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The place where the magic is woven...

Mini Shibu

Posted on June 17 2015

Fabrics - the part that tends to make or break a design, whose color will decide how suitable it is for each person. This magical material comes in several forms - either smooth or textured, sometimes soft and sometimes rough and as if that weren't enough, depending on what this magical material is born from, the fall and flow of the fabric changes. And any person who loves fashion, will understand why the fabric itself should be given its due respect and not 'just' the design or the cut.

 So i will tell you a little about a fabric called 'Khadi'. Handspun and handwoven, many think that this fabric would be slubby or 'lumpy' and would fall apart easily. A fabric that is not very stiff unless starched, a fabric not known much for the variety of colors that other fabrics are known to offer, why would someone use it?

What if i told you that Khadi, if made by a good weaver can have almost the same finish as good linen or silk? That with today's advancement in dyeing techniques you can get a good bright color on the fabric instead of a dull, 'boring' color?

 So let me take you through the magic -

The first step - handspinning the cotton into yarn and thereby into thread.

I'm sharing a video from youtube to give you a general idea of how its done on the charkha

Turning cotton into yarn - a video

What the artisan basically does is 'spin' the cotton or to be more precise, he/she 'twists' the cotton into yarn. The cotton is held in place by a small bobbin near the area that they pull the cotton upon. they pull the cotton so as to remove any slubbiness or 'lumps' from the yarn as well as increase the tension in the yarn to increase the number of twists thereby making it stronger.

In this image above, the artisan has already finished spinning the cotton into yarn and is now spinning it into 'thread' into the bobbin. In this case, she is using the tension to twist the yarn 'tighter' as well as remove any leftover slubbiness to make the thread stronger.

This was the part on the leftmost side of the image above. This part was being used to create tension and hence spin the yarn into thread into the bobbin.

This was the part previously sitting on the charkha, where the cotton was being woven into yarn. This part is now transferring the thread to the bobbin via the tension created by the part in the image above.

And this is a closeup of the setup of the bobbin on the bobbin already present on the charkha to capture the thread.

This is a very simplified explanation, to give you an idea as to how 'handspinning' works.

The second step - Weaving fabric

There are several stages here, starting from preparing the 'warp'.

The artisan is basically preparing the warp by placing it onto the 'warp' drum. From there, it is then put through the 'headles' after which it is placed on a loom and the weaver can start weaving.

These ladies are really fast.

Here, the ladies and threading the 'headles'. They simply use a hook and pull the thread through the headle.

Note that each headle is threaded individually.

Upon completion of threading the headles, the warp drum and headles are placed on the loom. The loom is then set up for use and the weaver then begins the process of weaving. 

This little green bobbin is called 'shuttle'. There is a small wooden board which 'taps' it so that it goes to the other side, carrying the weft thread with it.

Interestingly enough, weavers can spot a breakage in the warp or weft thread as soon as it happens. I didn't even notice, probably why this is much harder than it looks.

This loom is partially automated since the shuttle runs between the warp threads by itself, all the weaver has to do is push the pedals at their pace.

The wooden topped frames are the shafts.

The pedals control the shafts and the shafts control the criss-cross of the warp threads. The shafts are then beaten back to compress the weft thread.

The compression is so that the fabric holds and does not fall apart, since the weft thread is not stitched or knotted in any manner that would help 'hold' the fabric.

And that, is how this magical material called khadi is made.

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