Handcrafted Textiles

The Handloom Product Index of India is where we showcase the traditional sarees, turbans, hand-woven and other handcrafted garments from different parts of India. Our way of exploring the various ethnic designs and material that can be used to inspire interesting designs.
Dhotis are produced on handlooms in different widths and lengths, and using different counts of cottons yarns in wrap and weft. Both Hindus and Muslims of the richer classes, however, when in full dress, almost invariable use it. In Northern India, these sashes are almost always made of wool and are of different degrees of fineness.

Floor Coverings
It is inevitable that in countries where people sit on the floor, such coverings should be devised with imagination and aesthetics and that in course of time then should grow into works of art. The woolen pile carpet, began to be produced in India in the 16th century. Though its origin may have been Persian, once the Indian weavers picked up the craft, they made it their own. A definite feature of the Indian carpet is its specified border that is, framing the borderline with different patterns to match similar patterns to have a symmetry and balance in the middle of the carpet.

Furnishings and made up items
One of the principal items of household textiles is bedlinen, comprising of bedsheets, bedcovers, pillowcases, duvets and other quilt coverings. The other important item of household textiles is table linen including tablecloth, table covers, napkins, place mats, etc. Bedlinen varieties, viz. Duvet/quilt covers are printed or otherwise decorated, either in one or more colour and constitute a major feature of the bedroom décor so important in the overseas countries. Furnishing fabrics include heavy figured and jacquard fabrics used for drapery and upholstery purposes and are mainly woven on flyshuttle frame looms. The tapestry construction is used for hangings, sofa, rugs, upholsteriesy, table covers etc.

The famous ‘Himroo’ cloth now produced in Warangal (AP) and in Hyderabad and belong to the category of brocade weaving. Another characteristic furnishing fabric is ‘mushru’ cloth in satin weave, with silk or rayon warp and cotton weft, having brightly coloured stripes and geometric designs.

Lungi is a traditional handloom item exported mainly to markets like Singapore, Malaysia and Middle East Countries. Lungis and other similar varieties like ‘kailis’, ‘sarongs’, and ‘comboys’ are generally woven in 4 ½ yards long pieces, which are joined to make a length of 18 yards. The principal handloom production centers for lungi production are Bhuvangiri, Naduveerapatti, Kurinchipadi, kadayanallur, Anakaputher, Gudiyatham in Tamil Nadu and Ammavari kuppam, Yemminaganur, Visakapatnam Vizianagaram, Nedunur in Andhra Pradesh and few handloom centres in Uttar Pradesh.

Applique Work
Known to have been introduced in India in the 11th century, appliqué work has become a popular craft used in almost every ritual celebration or festival in the country. In Bihar, there are styles of appliqué: one, intended for domestic use, which carries stylized motifs with one piece of cloth with cut patterns being stitched to another, the pattern thus emerging in two colours; the second type of appliqué is prepared for tents, shamianas and canopies as also tented walls.

Appliqué work of remarkable creative value has been created in Orrisa where this craft is used for festive decoration in the temple of Lord Jagannath as well as in homes. Specimens of great artistic merit are also done in the same style in several centres in Gujarat and Tamilnadu to be used as wall hangings furnishings fabrics, garden umbrellas and dress material. In Kashmir the ‘gabba’ (floor covering) is a form of appliqué work which has been evolved by reusing worn out woolen blankets and woolen stripes.

There are two kinds of brocade, cotton brocade and zari brocade. In brocade, the warp and the weft are supplemented by special threads in gold, silver or silk. These form the pattern when weaving and also determine the nature of the brocade. Cotton fabric is brocaded with cotton and zari threads to create one of the most delicate products of the loom. Another form of brocading is created by the inlay of white threads over an organza jail to give an appearance of delicate filigree patterns cut out on a sheer almost transparent background.

In zari brocades gold and silver are used alongwith silk threads, either as the special warp or weft, to create glittering raised ornamentation. The main centres of brocading are located in Varanasi, Surat, Chanderi, Bangalore, Kanchipuram, Chennai, Bengal and Venkatagiri.

Block Painted Textiles
A popular and well known method of creating ornamental designs on cloth is block printing. In Bagru, Rajasthan, a thick cloth is used as the base. Geometric and floral designs are printed on both sides of the cloth though these are not always the same. The colour palette is restricted to black, maroon and buff. Bagh in Madhya Pradesh is another traditional block printing centre with colour similar to Bagru: red and black. The base cloth is treated to make it receptive for printing. Ajrakh from Dhamadka in Kutch, Gujarat, is a technique by which patterning is created by resist printing. Both surfaces of the fabricare printed, with a perfect placement of blocks to make the designs on either side identical. The colours are mainly red and blue.

Handloom Leno Fabrics
The weaving of leno brocades and leno cut-work (throwster) on handloom had been developed during the last three decades in the handloom centres around Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. There is unlimited scope for the production of a variety of effects in striped, checked and figured fabrics by combining gauze or leap with practically any other system of interweaving.

Ikat & Tie and Dye
Tie and Dye is one of the oldest textile techniques where portions of cloth are tightly tied before dyeing. These resist the dye and form the pattern. In India, the specialized skill of ikat weaving exists in three areas, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. The Patola from Patan in Gujarat is especially well known. In a double ikat silk sari, both the warp and the weft are separately tied and dyed so that they blend perfectly when woven and give the textile its rich colour and form. There are other forms of tie and dye but unlike ikat these are not pre loom process where only the yarn is resist dyed. Bandhej, the tie technique includes bandhinis of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The word Phulkari literally means flower-craft or ‘floweing work’ and it certainly creates a flowery surface through the process of embroidery. It connotes a particular form of needle-craft practiced in the Punjab region by the peasant women for decorating their shawls, veils, etc. The principal centres for this art were Rohtak, Gurgaon, Hissar, Karnal and adjacent areas of Delhi in the east and Peshawar, Sialkoot, Rawalpindi and Hazara in the west (now in Pakistan). The Phulkari was initially a home-craft and were made only for use within the family. It was only in the later part of the nineteenth century, in times of famines and hardships that the phulkaris were put to sale to the collectors of embroidery.

The towel-manufacturing sector of the handloom industry in India has been one of the main employees of handloom weavers, catering to the needs of consumers both in and outside the country. Handloom towels are manufactured in different weaves; plain, honeycomb, huck-a-back, terry pile; ‘dosuti’ and ‘dedsuti’, etc. Basically, terry towel, which comes under the category of made-ups, is used as a fabric for bath towels, bathmats, car seat covers, interlining material, base for coated fabrics, kitchen gowns, pot holders etc. Dobby and jacquard terry towels are exported in substantial qualities.

The turban is in almost universal use throughout India. Its chief function is the protection of the head from the heat of the sun and is usually of a fine muslin-like texture which when folded is at once light, bulky and porous thus admirably fulfilling its main purpose.

The turban in its unfolded condition ordinarily consists of a strip of cloth varying in width from 9” to 12” and length from 15 to 25 yards. In some cases, however the width extends to 36 inches while the length occasionally reaches 60 yards. Sometime, gold or other decorative material is used and the end of the turban is made to extend longitudinally a little way up from the end, so that the ornamentation is visible on one or both sides of the turban.
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