Fabric of Heritage
‘Sulaiman, an Arab Merchant who visited Calicut ( Kozhikode), in 851 CE waxes eloquent on Indian clothes ‘ made in so extraordinary a manner that nowhere else are the like to be seen. These garments are wove to that degree of fineness that they may be drawn thorough the ring of middling size’
( Taylor 1840: 163) Perhaps he arrived at the port of Muziris in south-western India, now mysteriously lost?
The Handloom Process
Handloom weaving is entirely a low energy, low water consumption process as compared to a factory made or powerloom fabric. Unlike in many other weaving clusters of India, Kerala handloom co-operative weavers are paid a living wage along with life insurance and health insurance benefits. The state government has also ensured, through the school uniform weaving scheme, weavers are assured a minimum income to help support their livelihood.
“While there is no clear data on how much of the artisan economy is informal, this sector is recognised as the largest source of employment after agriculture. With over 200 million livelihoods directly or indirectly linked to this sector, and 50% participation of women (Dasra, 2013), craft-based production continues to be one of the primary means of dignified employment among informal rural communities. While this sector has a high concentration of low-skilled and differently-skilled population, it meets 11 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the rising demand for ethically produced, locally made products, this sector — with the lowest carbon footprint of any major industry (Chatterjee, 2020) — has the potential to meet the future needs of sustainable production and consumption.” (Krishnamoorthy, P. et al, 2021)
Cotton yarn is immersed in water for upto 7 days, each day the yarn is given a robust wash by the weaver or allied worker. This washes away any chemicals or impurities from the yarn.
If need be, the yarn is taken to a vat dyeing facility attached to the cooperative and dyed locally.
Transfering yarn from one type of package to another: hank to bobbin For Weft: wound into a pirn with the help of a small, hand operated charkha. Pirn winding is done for zari as well.
The warping is a process of making desired length and width of warp sheet by combining many small packages called bobbins/spools. There are various types of warping by which yarns from a large number of warper’s bobbins are collected together and made into a suitable form of package.The warped yarn is then taken to the next process called sizing.
Sizing is a process where starch ( rice, sago, wheat paste) is coated on the warp yarns for imparting strength; enhancing abrasion resistance to withstand the stress and strains exerted during the weaving process. The sizing is normally done in the streets earmarked for it. The process of sizing reduces the yarn breakage and improves the quality and efficiency of weaving. Although the yarn is sized and dried in the sheet form, in which the individual threads are lying in a parallel condition, the threads are not free from sticking to one another. To rectify this defect, dividing rods, i.e. lease rods are used to effect separation of the threads. A brush is used to brush the yarn during the process of sizing.
The process of transferring warp sheet to a weaver's beam to mount on loom is called beaming. All these processes are carried out manually without using power. The process of beaming is followed by looming, which finally prepares the loom beam for weaving. Preparation of looms is broadly classified into two categories of work, known as Drafting and Denting. Drafting is the process of passing the warp yarn through the heald of the loom as per the design. This helps to keep the warp yarn in parallel form over the width of the loom and in locating a broken yarn during the process of weaving. In the case of denting the warp yarns are passed through the reeds and the healds. The warp threads are then joined with the old warp threads with a local method of twisting by hands.
There are two types of loom used in our cooperatives, frame looms and pit looms. Frame looms are placed above the ground, while pit looms are placed above a pit and the weaver sits with their legs immersed into the pit and operates the looms.