Kanjivaram Weaving: The Infrastructure and Technology Used

A detailed study of the infrastructure and technology used by weavers of Kanchipuram from Tamil Nadu

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Kanjivaram Weaving: A weaver at his loom (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Infrastructure and technology

The Kanjivaram sari is exclusively known for its rich gold borders and dense brocades in contrast colours. They are hand-woven purely from dyed silk-yarn and zari (silk thread made of silver and gold). The saris have an enviable reputation for richness, texture, lustre, durability and finish. 

Kanjivaram Weaving: A weaver at his loom (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Kanjivaram weaving is a highly skilled craft, its products valued as one of the finest examples of hand-crafted textiles the world over.

The technology and process behind making this precious textile has remained almost unchanged over the centuries.

Kanjivaram Weaving: At the dyeing unit (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The vibrant colours of the Kanjivaram saris are dyed by hand in simple work sheds.

Kanjivaram Weaving: Yarn dyeing (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The dye lots are small and enable customisation of colours, one sari at a time.

Kanjivaram Weaving: At the silk testing centre (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

In some cases, modern technology is used for measuring weight.

Kanjivaram Weaving: At the dyeing unit (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

But in most dyeing units, the old fashioned weighing system is still in use.

Kanjivaram Weaving: At the silk testing centre (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The process of winding the warp yarn is now mechanised.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Weft yarn is transferred onto bobbins using the charkha.

This charkha is fashioned from an old bicycle wheel.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A hand-operated charkha, or spinning wheel, is used to fill the weft yarn into bobbins for the shuttles.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Silk and zari yarns in bobbins are ready for use in the weft.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Typically, the weaver’s home is where the weaving actually takes place. Most of the ancillary processes of the weaving is done around the courtyard of the house.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The loom itself occupies a central place, taking up a large part of the dwelling.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The painstaking process of drawing out the warp ends and attaching them to the previous warp on the loom is done manually.

Kanjivaram Weaving: Handloom Sari Weaving in Kanchipuram (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

In this video clip, the artisan places the motifs by hand in the warp yarn.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The tension of the warp is maintained using a system of basic weights.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The jacquard loom has had a great impact on the weaving of designs. Highly complicated patterns can now be woven easily with the mechanised translation of designs into lifting order of threads from the warp.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

On the right is an example of an original hand-drawn graph, on the eft is a computerised version.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The traditional jala or adai technique is still widely prevalent. Designs are first painstakingly drawn by hand on a graph paper.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

These designs are then transferred onto cards that have holes punched out according to the lifting order of warp threads, with the help of a computer.

Kanjivaram Weaving: Sari designing in Kanchipuram (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Here's how the machine works in creating the cards.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

These punched cards are used in the jacquard.

Kanjivaram Weaving (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The embossed effect of extra warp and weft designs, achieved by hand or jala process, is considered superior to the effect created by the use of jacquard by weavers and buyers alike.

Kanjivaram Sari (2017-08)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about the weaving of Kanjivaram saris here:

- Kanjivaram Saris
- Kanchipuram, the City of Temples and Silk

Market for Kanjivaram Saris
Credits: Story

Text: Aloka Hiremath and Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisans: Kesavan, Krishnamoorthy, Velu, Lakshmi Dye House and artisans in the community
Ground Facilitator: Shalini Shashi
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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