Masters of Jamdani Weaving

On the road to excellence

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Jamdani: Festive textiles (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Jamdani is a word that instinctively brings to mind fine muslin weaves decorated with double weft designs, that instantly give the most delicate of fabrics a rich appearance. Jamdani weaving is a highly specialised and painstaking process.

Jamdani: Powerloom Jamdani (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

With the advent of technological changes in weaving, such as the jacquard and the power loom, cheap imitations of the fine handloom techniques made a certain variety of Jamdani accessible for a wider population.

Yet there are pockets where the prized handloom Jamdani is still woven.

Jamdani: The responsible family (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The Debnath family

Jyotish Debnath and his son Rajib from Kalna, Purba Bardhaman district, have their own specialisation, their own path to excellence. The Debnaths specialise in fine muslin Jamdani, woven using only hand spun cotton. The extra weft designs are so fine that they have to be inserted using a needle rather than a shuttle – in effect this is like embroidery on the loom. 

Jamdani: References (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The master weaver explains the weaving process by referring to a book.

Jamdani: Inside the weaving studio (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The Debnaths are highly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and his belief in the simple hand spun yarn.

Jamdani: Sizing and strengthening the fine muslin (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Thus inspired by him, they only use hand spun cotton in their craft.

Jamdani: Pre weaving process (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Once the fine muslin yarn is spun on a charkha, it is then twisted to form longer and stronger threads.

Jamdani: Muslin yarns (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Theirs is one of the only facilities that is able to produce hand spun yarn of counts as high as 500 singles.

Jamdani: Sizing and strengthening the fine muslin (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

These yarns require specific treatment in order to be loom-ready. The yarn is sized using a traditional variety of rice starch (kalma rice).

Jamdani: Sizing and strengthening the fine muslin (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

This process has to be protected from sunlight, and hence, is performed before sunrise.

Jamdani: Sizing and strengthening the fine muslin (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The rice paste is applied uniformly throughout the spinning process .

Jamdani: Parts of the loom (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

To minimise breakage of the delicate yarn during weaving, fine bamboo reeds are used on the loom, rather than mass produced metal reeds.

Jamdani: The making (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The extra weft designs are so fine that they have to be inserted using a needle rather than a shuttle.

Jamdani: The making (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

In effect this is like embroidery on the loom.

Jamdani: Sheerness of fabric (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Their Jamdani has a look similar to that of the ‘shadow work’ of delicate Chikankari embroidery from Uttar Pradesh.

Jamdani: Fineness of muslin (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Their production of khadi muslin Jamdanis is exclusive, and in fact, only their R&D facility is open to visitors.

Their buyer list includes big names from the design world both in India and abroad, like Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Armani and Gucci.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani Weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Biren Basak's narrative pieces

Biren Basak from Phulia,
Nadia district also has his own specialisation in which he excels. He has carved a different niche for himself in the Jamdani arena. His specialisation lies in the weaving of narrative Jamdanis – textiles that tell a story.

This particular piece shows Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, giving a speech.

The video shows how Biren Basak creates his unique pieces of Jamdani textiles.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Basak is able to visualise a narrative, and translate it into a fabric. The Jamdani design, woven laboriously by highly skilled artisans, is very intricate, and uncovers a narrative as the fabric is woven.

This piece tells the story of hand spun yarn – from the cotton plant to the weaver’s loom.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Detail depicting plucking of cotton balls from the plant.

These illustrations, woven into the fabric, on a hand loom, using such fine yarn, is a testament to the high level of skill that Basak and his Jamdani craftsmen posess.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Detail showing the charkha used for spinning.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Another part of the fabric, with a detail of a woman spinning cotton on the charkha.

The craftsman has managed to weave very clear lines and shapes in this illustration!

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Detail showing woman winding yarn onto a bigger spool from a bobbin.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Detail showing unwinding of the cotton hank.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Detail depicting the weaving of a sari.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The journey of Jamdani: From cotton to the market

This other piece by Biren Basak depicts the weaving of a Jamdani – from pre-loom processes, to weaving, to the Jamdani going to the market.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

This panel shows the weaver buying yarn from the market and the pre-weaving process of starching the yarn.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

This panel shows the pre-weaving process of warping.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

This panel shows the complete pre-weaving and weaving processes.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The weaving process.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Details of the panel showing the weaving process.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Details of the panel showing the weaving process. Here, the weaver has managed to weave an illustration of a Jamdani sari inside a Jamdani fabric!

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

This panel shows the weaver packing the ready saris for the market.

Jamdani: Narrative Jamdani weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Details of the weaver at the market.

Jamdani: Intricacy of Jamdani (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about Jamdani Weaving here:
-Weaving Centers
-Weaving Process

The Market
Credits: Story

Text: Aloka Hiremath, Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisans: Jyotish Debnath, Rajib Debnath and weavers from Phulia and Habibpur
Ground Facilitator: Ankit Kumar
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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