5 reasons why you are going to love handloomed fabric.

i'll be honest: i didn't know much about hand loomed fabric before going to india. once i saw men and women there wearing
these drapey fabrics that looked ethereal and light and worn and soft, i was curious.
and then i learned about what it takes to make it-- truly by hand.
the process is honest and artistic and wonderfully slow.

 

men in jaipur india walking in the market with hand loom traditional dhoti and lungi

i fell for the handloom and the weavers who steer it. we placed a big order a few weeks ago for hand loomed fabric
and i can't really wrap my head around the idea that artists are spending their days right now crafting this lovely
fabric for us. for you!
i wrote about these weavers last year while we were visiting india.

 

handloom fabrics and textiles from maheshwar india - soon to be kaftan form
ONE
the process is beautiful. it relies on the natural world: the earth, the sun and water.

 

a handloom uses human power-- no electricity-- to manually weave a fabric: weaving warp and weft yarns together.
this is how it's been done for as long as we know fabric to have existed.

 

hanks of yarn for hand loom weaving in india

first, hanks of yarn are dyed in the village in small batches. the yarn is then warped, or formed into lines, typically over a barrel,

as they'll be set up for the actual fabric.

warping yarn to prepare for handloom weaving in india

 

it is then typically brought out into the street by 3 or 4 people where it is "sized." the yarns are stretched sometimes a city block where a starch is applied to the yarns to prep it for weaving.

 

yarns stretched in india for handloom weaving

the starch is made with rice or potato starch and natural oils and is painted onto the yarn where it then dries in the sun.

it washes off eventually, but helps make the yarn easily weavable and protect it during the weaving process.

 

starching yarns to prep for handloom weaving in india

handloom weaving yarn stretching in india

 these "warp" yarns are then dressed and aligned, meaning every single yarn in a length of fabric is lined up and

placed by hand-- hundreds of threads-- so it is ready for yarns to be woven in.

 indian handloom

 

the hand loom itself is a contraption of wooden beams, ropes, weighted sacks and pulleys. once the warp is placed on thewooden loom, the act of weaving begins. a wooden shuttle acts like a needle to weave in yarns throughout-- the weft--creating the fabric. each thread is pushed through by hand via the shuttle. each one.

 

weights and yarns on the hand loom in central india shuttle on handloom in india weaving cotton textiles

 

this is where design comes into play-- creating ikats by intricately placed yarns that have been tied and dyed, creating texture using different yarn thickness (our hand loomed box weave used on the eze caftan is made in this way), using several shuttles for different designs on the borders. it gets quite complex. jamdani, a technique we are using in our next collection, involves small motifs throughout the material. each motif is woven into the loom by hand at precise intervals. this takes huge skill and requires a lot of time and patience.

 

handloom cotton in india the mighty hand loom in india creating heritage textiles and fabric

 

the fabric isn't perfect. you'll see little specs that get woven into the fabric. the looms aren't in a sterile factory-- they're in open air workshop. things in the air get woven in. i love this. 

once the yarn comes to end, it must be tied to another length of yarn. each and every yarn-- thousands in a piece of fabric. the weaver's fingers have a mind of their own as they tie tiny knots one after another with such speed, i didn't believe they were tying knots. it looks like they are playing guitar on the yarns. incredible.

the result is a richness that you can't replicate with a machine.

 

 

TWO

 

it's soft. the human handling in the process helps make give it the softest hand.

yet it's durable. yarns are stretched the way they are on a machine, so they aren't as "tired" when they are stitched into clothing. 

 

handloomed ikat el tule kaftan from mirth

THREE

by supporting the industry directly through the weavers, you're helping to sustain it.
the sad truth is that this art is dying. the reasons are complex, but suffice it to say that the speed and low labor cost of machines is defeating the handloom industry in india. the industry itself is plagued with problems, fair wages to name one. often weavers work out of their home-- it is very much an off the grid industry, which further makes regulation difficult. there are quite a few government and private efforts attempting to solve some of these problems and keep the industry alive, but it is a long road.

 

yarn for handloom in india

MIRTH sources handloom fabrics only from sources who practice ethical methods. our source in central india provides training, good wages and conditions and career opportunities for women. they operate a hand loom school in the community to further help sustain-- they aim to keep the art modern and exciting for the next generation.

 

handlooming has a direct connection to the culture and people of each community. there are countless styles
and forms of fabric design native to regions all over india, and the world. the aesthetic and the skill is handed down in families
and has been for centuries. handloomed fabric is stories. it is history, family and culture in material form.

 

 el tule ikat kaftan and coverup by mirth caftans in handloomed cotton

FOUR

it only gets better.

wash it, wear it, throw it in your bag, jump in a pool wearing it, dry it on the porch... it keeps getting softer and draper. we prewash our handloomed fabric with natural enzymes to make them super soft once they are stitched into caftans. but they only get better. still, treat them gently as they are loosely woven, but they will stand the test of time.

 

handloomed fabric from mirth caftans

FIVE

it keeps you cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather. the yarns are woven somewhat more loosely, making it possible for air to filter in and out. this creates the unique air like quality and breathability.

there's s reason it's been around for thousands of years. the qualities are really unique and special for a fabric. 

handloomed fabric is a huge part of MIRTH. we encourage you to try it, understand it and love it like we do.

 

 

January 28, 2016 by Katie McClure
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