Weaving Telia Rumal

A look at the laborious and painstaking process of preparing yarn and weaving telia rumal in Puttapaka, Telangana

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Preparing the warp for Telia Rumal weaving

The word 'telia' comes from 'tel' (oil), as the yarn was treated with a mixture of castor ash and oil to help it retain colour and lend its cooling properties. The word 'rumal' (handkerchief) stuck because in ancient days this was a square piece of cloth with geometric patterns used as a headgear. The treated yarn, which is used for the warp (length) and weft (width), is tied and dyed in accordance with a predetermined geometrical design.

Telia Rumal: detail of a double ikat sari (Contemporary) by Weaver Gadu SrinuDastkari Haat Samiti

The video give a short glimpse on how the artisans create this unique fabric.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The starched warp is tied under tension to the two poles attached to the floor of the house.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Once the weft yarn is starched, weavers work together to tie knots at pre-determined places, where the yarn has to resist colour when being dyed. This is called resist dyeing and is what creates the many intricate designs.

The pattern on the graph, lying beside the weavers, indicates which portions of the warp threads have to be tied.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The parts which require to be dyed are exposed, while the other parts are tied in with rubber threads.

Telia Rumal: Ikat weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Rubber ties, such as these, are then tightly bound around areas that are to be reserved from dyeing.

Telia Rumal: Colour reduction process (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dyeing the warp threads

Once the warp threads are tied at set points, determined by the pattern and colour sequence of the design, rubber binds are wound tightly to reserve areas that are to be kept from absorbing the colour that the yarn is to be dyed in. To attain the complete dyed colour layout, the yarn undergoes a number of stages of dyeing and resist tying, and dyeing again.

Telia Rumal: Colour reduction process (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The warp is dyed in the specific desired colour and left to dry.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Once dry, the dyed part is tied with rubber strips to prevent the next colour to be absorbed. The (non-dyed) white portion on the warp is now dyed with the second colour.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The dyed warp is then treated in acetic acid and starch solution.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

This treatment helps fix the colours and give the yarn the stiffness it requires.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The warp is then taken outside and tied under tension for it to dry.

Telia Rumal: Dying thread before weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The dyed yard is dried in this manner before the process of weaving.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Checking the warp and counting the threads

Once the warp threads are dry, the weaver counts the number of threads and mends the broken threads. 

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

This is a crucial step to ensure the design remains intact.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The warp design is checked before it is put on the loom.

Telia Rumal: Weft preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Setting the weft

The mastery of the craft is in visualising a design and translating it through abstraction to its constituent warp and weft elements. Complex and precise calculation is then required, corresponding to which the yarn must be skilfully tied to resist the dyes it is processed with, in a painstaking and iterative process.

Telia Rumal: Weft preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

For a double ikat fabric like Telia Rumal, the weft also has to be tied and dyed. But this does not happen until the warp is on the loom and the plain heading is woven to ensure that accurate measurements can be taken for the placement of design.

Telia Rumal: Weft preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The weft is wound out on a semi-circular frame with a central peg and many nails on the rim. Sufficient repeats of the design are wound to enable the entire warp to be woven.

Telia Rumal: Ikat weaving (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

After washing and drying, the weft is wound out on cylinders and then onto bobbins for the weaving shuttles.

Telia Rumal: Warp on the loom (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Weaving process

Weaving a Telia Rumal needs a great amount of practice and perfection for the warp and weft to be meticulously converted into an artistic design. The number of motifs makes it more complex and difficult to weave. Only three colours are traditionally used – red, black and white in geometrical designs.

Telia Rumal: Weaving a Telia Rumal (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

As the weaver weaves the pattern emerges on the loom that has been tied and dyed according to a pre-arranged design.

Telia Rumal: Ikat weaver at her loom (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Fly shuttle pit looms called Maggam, made of teak wood, are used for weaving.

The loom is an important part of the home. Various weaving and support activities are carried out by different members of the family.

Telia Rumal: Warp on the loom (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The resist dyed ikat warp is unwrapped as the weaving progresses on the loom.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

'Double ikat' fabrics have resist dyed yarn in both warp and weft, and the pattern emerges from an interaction of these on the loom. Thus, this style of weaving requires skill and precision.

The more complex the design and the greater number of colours involved, the more demanding is the textile at each stage of its creation.

Telia Rumal: Warp preparation (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The number of motifs makes it more complex and difficult to weave, like this resist dyed yarn in the Narikunji design.

Telia Rumal: End piecing (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The weavers also have to join the ends of the new warp to those of the previous ones on the loom.

Telia Rumal: End piecing (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Detail of the ends of a new warp being joined to those of the existing warp on the loom.

Each of the warp and weft threads are individually positioned on the loom prior to weaving, hence, it is crucial for the weaver to ensure precision.

Telia Rumal: End piecing (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

For a fabric with the width of a sari, this process can take about four hours.

Telia Rumal: Ikat textiles (2017)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Finishing process

Once the weaving process is complete, the finished pieces are starched, ironed and sent for sale. Only a couple of weavers from the Padmashali community are currently practicing this exquisite craft in the village of Puttapaka. The weavers make a variety of products like saris, dupattas, stoles and home furnishings.

Telia Rumal: Double ikat sari (Contemporary) by MallikarjunaDastkari Haat Samiti

Once the weaving process is complete, the finished pieces are starched, ironed and sent for sale.

Telia Rumal: detail of a double ikat sari (Contemporary)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Weaving a Telia Rumal needs great amount of practice and perfection, for the warp and weft to be meticulously converted to an artistic design.

Block printed Stole Block printed Stole by Gajam GovardhanaDastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about the art of Telia Rumal here:

- Telia Rumal
- Weaving Ikat

The Weaving Community
Credits: Story

Text: Aloka Hiremath, Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisan: Gajam Govardhan and associated weavers
Ground Facilitator: Shalini Shashi
Documentary Video: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
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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