What is the most important attribute of any dress? Is it the color, is it the design or is it the quality of the fabric used. You guessed it right, the fabric is the single most important attribute which differentiates outstanding apparel from others. From an economic point of view also, the textile industry is the second largest source of employment in our country, second only to agriculture. Emporiums across India have a penchant for keeping running fabrics and clothes made from a variety of fabrics. They are one of the primary targets for connoisseurs who are interested in designing their own apparel from a wide array of fabric offerings.
The highly skilled and patterned ajrakh block-printing came to Kutch from Sind 400 years ago when the Muslim Khatris (artisans who ‘apply color to cloth’) settled in the village of Dhamadka. Against the dull canvas of the Kutch desert, the rich and bold colors of the textiles are strikingly displayed. The millennia-old tradition of weaving and dyeing textiles originated in the Indus Valley region in the North West of India and is still practiced in abundance today. The cloth is washed in water to remove any finish applied in the mill or workshop. It is then dyed in a cold solution of myrobalan (powdered nut of the harde tree). A resist of lime and gum arabic is printed onto the cloth to define the outline of the design. This is known as rekh. The cloth is finally dyed and washed off.
“Silk-haven”, “Manchester of the East”, “Manchester of Assam”; these are a few synonyms given to Sualkuchi in Assam because of its large number of handloom silk weaving units. Situated some 30 km from Guwahati in Assam, on the banks of the mighty river Brahmaputra, this picturesque village is a haven for silk fabrics ranging from the golden Muga silk to the ivory white Pat silk and the light beige Eri or Endi silks. Out of these, Pat silk or Assam silk is woven in a traditional Assamese style using mulberry silk yarns native to Karnataka.
Pat Silk weaving in Sualkuchi has been traced back to around 10th-11th century. Patronized by the Pala and the Ahom kings, the craft established itself during that period being a luxury afforded only by the royalty and the noble families of Assam.
Bengal Tussar Silk
Tussar silk is a type of wild silk produced primarily in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, and Jharkhand. It is produced from silkworms called Antheraea mylitta that feed on the leaves of the arjun and asan plants (each variety of silk is distinguished by the type of silkworms producing the silk yarn along with the leaves they eat). It reflects the exotic and untamed spirit of the wild silkworm producing it, in its feel, colour and sheen. Traditional, yet trendy, Tussar silk sarees have an inherent beige or cream shade with a golden sheen. They are often dyed to reflect more vibrant colors. Tussar sarees from Bengal are adorned with a variety of woven or embroidered patterns ranging from classic to modern themes.
This style of weaving linen, as the name suggests, has its roots in Bhagalpur in Bihar. Bhagalpuri artisans weave both linen sarees as well as fabrics. With minimal designs and motifs, this style in truth is the perfect example of ‘simple and elegance’. The sarees usually have two or three shades of color and have either small geometric designs or floral motifs printed on the borders.
Bhagalpur Tussar Silk
Bhagalpuri Silk sarees, otherwise known as Tussar Silk, is a unique style of saree from Bhagalpur. Well known for its sericulture which has been around for more than a hundred years, the Bhagalpuri Tussar sarees are exclusively made from the silk reared over there. Designs used are primarily traditional ones of geometric patterns with a few abstract floral designs. A lot of work is usually focused on the designs in the borders as well, along with the bright and cheery color scheme, usually inspired by Madhubhani style of painting. It would be ideal to wear these sarees for formal occasions such as business meetings, office parties etc.
Ikkat is an elaborate dying process done with silk or cotton yarns. The result is a piece of cloth made of colorful patterns. Ikkat is mainly practiced in multiple states in India, namely Orissa, Telengana and Gujarat to name a few. In fact, Ikkat has been practiced in multiple countries other than India as well since long. Ikkat patterns are dyed and bound to the threads before the cloth is woven. This differentiates it from the Tie and Dye process where the fabric is woven in the first place after which it is resist-dyed.
The technique which is known today as Ikkat had its origins in different parts of the world such as South East Asia, Central Asia, South America and West Africa. Ikkat is one of the most ancient techniques of handloom fabric crafts. The term “Ikkat” is a derivation from the Malay word “Mengikkat”, means “to tie” or “to bind”.
In India, Ikkat dates back to the 12th century when artisans from the Patan region of modern day Gujarat migrated to different parts of the country and propagated the craft.
Eri comes from a caterpillar found in northeast India and some parts of China, Japan, and Thailand. The name “eri” is derived from the Assamese word “era”, which means “castor”, as the silkworm feeds only on castor plants. The woolly white silk is often referred to as the fabric of peace or Ahimsa Silk as it is the only silk processed without killing the silkworm.
Eri silk is a staple fiber, unlike other silks, which have a continuous filament. The texture of the fabric is coarse, fine, and dense. It is very strong, durable, and elastic. It is darker and heavier than other silks and blends well with wools and cotton. Due to its thermal properties, it is warm in winter and cool in summer. The thermal properties of Eri make it a suitable fabric for shawls, jackets, blankets, and bedspreads. Dress materials and baby dresses are also made from Eri silk fabric because of its soft texture and moisture absorbent quality.
The creativity of handloom weavers of eastern India is unparalleled in the form of the revolutionary Ghicha silk that is actually a by-product of Tussar silk. Produced in eastern states of India like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar, the yarns of Ghicha are obtained from the cocoons of Tussar that cannot have the silk yarns reeled naturally. These cocoons get ruptured and the silk is then reeled manually. This is the reason why Ghicha yarns are short and the sarees made from them have uneven and slubby texture, giving them a raw sense of appeal. Characterized by the same moisture and air permeability properties of cotton but with a lustrous sheen like silk, these sarees are comfortable to wear and easy to maintain. Ghicha sarees bring in a beautiful and rustic charm to a woman’s wardrobe when added to her collection.
Khadi or Khaddar is a term for hand-woven cloth using handspun yarn threads from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, mainly made from cotton. The cloth is usually woven from cotton and may also include silk, or wool, which are all spun into yarn on a spinning wheel called a charkha. It is a versatile fabric that has good thermal absorbent property where it remains cool in summer and warm in winter. To improve the look, khadi is sometimes starched to give it a stiffer feel. It is very widely accepted in fashion circles and international markets.
Linen Cotton Mix
Linen cotton is a blended fabric with linen as half the threads and cotton as the other half of the threads used. It is woven with either parallel linen threads having a criss-crossing pattern of cotton threads or cotton threads criss-crossed with linen threads. Linen cotton is widely used in home furnishing as well as garmenting. This fabric is woven mainly in the clusters of Bhagalpur, Bihar and Phulia, West Bengal due to the ready availability of linen yarn in these places.
One of the rarest Silks in the world is the Muga silk from Assam. The fact that sets this silk apart from other types of silk is the fact that it has a lustrous, golden yellow color! The word “Muga” means “yellowish” in Assamese. Muga silk comes from the Muga silkworm (Antheraea assamensis), which goes back to the age of the dinosaurs and is so sensitive in nature that it cannot tolerate even the minimum levels of pollution. The silkworms are semi-cultivated for obtaining Muga silk in commercial scale. Muga is completely organic and is a strong and attractive natural fiber.
This is a unique fabric where the luster only increases with age. Any type of embroidery by a thread can be done on it. Most importantly, while it has got a naturally golden luster, it is incompatible with dyes and cannot be dyed.
Matka Silk is a rough handloom silk fabric made from the waste Mulberry Silk (Bombyx Mori) without removing its gum (sericin) part. It is largely obtained from the states of Karnataka and Kashmir but its spinning is done in the Malda and Murshidabad districts in West Bengal. Sujapur village in West Bengal, Islampur village in Bangladesh and Dariapur village in Gujarat are the hubs of matka silk spinning. Artisans in Bhagalpur go a step ahead and use their Neelam 60 Lea Count linen in the weft with this matka silk fabric in the warp for a beautiful new fabric which is born: silk linen.