Sunday, 24 April 2011

Linen and Ramie

These nuggets of wisdom about Linen Fabric I have gathered from the website of Jayashree Textiles of Aditya Birla Group:

1.Linen was extensively used in the mummification process by the ancient Egyptians, as it helped preserve the dead body and to this day remains of some important mummies have their linen coverings intact.

2. In ancient Celtic times, linen was spun in an anti-clockwise direction as it was believed that this endowed mystical powers bringing the weaver good fortune

3. Scientists have recently discovered, cutting linen that was preserved in the British Museum woven 6000 years ago, is structurally perfect just as any new linen today. This reveals that linen has the ability to resist the effects of time and that linen is not affected by germs.

4. The word ‘spinster’, meaning single woman comes from the time when flax was still spun on spinning wheels by women. This skilled work was considered as an advantage when looking for a suitable husband. Single women were encouraged to sit outside and spin, so that they could be admired by potential suitors as they passed. As a result, the word gradually became associated with single woman.

5. ‘Flaxen hair beauty’ comes from the beauty of the flax fiber, which resembles golden hair.

Then there is a “caution” of confusing Linen against Ramie and other synthetic fibers and cotton slubs;  this reads as follows: 
1.   Ramie is being sold as Linen in India whereas Ramie is not Linen. 
2.   Ramie the Produce of China gets harsher after every wash and itches to the skin, whereas linen fabrics gets softer after every wash and becomes very much soothing to skin.
3.   Further cotton slubs, polyester slubs fabrics are also not linen, however they are being sold as linen misleading to the consumer.

A search about the Ramie Fiber and its comparison to Linen revealed to me an amazing treatise on the other natural fibers, which by itself very helpful but unfortunately deals very less with ramie and their potential for India. On probing further, I came to know this article on Ramie fiber.

A site selling Ramie fabric talks about “100% Ramie Linen Fabric-Ramie is a fiber similar to linen. In fact, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between this fabric and the most expensive linen”.

I just wonder what would be the price difference between these two fabrics. Ramie is reported to be twice strong than Linen.

A very useful article comparing Linen with Ramie says the following among other opinions: "Textiles made from ramie behave similarly to linen textiles. They are prone to wrinkling and will breakdown if sharply creased, so it is best to fold them loosely and store flat. One advantage ramie has over linen is that it is naturally bacteria- and mold-resistant. It holds dye well, although saturated colors can be prone to crocking, which is discoloration of skin or other fabrics that contact the dyed ramie at stress points or wet areas. Ramie 
can handle the same heat and agitation as linen."

A further research article says that “ Ramie is the strongest bast fiber and one of the strongest natural fibers comparable to cotton and silk. In terms of length to breadth ratio, whose higher value indicates better fiber quality, is even greater than cotton and linen. However Ramie is stiff and brittle with low elasticity".

I feel that Ramie has potential to be another fiber of the future

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Friday, 22 April 2011

All About Zari

Adapted from an Article here.

The following is the process used for making Zari:


True zari, pasa, has the unique property of being limited only to pure gold and silver metal, a silver bar is covered with thin sheet of pure gold and then it is drawn into finer wire of different gauges to form “badla” (in local language) which is wounded over base yarn mainly on pure silk and the process of making this zari were done by manual operations.


The silk yarns are basically used for the production of pure & imitation zari. In the process, the artisans procure pure silk of 13/15 and 20/22 denier. Once procured two silk yarns of 20/22 or 13/15 are twisted followed by degumming and dyeing as per the requirement


Manufacture of Real Zari

Process involved in the manufacture of Real Zari:

Stage – I
Dyeing of Cotton yarn or silk, or Art silk yarn.
Melting of Silver (Raw).
Preparation of Silver wire bars.
Hammering of Silver bars to form an elongated rod.

Stage – II
Drawing of silver wire of different gauges, coarse, medium, fine and superfine in Pawtha and Tania wire drawing units(From an ounce of silver into 3000 yards) of silver wire.

Stage – III
Flattening the wire in flattening machine (CHAPAD)- The flattened silver is called badla.
Stage – IV
Wrapping of flat silver wire on Pure silk, Art silk or Cotton on wrapping machine (Bitai Machine) to make real zari thread.- The thread is called Ruperi Zari Thread

Stage - V
Electroplating of Pure gold (24 carat) on real zari thread (Sona Gilit Bakda).
Stage - VI
Gold plated real zari thread is wound on reel (Flattened or Round Zari).

Process involved in the manufacture of Imitation Zari- also called Half fine zari

Stage - I
Copper wire drawing unit (Pawtha) - Copper wire rod drawn to 31s.w.g copper wire.
Drawing of Copper wire form 31s.w.g to 36s.w.g (Aara Machine)- SWG is the standard Wire Gauge.

Stage - II
Electroplating of silver on 36s.w.g copper wire (Chandi Gilit Bakda).

Stage - III
Further drawing of 36s.w.g silver electroplated copper wire into fine gauges (Tania Unit).

Stage - IV
Flattening of silver gilded copper wire wound on pechak (Chapad or Flattening Unit).

Stage - V
Wrapping of silver gilded flat copper wire on yarn to make Imitation zari thread (Bitai Machine).- Called Half fine Zari Thread

Stage - VI
Lacquered or fast gilding on imitation zari thread (Gilit Bakda) -Called Half fine gold thread

The term gilding covers a number of decorative techniques for applying fine gold leaf or powder to solid surfaces such as wood, stone, or metal to give a thin coating of gold. A gilded object is described as "gilt".

Lacquer is a clear or coloured wood finish that dries by solvent evaporation or a curing process that produces a hard, durable finish. This finish can be of any sheen level from ultra matte to high gloss, and it can be further polished as required. It is also used for "lacquer paint", which typically is a paint that dries to a more than usually hard and smooth surface.

Stage - VII
Gilded imitation zari thread is wound on reel or on hand charkha for making small skeins of 5gms to 10gms.

For the manufacturing of embroidery materials, the process up to flattening is similar. The flattened wire (Badla or lametta) is then used in different equipment to make Zick, Chalak, Salma, Kangri, etc. For stars and similar items, the flattened strip is punched with dies of different design

For real zari, the basic metal used is silver while for imitation zari the basic metal used is copper.

Zari- Kalabattu, Tarkashi, Kasab

Embroidery done with metallic threads is called kalabattu and forms the zari.
Here the metal ingots are melted into metal bars called pasa from which lengths are got by beating it after treatment. This is then pulled through perforated steel plates to make it into wires, followed by the tarkashi process to make it thin with rubber and diamond dies.The last stage is called badla where the wire is flattened and twisted with silk or cotton thread to become kasab or kalabattu.This has uniform evenness, flexibility, softness, and ductility.Kasab can stand for real silver/gold, as well as for plated silver/gold or for an imitation in which a copper base is given a coat of silver or golden color to make the product less expensive.

Zari Terminology- Gijai, Sitara, Salma-Sitara, Tikora, Kora, Chikna, Karchob, Thapa 

Zari thread is used widely in weaving but more selectively in embroidery.For intricate patterns gijai or a thin, stiff wire is used.  Sitara, a small star-shaped metal piece is used for floral designs.This type of embroidery is called salma-sitara.The thicker kalabattu is a braided gold thread used for borders while the thinner variety is used at the end of the drawstring of purses or batwas, and in tassels, necklaces, and strings.Tikora is a gold thread spirally twisted for complicated designs.The dull zari thread is called kora and the more shiny one is called chikna.The equipment that is used for embroidery is a rectangular wooden-frame called karchob and a wooden leg called thapa used for sewing laces.

Different kinds of zari work

Zardozi: This is a heavy and more elaborate embroidery work which uses varieties of gold threads, spangles, beads, seed pearls, wire, and gota.It is used to embellish wedding outfits,heavy coats and other products. The material on which this kind of embroidery is done is usually heavy silk, velvet and satin.The kind of stitches found are salma-sitara, gijai, badla, katori, and seed pearls, among others.
Kamdani : This is a lighter needlework which is done on lighter material like scarves, veils, and caps using flattened wire.Ordinary thread is used and the wire is pressed down with the stitching producing a satin-stitch effect.The effect produced is glittering and is called hazara butti(thousand lights). 

Mina Work : This is thus called owing to its resemblance with enamel work.The embroidery is done in gold.

Kataoki Bel : This is a border pattern made of stiff canvas and the whole surface is filled with sequin edging.A variation of this border technique is lace made on net and filled with zari stitches and spangles.

Mukaish : This is one of the oldest styles and is done with silver wire or badla.The wire itself serves as a needle, piercing the material to complete the stitches.A variety of designs are produced in this manner. It is also known as the Fardi ka kaam in Lucknow. In Gujarat and Maharastra it is called Badla.

In both Kamdani and Fardi ka kaam, flattened wire is used. In Kamdani the wire is worked into motifs whereas in Mukaish tiny dot patterns are made. In kamdani the wire is attached to a small length of thread which is pulled by a needle. In Mukaish the wire itself is used as a needle. Below is an example of the Mukaish work. 

Tilla or Marori Work : This is the kind of embroidery where gold thread is stitched on to the surface with a needle.

Gota Work (Also adapted with the picture below from this source): The woven gold border is cut into various shapes to create a variety of textures in the patterns.In Jaipur the border of the material or sari is cut into shapes of birds, animals, and human figures, attached to the cloth, and covered with wires of silver and gold; it is surrounded by coloured silks.The work resembles enameling. 
Traditionally Gota ribbons were woven with a wrap of flatened gold and silver wire and a weft of silk/cotton thread and used as functional and decorative trims for a variety of garments and textiles. Now there is a substitution of pure gold and silver with gilt or lurex and the mass production of gota on electrically powered swivel looms.

In the Technique of gota tukdi,gota is cut into shapes such as the gamla (flower pot),kairi(mango) and champak flower, and appliqued onto a base fabric embellished with embroidery techniques such as zardozid and ari.Gota patti involves the folding of tapes into basic rhomboid units,referred to as patti or leaves and combining them to create elaborate motifs and patterns that are sewn onto garments.

Kinari Work: A small variation is kinari work where the embellishments are done only at the edges in the form of tassels.

In the context of Traditional Sarees, Zari is of four types:

The popular zari numbers used are 1200, 1400, 1600 and 3700. The four types of zari commonly used in Banaras silk sarees are:

a) Pure zari
b) Tested zari
c) Powder zari
d) Plastic zari

The composition of different varieties of zari is presented here under:

a) Pure zari: This is also known as real zari. The centre core of pure zari is made up of degummed twisted red or yellow mulberry silk yarn; over which silver lametta and badla (flatten wire) is wound. The silver zari threads are electroplated with pure gold solution, to produce gold zari.

Updated on 21.12.2014

BIS ( Bureau of Indian Standards) have even specified the color and denier of the silk to be used in the core. As per them, the silk core is two ply 16/18 soft twisted yarn dyed in a red or yellow color.

As per them the zari is called pure zari only when the percentage of pure silver is not less than 50 percent of the mass of the zari material. In case the silver is coated with gold, the gold content shall not be less than 0.5 per cent of the zari material. 

b) Tested zari or Half Fine Zari: It is also called imitation zari because it has the external features of real zari and thus, resembles the real zari in terms of shine. This variety is similar to real zari except copper lametta used in place of silver and silver gilding is done on copper wire. For gold zari, the tested zari is electroplated with gold solution.

c) Powder zari or Imitation Gold Zari: The manufacturing process of powder zari is similar to tested zari, where in powder gilding is done on imitation zari in place of gold gilding. Thus artificial gold colour powder is superimposed to get the lustre and brilliance. This does not last long and it gets black in short time with use. It is quite cheap and mostly used on rayon fabrics. It almost resembles zari. 

d) Plastic zari: The manufacturing process is more or less same as other varieties. In this variety plastic thread is used as lametta instead of copper or silver. In this small thin plastic strips are superimposed in gold colour or in different assorted colours and made into zari. These are marketed under different trade names such as Rexor, Lurex etc.

e) Neem Zari: These yarns are used extensively in many branches of textile industry from wide weaving to narrow ribbons, embroidery, braids, knitting, twisting, laces, and inner gimp decoration.

hey further quoted that pure gold zari is the costliest of all and half fine gold is less costly in comparison. Imitation and plastic zari is cheapest among all. It is very difficult to distinguish between a pure gold zari and half fine zari. When a pure zari is burnt, the residue will give pure silver and gold, whereas half fine gives copper and very low percentage of gold. The last gives nothing but only ashes. Also the imitation zari will easily break when stretched between fingers. 

Sachha Kaam, Jhootha Kaam, Nakli Kaam and Rangeen Kaam

Nowadays the embroiders have given the prevalent threads a number of names such as sachcha kam refers to work with real gold zari, jhootha kam refers to copper plated wire,  while nakli kam refers to lurex wire or plastic is called rangin kam. 

All Banaras sarees are either woven with pure zari or other varieties (imitation, powder and plastic zari). Most of the time zari thread is purchased from Surat and sometimes from Banaras. The cost of pure zari ranged from Rs.10,000-13,000/kg, imitation zari  Rs.600-800/kg, powder zari Rs.2000/kg and plastic zari is Rs. 350-500/kg.

Master Weaver in India

Master weaver is generally termed as a super artisan in a particular textile craft. In handloom terminology of India, however, a master weaver is an entrepreneur who produces cloth by employing wage labour. He either directly sells to the the traders or sell it in the market.

There are basically two types systems employed by the master weaver. In one system, the weaver works at his home with his family. The raw material is supplied by the master weaver. Generally the waver works on a piece rate system. The good point of this method is the fact that whole family helps in the weaving process.

In the Karkhana system, the weaver works on the looms provided by the master weaver under one roof. Generally the weaver works on a time rate system.

This system has emerged as a dominant system in handlooms in India.

Please read the full report here.

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Thursday, 21 April 2011

What is Super Combed Cotton

Combing operation necessarily eliminates a certain predetermined percentage of short fibers, which when spun produces a softer and smoother yarn. It also permits to spin to a fine count of yarn.

We sometimes segregate cotton yarns depending upon the percentage of short fibers removed during combing.

In Semi Combed Cotton the short fiber removal percentage is kept at 5-10%.

In Normally Combed cotton the short fiber removal percentage is kept between 10-20%.

In Super Combed cottons the short fiber removal percentage is over 20%.

A very nice introduction to combing for Textile Technologists can be found in this article.

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Monday, 11 April 2011

Ahimsa Silk : Is it really Non-Violent

Ahimsa Silk, also known as Peace Silk, is processed from cocoons without killing the pupae inside.

The main Arguments Against Ahimsa Silk are the two:

1. If the pupa is allowed to hatch, they will become caterpillars, it is impossible to feed so many. Thus instead of killing individual caterpillars, the offsprings are being killed.

2. In Eri Silk also, majority of the worms are starved to death after hatching. They are not flying off into woods.

As the Author says "I think it's mathematical sleight-of-hand to justify a high sale price for second-tier yarns"

Please read the full article here.

Similar Argument is given that Recycled polyester is more enviroonmentally sustainable than cotton. Read here

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Sunday, 10 April 2011

More about Tussar or Tussah or Tassar

Looking for Tussar, I came across several other interesting features. Some of these are as follows:

1. China exports two types of Tussar Silks: 33/37 D Water reeled and 70 D Dry Reeled Silk. I am just wondering if the "China" that is 50/70 quality that we use in India is dry reeled always.

2. There are 7 grades of quality of Tussar Exported by China, 4A, 3A, 2A, A, B, C and Off grade.

3. The standard moisture regain of Tussar Silk is 10% and density is 1.58 to 1.63 gms/cm3.

4. Elongation at break of water reeled tussar is 23% and dry reeled tussar is 16%.

5. China tussar is different from Indian ( Tropical ) tussar due to the fact the China Tussar the species of the worm is different and fed on "Oak Leaves" ( Also done in Himalyan Regions of the country). Whereas in India it is fed on "Arjun" and "Aasan" leaves. 

6. 8 is the usual number of cocoon filaments to form a single thread. The normal size of the thread produced is 30-35 deniers.

7.Tussar silk is the primary kind in the silk which lustrous,bright,soft handfeel,it has highest wear resistance in the natural faric. The Acid & Alkali Resistance of tussah silk is better than mulberry silk.

However I could not find out how they do dry reeling of tussar. Would require your inputs. 

And yes, I found the Tussar process practiced in Bihar, Bhagalpur. You can click here to find out more.

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