Handloom fabrics

Handloom: a hand operated loom. Hand woven objects are created by weavers that use their hands to create the relevant product. Using a pit or frame loom they create the fabric using two sets of threads, the warp and the weft.

What is the difference between handloom and khadi?

Hand spun yarn woven into cloth is called khadi while fabric woven from mill spun yarn is called handloom.

Handloom cotton's advantages

Hand woven cotton is known for being breathable, allowing cool air to penetrate the fabric making it cooler and less damaging. The weaving process also makes the material soft and durable.

Hand spinning

Hand spun cotton yarn is called "khadi". Cotton spun mechanically to create cotton sliver can be hand spun by the spinner. Cotton sliver can also be just drawn out, twisted and used for hand spinning. Hand spun yarns vary on the material used, fiber length, alignment, quantity of fibers and degree of twist. Skill of the spinner determines thickness of the hand spun yarn supposedly though this is debateable.

The history of mechanized spinning

It is possible to spin fabric with the help of cotton yarn on machines. It is more common for mill spun yarn to be used, and fabrics in which this type of yarn are used are referred to as handloom fabrics. Cotton can also be spun by hand on the loom, where they are called khadi fabrics.

Yarn count

Yarn is a long continuous length of fibers that are interlocked. Depending on the staple cotton, different types of yarn are made and these are called “Yarn Count”. Numbers are designated and these are known as “ yarn counts”. Thicker yarn is called coarse counts while finer ones are called fine counts. Thin yarn gets higher numbers while thick yarn gets lower numbers. For example, 60’s count Yarn is thinner than 40’s count yarn.

Hank yarn

“Hanks” of yarn are used in handloom production, as opposed to “cone yarns” which are used in mill production.

a brief history of how yarn has been dyed

To create vibrant and colorful handloom fabrics, yarn is color before it is woven. In the last 50 years, dyeing wool yarn with chemical colors has become centralized and focused around dyeing the fabric.

Dyeing fabrics can be seen as a natural way to color them. The colorants are usually made of some sort of chemical colorant, and the process is done by hand and in small lots, which means nothing falls out of the pot.

Handloom dyers work in small to medium sized dye houses. The dye houses are equipped to dye small and large quantities of yarn.

Chemical dyeing is an ancient process

A major discovery in the dyestuff industry was the detection of benzene in 1865. This helped to advance chemical chemistry and the textile industry then went on steadily up until 1956 when Reactive dyes, providing bright hues along with good fastness qualities, were developed. A success because they are easy to apply for textile spots as well as being an economic option for the textile industry worldwide.

Mordant usually fixes color to the fiber and binds it to the dye.

Direct dyes are based on the method of application. Unlike other dye classes, direct dyes do not require a mordant. But they have weak bonding to fibres and low wash fastness, which can limit their use in some cases.

Sulphur Dyes are inexpensive dyes, with some being used in commercial production. They produce a dull black colour and are sensitive to bleaches. However, they have good wash fastness usually. Sulphur Dyes on fabric may decompose under warm and humid conditions, which reduces the strength of clothes and fabrics.

Reactive dyes: These dyes are environmentally friendly, low-impact and provide fast color penetration of cotton fibres.

Vat dyes, which derive their name from indigo vats, are water insoluble and require a special process. Vat dyes can be used effectively on natural plant material and give light and color fast brilliant colors. Indigo the blue of blue jeans is a common vat dye.

Types of natural dyes

There are two types of natural dyes: those that come from plant sources, and those that come from animal sources. Wool is the best fiber to color with natural dyes, because it has a wider variety of dye chemicals than cotton.

This cotton is not the best for natural dyes. There are some that work well, with the help of a mordant. Among these are annato, cutch, and logwood. They all except indigo need a mordant, while indigo needs to be suffocated with a vat of different type.

What are some synthetic fibers?

Understand the different types of natural and synthetic

Indigo dyeing is an age old textile specialty that has no harsh chemicals or toxic metals. It can be used to change any fabric into a unique article, and the use of indigo dyeing goes back to 2000B.C.

Indigo is a different type of dye and the first step in its process changes it from blue to yellow. When the yarn is worked in the “vat” and brought out into the air, it is bright green. Slowly, it becomes deep and rich blue. Indigo has always been used by cultures for its natural blue color, when every other dye was too expensive.

What is Warping?

This machine completes a process in order to turn the yarn into a linear form, which is then calculated by the width and desired quality of the product to be made. This helps the machine calculate the number of threads, as well as length of warp.

Street sizing

After being warped, the warp is stretched and sizing material is applied to attach strength to the yarn and protect it from the rigors of weaving. Natural adhesives such as rice, maize, wheat flour or potato starch are used depending on where they are in abundance or what’s available locally. In most handloom centers, rice starch mixed with coconut or groundnut oil is applied as a sizing material. The removal of this starch form yarn only happens after two to three washes of the woven product. Sizing process is only done when single count yarn is woven on pit looms.

weaving is done by craftsmen in the village or by weavers. sizing paste is applied to the stretched yarn and a brush is used to spread starch onto it. this size will dry on the yarn street so it's called street sizing.


There are three different types of looms that are used by handloom weavers: the Pit Loom, Stand Loom and Frame Loom. The distinctions between them has to do with where they’re positioned - the pit loom is on the ground while the stand loom sits on a stand and the frame loom is on an angled frame. The fabric woven has a different character depending on which kind of loom it is woven by, with pit weft having one less step in its weaving process.

How to spot textures in hand weaving

Hand woven fabric has a different texture from mill woven fabrics because of the low speed it is woven at and also the equipment used for weaving. Different textures are created by using different thicknesses’ and qualities of yarn in the same length and width of fabric. This helps create specific products like mangalgiri yardage, south cotton sarees, twill fabrics, and check fabrics.

Weaving Techniques

Techniques are used to weave the fabric. The basic technique is used for weave cloth, while more sophisticated techniques can be applied that create designs.

Textile design is created through readability, thickness, and color with plain weave.

Traditionally borders have been a design element of sarees and dhoties with extra weaving to create patterns in the borders. Now, warp and weft techniques can also be used for this task.


The weft is the thread that crosses the width of the fabric. A loom is the machine used to weave these wefts into a textile.


The shuttle is a wooden instrument used for quickly transporting the weft yarn.

How to color, wash, and care for your clothes

Three shuttles are used to create a weaved pattern that creates a solid fabric and edges.

Petu, dobby technique

Indian weavers use Petu, an extra warp technique. The weaver creates patterns with dobby technique by setting ratios and then lifting the extra threads automatically.


Jamdani weaving is accomplished in many ways depending on the size and pattern of the weave. A detailed process, Jamdani is a sign of skill.

Khadi fabric

The Khadi Village Industries Commission works with handlooms and handcrafted materials to weave fabric in their institutions located throughout the country. There are organizations that work with the Khadi Village Industries Commission to sell products in their own stores, but mostly the door is opened for these commissions.

Weavers mostly work from their homes, at times using centers that KVIC has set up in order to create Khadi fabric.

Handloom production

The handloom production process is very decentralized and most often takes place in people's homes. The loom is located in the weaver's home, and the weaving takes place there as well. The weaver usually operates with help from their family. In the past, pre-loom activities like dyeing and warping were outsourced, and weaving took place with the help of the weaver.

The breakdown in traditional linkages has changed the outsourcing process, due to the inclusion of stitches like sizing.

Different perceptions of handloom

With the advent of the Internet and globalization, weavers have distanced themselves from their customers. The gap between customer and weaver has grown in recent years, leading to many misconceptions among buyers.

Many of the textiles woven with cotton are made by power looms. The majority of these textiles are sold to major retailers and not Handloom weavers.

One perceived disadvantage of handlooms is that they should be cheaper than they are. This is true in part to the materials being used, and also to the wages paid for labour involved in weaving them by hand. But power looms and mill woven fabrics are actually cheaper than handwoven products because the former rely on mechanized processes rather than the later requiring human labor.