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Handweaving in India

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

A few weeks back I received a request for information about the beautiful textiles on the back wall of the studio in the videos. Laurel asked if I could share some information about them…. how they were woven, where I found them, interesting facts about them and about my travels.

Handweaving in India: some of the beautiful handwoven samples on display in the JST Textiles studio

What a great idea… those textiles are hanging on the wall because they provide me with more inspiration than I could use in a lifetime and they are all woven in India.

In 2011 I was invited by Charlotte Kwon of Maiwa Handprints in Vancouver to go to India and assist as a weaving facilitator at a Masterclass she was hosting in a village some hours north of Calcutta. That trip changed my life in more ways than I can say. I have been back to India several times since and have also worked in Ethiopia. I’m actually going back to Ethiopia in March to continue working with some of the very fine weavers at Sabahar and I’ll certainly post about that little adventure.

Going to India confirmed what I have always believed…..that we can weave the most beautiful fabrics on the simplest of looms. If our technique is top notch and we train our hands and eyes we can accomplish great things. If we question our beliefs about right and wrong (or it must be done this way) we come to understand that there are a million ways to approach things and everyone needs to embrace what works for them and that is dependent on the resources we have on hand.

There are 8 million handweavers working in India every single day. Their use of pattern is like a language, it has great cultural meaning and is miles deep. The fabrics created are extremely different between villages, regions and states. This means you could spend a lifetime learning about cloth in India.

I could go on and on but I think I’ll start with the warping process in the first village I was in. I’ll add a new post every other post.

Remember, in rural India weaving is a village affair, imagine walking into a village where 1000’s of weavers are busy at work. I was in heaven.

A simple 2 shaft pit loom. Notice that the beams are all made from giant bamboo. The weavers sit on the ground with their feet in a dugout where the treadles are.

Handweaving Around the World: India

This is a reeled silk warp being prepared. In this village they start by making a gigantic sectionally wound warp and the warping reel will hold warp for many looms. Once it is all on, the weavers bring their thread beams in and wind off enough for their sari or whatever they are weaving.

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

The thread beams and harnesses are taken outside when there is bright sunlight to thread them.

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Then the beam and harnesses go back onto the loom where they are sleyed and weaving begins.

What a blast!

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Hope you’ll come back for more.

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Handweaving in India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

12 thoughts on “Handweaving in India

  1. What a experience to be able to go and see this and share. The woven items are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. FYI Charlotte Kwon of Maiwa Handprints is planning another textile trip to India in Jan 2020 though I think applications to travel with her may be closed now.

  3. Interesting heddles…. I’m assuming string and painted to outline the eye….is this right?

    1. Hi Dianne,
      Yes that is correct.

  4. Amazing skills on such simple looms.
    I was also just on the Sabahar website, beautiful work and what a great organization. Have a wonderful trip!

  5. Love this Jane!
    What is laughing at in the last picture?

  6. Thanks Jane…and I’m looking forward to finding out more. I too had been fascinated by the fabrics in the background. So glad you’re able to tell us about their origins..

  7. Such lovely work they can do on simple tools.
    The pictures you showed were great.
    What a wonderful trip you will have, we all look forward to hearing about it
    in your posts.
    Have a great trip.

  8. Fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. Thank you for sharing. Wish I were going along on your trip to Ethiopia.
    I know you’ll have a great experience.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this experience. I sure wish I was adventurous, I will travel vicariously through you! ❤️

  11. Hi Jane, Really look forward to hearing you speak about your travels at the OHS conference in October.

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