The story of the beautiful fabric - Handlooms

The story of the beautiful fabric - Handlooms
15 January, 2020

The term ‘handloom’ is a pretty well-known word for almost everyone now. Handloom is actually a loom or you can say a wooden frame that is operated by skilled artisans for weaving fabrics out of cotton, silk, linen etc. There is no use of electricity and automated machinery in handloom weaving and that is what makes the fabric different from the rest. It is entirely a hand done process carried out on the frame or pit looms using the weavers’ skill sets and at the weavers’ place. Weaving handloom mainly involves the interlacing of the two sets of yarns that is the weft or the width and the warp that is the length. 

Do you think Khadi & Handloom are same? Not really! Here’s how they differ. 

The difference is simple. Fabrics that are woven with handspun yarn know as khadi and fabrics that are woven out of mill spun or machine spun yarns are known as handloom. 

Benefits of using handloom fabric

Do you know the secret behind the soft, durable and comfortable texture of handloom? It’s the human handling and weaving of the yarns because of which the yarns and ultimately the fabric is less damaged and stressed. This light and caring weaving process also make hand-woven fabric more breathable as compared to the mill woven variety. This clearly implies that the fabric allows air penetration thereby making it softer, cooler, and absorbent - a perfect option to stay cool in summers and feel warm in winters. Hand woven fabric also has less carbon foot print and is more of a eco-friendly option to go for.

Spinning process of Handlooms

Yarn or thread is spun in two different ways - by hands or using a mechanical process and then again handwoven. Fibres are pulled out and are then given a twist to form yarns using the hand spinning technique. The resultant thread may vary in terms of texture and quality according to the used materials, the length of the fibres, the quantity used, the degree of twist, and the alignment. The thickness of the yarn also differs and it depends on the spinner’s skills and expertise over the work. Expert spinners will always spin the finest yarn counts. 

Mechanized spinning: - 

Machines are also used for spinning yarns. In this method of spinning, the yarns are spun in the spinning mills where the other activities like cleaning, de-seeding, and ginning are performed. The yarns are spun to the cone-shaped holders. These are termed as the cone yarns. The yarns that are spun on machines are known as the mill spun yarns and the fabrics that are woven on hand looms using the mill spun yarns are referred to as the handloom fabrics. Fabric woven using the handspun yarns on the handloom are the ‘khadi’ fabric. No matter what are the mechanized spinning techniques, most of the weavers weave handloom fabrics using the mill spun yarns today. Fabrics that are woven out of the handspun threads are rarely found now. 

Drafting plan: -

It is primary pre-loom process where the warp yarn is drawn through the eye of the heald frames as per the design. And the plan that indicates how this drafting has to be done is known as the drafting plan. It denotes the exact number of the heald shafts needed for the given weave repeat.

Denting plan: -

After drafting, denting is done or often simultaneously. Denting is the process with which the warp yarns are inserted and are passed through the dents of reed. And the plan, which indicates the order of carrying out this process, is known as the denting plan. Generally, two threads are passed through each of the dents.

Yarn Count: - 

Yarns or threads are the long interlocked fibres. Yarns of different thicknesses are spun depending on the staple length of the fibre. This is known as the yarn count. The thicker yarns or threads are referred to as the coarse counts whereas the thinner yarns or threads are termed as the fine counts. Numbers are given to the yarns according to their thicknesses. The thinner ones are given higher numbers whereas the thicker ones are given the lower numbers. For instance, the 60’s count threads are thinners than the 40’s count yarns. However there are different Yarn Count Systems.

Hank Yarn: - 

Yarns, in their hank form, are typically used in the handlooms. A hank is nothing but a specific yarn length, which comes in their coiled form. A hank yarn is approximately 840 yards long and is used in producing handloom, unlike the cone yarn that is used only in the mill production. 

Warping: - 

This process helps to convert the hank yarn to a much linear form for giving the length of the loom. This process is carried out on a big drum that helps to calculate the count of yarns as well as the warp length. 

Street sizing: - 

After warping, the warp is then stretched and the sizing materials are applied for adding strength to the yarns and for lubricating it to cope up with the rigorous weaving process. Natural adhesives like such as maize, rice, flour, wheat, potato starch, etc., are used depending on the region and the availability. Mostly, gruel or rice starch is mixed with coconut or groundnut oil and is then applied as the sizing material. This method of starching the yarns for weaving is termed as sizing. And since this sizing process is carried out on the streets, it is known as ‘street sizing’. 

Loom: - 

Stand loom, pit loom, and frame loom are the three types of looms predominantly used by the handloom weavers.  

Textures in Handweaving: - 

Mill woven fabrics are found to have a different texture than the handwoven fabrics because of the difference in the weaving equipment and the speed of weaving. The quality and thickness of the yarns also create a difference in the texture. And different textures of handloom fabrics are used today for different products like the making of south cotton sarees, mangalgiri yardage, twill fabrics, and more. 

Weft: - 

The weft is the yarn in a fabric that passes across the width of the fabric. Weft yarns are passed through warp yarns for creating the fabric. 

Shuttle: - 

The shuttle is the wooden instrument that is used for carrying the weft warns to weave the fabric. 

Weaving techniques: -

Different techniques are used to weave the fabrics on the loom. There are some basic weaving techniques for making fabrics. Plain weave is one of the most common techniques for weaving fabrics on a pit loom. The variety and designs are created through stripe, check, and texture. The texture is created with yarns of different thicknesses. Checks and stripes are created with different colours on the fabrics. Other wefts and warp techniques are used for creating the designs and patterns on the fabrics too.

Kuppadam: - 

This is a weaving technique that involves three shuttles for creating solid borders and body of the fabrics. 

Petu, Dobby technique: - 

Petu is the extra warp technique, which is also known as the dobby technique. This method is used by the weavers for creating patterns and designs on the borders of dhotis and sarees. 

Jamdani: - 

Jamdani is an extra weft technique and is used for creating patterns and design across the entire fabric. 

Khadi fabric: -

Khadi is one of the most popular fabrics when it comes to comfort and breathability. This fabric is mainly woven in the Khadi Village Industries Commission that is KVIC and is sold through the different outlets of KVIC as well.

Handloom production: -

When it comes to handloom production, the loom is always found in the weaver’s home as the process is carried out there itself. However, in some industries handlooms are now being used for weaving fabrics. But at the same time, it is true that the unmatched quality of the weaver’s homemade handlooms is simply not comparable to the ones woven in the industries.

Different perceptions of handloom: -

Handlooms are used to weave fabrics for centuries. However, with the new inventions in the textile industries and quality of yarns available today, the perception about handlooms has changed a lot today. Now, cotton is also woven on the handlooms, which is not true to some extent as cotton garments are not made from any hand-woven fabrics. Another perception about handlooms is that these fabrics are cheaper as compared to the other expensive fabrics. People who think the same should know how much labour and skill are involved in weaving the fine handloom fabrics.

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