weave. In this form, the weft yarns are prevalent on the substance of the material. The more distant they are expelled from each other the more indistinguishable they become.
The satin weave is characterized by long floats of yarn on the face of the fabric. It always has the warp yarns floating over filling yarns.
Weavers of India have not been well recognized by the world as they play imperative role in the journey from cultivation to final garment, thus there is for Indian weavers to be set on revival. Speculations move around the decline of the weavers and their industry due to less recognition and less payment output in their profession. Comparable from 1980’s to 2018, graphs have shown decline as most of the Indian weavers migrated to other professions. Weavers were in critical positions in mid 1980’s till 1990’s as the number of handlooms fell from 5.29 lakhs in 1985 to 2.2 lakhs in 1998.
There have been many reasons post independence in the decline of their profession. Initially the living conditions like living below the poverty line as their annual income recorded was INR 3687, which was low as BPL records at an average of INR 4819 per household. From 1980 till 2017-2018, working conditions have improved but yet not reached to the desired. Other factors which led to the decline, were the coming of power looms which reduced the manpower and thus their income. The most prominent incident in 1990 of government policies which imposed taxes on poor and pampered the rich, lost many weavers especially in the drought areas.
Weaving is the technique of “production of fabric by interlacing two sets of yarns so that they cross each other, normally at right angles, usually accomplished with a hand-or-power- operated loom” as stated on the internet. For them it is an art, which has been inculcated in them since childbirth and is passed on as tradition. They are the masters of their art and portray it exquisitely through cotton, silk, linen and Khadi fabrics which are used for garments, furniture, carpets and other household products. Even after it being an art that has been passed on traditionally, today the scenario being that the Indian weavers are set for revival.
Indian weavers are totally dependent on this technique for their livelihood. Men, women, children and old age people are equally participating in the work to resonate with a good income for the family. Women are more concentrated towards their work as they are also handling household along with it. On counting the ratio of men to women, men are larger in number as women are not allowed to work in the concentrated areas. Younger weavers age between 11- 40 are more efficient as compared to the weavers working in the age above 40.
Abandonment of looms due to deterioration of incomes and set up of powerlooms has brought the plight of weavers into the eyes of honorable prime minister, Narendra Modi. His initiative towards the revival of Indian weavers has led the designers to incorporate the need. Bringing the sustainability back into the fashion with the cotton, khadi and linen clothing from new launched brands like Nicobar, Doodlage, Upasana and No Nasties have contributed a lot for their revivals. Some designers are promoting it by the use of local handloom fabrics. Making handloom a global textile, they are incorporating the local fabrics into their high end couture collections. Some took their own cotton yarn to the locals for more authentication and purity. Brand’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) forces them to forefront the growing movement and help socially. By helping the weavers through their spinning wheel and handloom they are trying well, to restore the Indian Handloom Industry.
Despite the brands and designer’s efforts, weavers are still dwelling with their social and economic conditions. Roja Ramani Mohanraj, weaver of Tamil Nadu told to The News Minute “It takes three days to weave a saree and we get INR 800-1000 for weaving. The labour charges varies with the design”. Weavers are working day and night and weaving out of trouble but still found their lives miserable. Their monthly income varies from INR 5,000- 10,000 depending on the choice of fabric and the design as they only get INR 200-500 per cloth which takes days to weave. Weaving millions and tons of cloth annually and hard working to the core, results into the inadequate incomes which is hard to sustain with in present scenario but initiatives from government and designers would help them to recover and grow.
I Knock Fashion through this is initiating to spread awareness about the plight and conditions of the weavers. Many such initiatives are being made to revive the weavers art by Indian designers, government and NGO’s too.