Handloom sarees dates back to the Indus Valley civilization. This ancient textile craft is still preserved in its purest form by India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many more countries. Handloom sarees industry is usually a family enterprise and one of India’s cottage industries.
Handloom sarees are made entirely by hand. It takes 2 to 3 manpower to weave a saree and it takes around 3 to 10 days depending on the intricacy of the details. The handloom saree is often handwoven on a shuttle-pit loom made from ropes, wooden beams and poles. The process involves entwining a set of vertical threads called ‘warp’ and a set of horizontal threads called the ‘weft’. To create a handloom saree, the loom holds the warp threads under tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft threads over and above the warp using a weaving shuttle. The threads could be made from cotton or silk. There’s a whole process involved in weaving that includes dyeing, warping, sizing, attaching the warp, and weft and winding.
To create this magnificent piece of saree, the weaver’s creativity,patience,hardwork and handwork comes together. They select the colour, yarn, pattern, texture and the weaving technique to create the magic.
The handloom industry too involves a community that has been practising an artisanal skill or techniques for generations. By supporting the handloom industry, we are doing our bit in preserving the traditional method of weaving and also supporting an artisanal community.
Handloom vs Powerloom
A handloom saree by its very nature is bound to have irregularities like thread pulls, missing weaves. With power loom, the saree will be even in texture and flawless but lacking in the allure of handloom sarees.
Handloom sarees are soft in texture and more resilient than powerloom sarees. Powerloom sarees tend to be stiffer. Handloom sarees drape well definitely!
Due to loose weaving of handlooms, this fabric ‘breathes’, allowing air to pass through.This is very important for our skin to breathe under the clothes that we wear. Powerlooms have compact weaving and even spreading of the weft which gives very little space to breathe and gives the wearer a feeling of blockage.
Weavers work arduously to weave every intricate detail. Motifs like flowers, elephants, annapakshi, temples, mango and many more will have the intricacy that can’t be found in power looms. There are also some weaves like kadwa weave which can’t be replicated on the power loom.
Handloom sarees often have extra threads left at the end of the pallu which can be used for making tassels.
Handlooms are more sustainable as minimal electricity being used, as they are woven by hand on a manually operated loom. This significantly helps to reduce global warming.
Last but not least, when you buy and drape a handloom saree, it’s not just a saree. It is the creativity, hardwork, tradition and pride that you are draping!
*The feature image is property of Kamakshi. This picture was taken in June 2018 at Kanchipuram,Tamil Nadu during one of our visit.