Cotton has been the most common natural fiber used in clothing, but India now occupies the second position in global production. The majority of cotton produced in our country is short staple, which is better for hand spinning. We’ve moved away from short staple varieties of cotton and still produce large amounts (both domestically and for export). Heavy use of pesticides has led to many problems and there are now a shift to organic farming.

The Process of Weaving

A hank is a long continuous length of interlocked fibers. A gauge (thickness) of cotton yarn has a standard length of 840 yards. Used in the textile industry and handloom production, yarn is used to create products such as cotton due primarily to thread count and handloom production being cheaper.

Hank yarn is available in coarse, medium, or fine. The disparate material lengths come from cotton, which features shorter and longer fibers.

How to weave

Different kinds of spinnable materials are converted by hand, or by a machine, into yarn. Handloom weaving is typically done with two kinds of yarn- mill spun and hand spun- which differ in both appearance and quality.

Diverse uses of natural fibers by an old industry - the handloom

How to spin by hand

Yarn is created through a complex process. The strength and fineness of the yarn depend on the length of the cotton fibers, and the skills of the spinner. Yarn can be hand spun in two ways- cotton to sliver by mechanical process, then manually spun in various thicknesses. The only production of hand spinning cotton in India, is done in Srikakulam, north coastal Andhra Pradesh.

Hand spun yarn does not get as stressed in the hand spinning process, leading to more relaxed yarn. This creates an increase in wages for hand spinners, raising the cost of Khadi.

How to weave using a spinning mill

Spinning in the West began with the industrialization of the 17th century. During colonial rule, British people brought mill spinning to our country. Large factories were first located in Mumbai and then the most of the activity shifted to Tamil Nadu and a few pockets in Andhra Pradesh. Today mill spun yarn is used extensively by handloom weavers across our country.

One of the first mills set up in India, 1854, was Bombay Spinning and Weaving Mill to supply north Indian weavers.

A blog post about the process of weaving

Textiles can be dyed either in the yarn form or after they are created into fabric. Hank dyeing, a prevalent practice in South India, is different than dyeing on fabric or garments that occurs in the North. The process entails removing all oils and dirt from cotton before adding natural or chemical dyes to create colours. Dyeing for textiles is typically done in and around weaving villages by local experts.

Historically, sarees were very plain and most colour was used in the border and pallu.

Kyle Bracewell's chemical dyeing process

The first chemical dyers were developed in the late 1800s, and dye coloring became a global phenomenon. They offer a wide range of colors with an easy application for modern-day usage.

Chemical dyes replaced natural dyes many years ago. Today, there are chemical dyes available in different varieties. There are categories of dye content in chemical dyes that are azo-free. Azo-free dyes are environmentally friendly and do not harm the environment, the person dying or the user. Chemical dyes were first invented to suit centralized large mill production and these were adopted by local weavers to dye their yarn in colors.

The text goes on to explain the dyeing process of a couple in Nalgonda district, who are weavers.

How to dye clothes using natural colors

Dyes extracted from natural materials that come from plants can survive sunlight. They also tend to last longer than synthetically produced dyes.

Natural dyes come from natural sources such as leaves, flowers, minerals and bark. They are more expensive than chemical ones but they have the advantage of being more environmentally friendly. Natural dyes were traditionally used by weavers across the world but have been replaced by chemical dyes 60 years ago.

Vegetable dyes are a sub-category of natural dyes, which are used to color wool. Unlike cellulose fibers such as cotton, natural dyes will not cause the colors on wool to fade when it is washed in cool water or dry-cleaned.

Cotton is not appropriate for certain dyes, such as natural ones. Annato, cutch, and logwood are among the better natural dyes that work with cotton. Annato requires a mordant; cutch, logwood, and madder do not.

How anar, pomegranate rind is woven

Indigo dyeing, what is it and how does it work?

Indigo dyeing dates back to 2000 B.C., and can be used in any natural fiber. It does not contain harsh chemicals or toxic metals, and across some parts of Asia and Africa cotton is dyed with indigo dye.

Unlike other dyes, indigo is renowned for its brilliant blue color. To make indigo, there is first the process of 'reducing,' where traditional indigo dyeing occurs in a vat. When the solution is taken out to the air, it turns from blue to green. Then as it changes in the air, it becomes a shade of blues. Indigo was used in all traditional cultures for its clear and fast natural blue color.

Bobbin winding tips and tricks

Hanks of yarn are wound on bobbins in the first step of transforming hank form to a linear form. Bobbin Winding is done by women in the weaver households.

Find out how many bobbins are needed to create a 34 meter warp.

bobbin winding-1bobbin winding-2bobbin winding-3bobbin winding-4bobbin winding-5

How to weave

The warp threads are linked together for the loom before weaving begins. Warping is the process of creating the base yarn. The warp yarn, which goes along lengthwise through all of the weft loops, is woven on a circular warping machine to create fabric from 1,96,550 yards of yarn.

Traditionally, the widths and lengths of a saree varied according to regional draping styles.

Warping is a process which converts the yarn into a linear form. Warping is done on a huge drum and helps to determine the width of the product, as well as how long the warp will be.

Watch the video of how residents in East Godavari, India weave on a drum.

Different types of weaving

The warps are stretched out on two beams and natural glues are applied to add strength to the yarn. Rice starch/gruel is mixed with coconut/groundnut oil and applied as “size” material for bonding the yarn. In most handloom centers, specialist carry out sizing activity in village. Well, this street sizing happens at weaving centers on streets.

The brush used in the sizing process is made with sustainable and natural materials like tangkala palm fibres.

In a mat processing process known as sizing, individual strands of yarn are treated with starch and oil before weaving.

To size yarn, there are three to four people who spread and dry the sizing paste.

How to attach warp onto a loom

Heddles separate warp threads, which are created by strings drawn through the reeds in a loom. They create checks and stripes as well as patterns on your fabric by lifting certain ones into the weft thread. Dobby or Jacquard (a type of setting) looms harness these systems to create graphic, patterned fabrics.

Women attach individual yarns to the existing one in a process called pegging.

After sizing and before the warps are attached, you can attach a warp to the loom. This activity helps align and separate all the yarns in the length to facilitate smooth weaving.

The warp is wrapped around the loom and then attached to the dowels and end of the heddles.

In an article about 'heddles,' it is mentioned that these tools can be made out of various materials, but in this sentence, the word "materials" is emphasized.

Reed is a comb like frame that pushes the weft yarn firmly against the finished fabric after each insertion.

It is usually men who are pictured weaving the cloth. The women's role in the process is to attach the threads at the back of the loom.

The Process of weaving

Hank yarn for weaving is wound on a pirn, the weft yarn is inserted into a shuttle made from bamboo, and weft prep work is done on the charka.

A shuttle is a small object. It's used for carrying the weft thread back-and-forth between the warp threads in weaving.

The fibers in the weft can be changed to create vibrant colours like “shot” colours.

One of the steps in weaving is called weft winding. Weft wind literally means running yarn across the weave width, back and forth along the length of the fabric. Loom weaving is dependent on parents who choose this profession for their livelihood; however, it's at risk due to the fact that more women are opting for other forms of work.

The weaving process

The process of weaving has weft yarn being passed through the warp, a skill that can be achieved through coordination between the mind and body.

Learn how weaving is an art

A weaver, depending on the complexity of their design, creates between half a meter to five meters of woven fabric per day.

You can learn how weaving works through the following posts

There are three types of looms used in handloom weavers. The pit loom, which is a loom set on the ground, is generally considered to produce better-quality fabric due to its proximity to the ground and the type of materials the weaver works with.

See how weavers work at a pit loom in this series of pictures

How petu and dobby weaving are done

With the Petu technique, extra warp threads are lifted while weaving a design. It is one of the most popular and low-cost techniques used to create patterns. This technique is accomplished by setting up the warp on the loom in such a way that the extra warp threads are automatically lifted with little effort from the weaver.