Wednesday, 6 August 2008
Patolas and Resist Dyed Fabrics of India
In India's legendary heritage of textiles, few are as highly prized as patola, the double ikat silk fabric, in which both warp and weft are separately tie-dyed before weaving to create patterns of unmatched richness and subtelty.
Patan, the ancient capital of Gujarat has been the centre for patola for many centuries.
In Gujarat they are traditionally worn by Hindus, Jains and Vohra Muslims. A well to do bride invariably wears a patola today. Throughout India, Patolas have become a symbol of wealth and family lineage, transcending the boundaries of Religion and community.
The complicated patola weaving procedure is naturally labourious and tedious and it is possible to complete only about 25 cm of cloth a day.
To begin with, skeins of silk are opened and wound on reels. Once this is done, eidth threads are plied together by lightly twisting them and feeding them into another hand reel. This twisting prepares the silk for the next stage- bleaching.
Bleaching is achieved by soaking the hanks of silk for a minute in boiling water mixed with soda ash and soap. Once dry, the silk is filled into bobbin and wound onto a charkha. It is then twisted and transferred to a smaller charkha. From this warp and weft are prepared.
Befor the tyeing and dyeing can start, the pattern is first traced onto a graph paper.
The warp is assembled with the help of round iron or steel pegs covered in white muslin, protruding horizontally from the wall. The number and arrangement of the pegs can be altered to suit the desired length of the warp. Twelve wooden bobbins on stand, containing the eight ply silk, ar placed in two rows in front of the pegs. The warp is spread on a rectangular wooden frame and sectioned by grouping the threads accorging to the pattern.
Once the wapr and weft are ready on the frames, the tyeing begins, always from the right with the use of thread or old cloth, exact measurements of the portions being tied are taken continuously. Of all the phases of the weaving process, this is the most delicate and often it is done by women. As different portions of the yarns are tied, it is removed from the frames and dyed. This process continues until every color in the pattern appears in the yarn.
The dyeing, traditionally achieved with vegetable colors, but now increasingly with chemical dyes, is carried out by both men and women. Hanks of silk are usually left soaking in cold water for a day or two before each dyeing to ensure that the colors are absorbed evenly. The yarn often needs to be vigourously rubbed by hand for it to be properly soaked. After the final color has been dyed, the yarn is yet once more returned to the frame. Now the entire pattern becomes clearly visible. The weft is separated and taken back onto bobbins for weaving.
The patola loom is very simple and tools are hand made from bamboo. The loom does not have a foot paddle but a handle by which threads are manipulated. It is placed at right angle to the floor and two people are required for weaving. The first stands on the right and passes the shuttle to the left and the second sits in front of the loom and passes the shuttle from left to right. While at the loom, the weavers hold the weft threads on both sides, constantly checking for a missmatch in the pattern between warp and weft. The process is painstakingly slow. Little wonder then that it takes roughly 20 days to finish a sari about five meters long.
There are some 10 basic patterns, mainly of plant, zoomorphic and geometrical motifs. While most motifs can be traced to traditionaly forms, some relatively modern ones certainly evolved in response to the demands of the export market. In a weaving technique so complicated, it is true that geometrical motifs should predominate. These were used in variation between the border and the body pattern. The designs most commonly found include chhabdi bhat (the basket pattern), Fulvari bhat (flowering pattern), ratan chowk bhat ( jewel mosaic), Paan bhat (pipal leaf pattern), akhrot bhat (walnut motif), nari kunjar (women and elephant), popat kunjar ( parrot and elephant), wagh bar hathi bar (tiger and twelve elephants), maharas bhat ( women dancing with sticks in hand)