"WEAVERS, weaving at the break of day,
Why do you weave a garment so gay?
Blue as the wing of a halcyon bird,
We weave the robes of a new born child.”
Lines by Sarojini Naidu, about the weavers of India exceptionally portrays the three stages of life and connects them with the weavers, as our weavers have been weaving the thread of magic for generations past and to come happily. Weavers of India hold an utmost importance in the lives of people. Weavers have been known for diversification in their artistry work as they are located in different parts of the country, there are many untold stories about the weavers of India. They have been weaving the fabrics from 5000 years ago and have mastery in their craft. Raw cotton, silk, khadi and linen are put on their spinners to bring out the dynamism in the form of fabric.
Cotton is a natural fiber that is grown from a seedpod in different parts like Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka and other parts of the country. It is the most popular fabric and easy to care. Most likely fabric, especially for Indians as it is breathable and suitable for humid weather conditions .Total production of cotton accounts for 36.5 million bales of 170 kgs.
Silk is a natural fiber and rich in protein and some forms are woven into fabrics. Four types of silk; muga, mulberry, tasar, eri, etc are mostly available. ‘Paat’ in Eastern parts, ‘Pattu’ in Southern parts and ‘Resham’ in northern parts, known differently in different parts of the world has a shimmer based appearance. The triangular prism –like- structure allows the fabric to refract the light and shine. Total production of silk accounts for 35,261 (in metric tons). Linen, the lesser known fabric is sustainable and made up of flax. It is grown worldwide and has been used to make fiber for over 6000 years. Linen is a much stronger fabric than cotton and is more expensive also. It also dries at a much faster rate.
Khadi has been associated since independence and its struggle. It reflects the image of Mahatma Gandhi who initiated the use of Khadi. It is handspun and made from cotton fiber, silk and wool. It is rugged in structure, comfortable and has the property to keep cool in summers and warm in winters. Total production for khadi accounts for 105.38 million square meters.
Weaving the fabric is arduous in nature and requires proper training. It sustains the life of many families in small and large towns. They pass on their skills to their future generations to keep alive their artistic work. Men, women, children and old age people are equal partners in their work. No defined age group is assigned for the work, rather everyone initiates towards the progress of it.
Weavers are working on different types of looms suitable for the production of desired fabric. Loom is a mechanical and principle device used in weaving, which interweaves yarns to fabric which then becomes usable. Majorly, three types of looms are used:
1. Conventional Loom
2. Automatic Loom
3. Special Loom which includes
4. Shuttle loom
5. Shuttle lees loom
On sharing the personal experience with Sanket Jain from PARI the untold stories about the weavers of India are being brought out, Vasant Tambe (weaver from Rendal Village, Maharashtra) says “Viknar nahi handloom (I won’t sell the handloom. I’ve spent my life at it)”. On the Sagwan wood he weaves 66 meters of cloth every two weeks and 130 meters of yarn per month.
With an experience of 60 years, he has spun 1,00,000 meters of cloth which goes into the production of high quality shirts. He at 18, started working in karkhanas which were not maintained properly, where first he learnt to make sarees for which he used to earn INR 1.25 and weaved 21 sarees in a week. By 1960’s he used to earn INR 75 per month.
Remya Padmadas from PARI covered the insight life of Alagiri Sami, who settled on the banks of river in Kutthampully village to set up their craft in the small wooden rooms. With 12 looms arranged in a row and with the help of cotton threads he used to weave sarees which traditionally changed the fashion for Kerala. He would earn INR 200-400 for mundu (four meters cloth), a plain saree would cost INR 500 and with design, it can reach up to INR 750-2000. Working for 9-10 hours daily at the age of 80, brings INR 5000-8000 per month for a family. Younger weavers would complete a saree in 2-3 days as compared to grandfathers who took 8 days to complete it.
Getting into the insight of a weaver’s life fetch out the real-life situations. Government has initiated the schemes to support the handloom weavers which would increase their income and incur no or less loss. Schemes like Workshed cum Housing Scheme, Weavers welfare Scheme, Health Insurance Scheme for Handloom, and more are infused by the Government of India to support and work for the welfare of the weavers of India.
Apart from this many Indian designers who are working to uplift and revive the ancient craft of India have placed the weavers at the same level as they were before.
Samant Chauhan works with the Bhagalpuri weavers, providing a livelihood to them and representing their contribution at a global level.
Well known designer Anju Modi, works closely with local artisans and weavers for her collections.
Gaurang Shah an Indian designer, had told I Knock Fashion “ Jamdani to me is the answer to my design possibilities. It has the ability to continue incorporating new techniques. From monotones of white-on-white, its palette has expanded into a colorful and vibrant form.”
He has been working on reviving the Jamdani Weaving and his family of 20 weavers has now grown to 800 across south, east and west of India.
The weavers of India, even though with tremendous work opportunities and skills, still suffer in their daily life. I Knock Fashion’s efforts to bring out, about these weavers through these blogs and the various initiatives taken by organizations and designers to revive their skills and exhibit the same is becoming fruitful as many readers are going through it. Kindly fell free to write to us for topics that you would want to know about in Indian Fashion at email@example.com