Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Patan and Patola Weaving

Once the capital of Gujarat between the 8th and 15th centuries, this town is now famous for its Patola weaving. Here we met the Salvi family who has™ practiced their double-ikat weaving technique since the 11th century. Renowned for its gem-like colors, designs, and durability, Patola woven cloth has long been presented to royal courts throughout the world, including by the famous explorer Ibn Batuta. In places such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, Patola cloth was considered as magic, protective cloth – the cloth of the gods. Today, many of the Patola saris are gifted by wealthy families to their daughters or daughters-in-law at the time of marriage. Others become museum pieces.

The process by which the Patola silk cloth is woven sets it apart from other methods. In such double-ikat weaves, both the warp and weft threads are colored through a tie-dye method. Portions of the string that are to remain the current color are carefully wrapped, after which successive colors are added. The strings are tied, dyed, untied, and retied as needed until all colors have been added – a very laborious job. About 30 years ago, natural vegetable dyes have been re-introduced using colors from turmeric, marigolds, onion skins, pomegranate bark, madder, lac, catechu, cochineal, and indigo. Silk from China was used, along with that from the south Indian city of Mysore.

After the warp and weft threads are laid out, the weft threads are wound onto bobbins. Stretched on the primitive hand loom made from teakwood and bamboo strips were the taught warp strings. On the warp strings alone, the design of an elephant was already apparent. Such neatness would be carried out, that the finished cloth would be completely reversible. Two family members worked in tandem on the loom, moving the bamboo shuttle back and forth. One person carefully checked and ensured that the pattern of both warp and weft matched up, along with removing the tension of the warp threads with a large needle-like tool.

Such precision and attention to detail equates into a lengthy, laborious process. About 20-23 cm (8- 9”) can be woven by the pair in a day. Working at such a pace, it takes about 5-7 months to complete a sari of around 5.5 m (6 yards) from start to finish (depending on the complexity of the design) – including 40-50 days for the weaving process alone.

Read more about the Patola Weaving at

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