Indian Handloom :
Handlooms are fundamentally different from power looms. Motion of the handloom is operated by skilful human hands, without using any source of energy like electricity, water, air or sun to drive the motion of the loom.
Fabric is woven on a handloom by interlacing of warp, running length-wise and weft or filling, running width-wise. Warp threads are raised and lowered by manual shedding motion to form shed. Through this shed, the shuttle is passed carrying across the weft thread which is beaten against the woven fabric by the movable comb like frame or reed. When the heddle is shifted, the two sets of warp reverse position, binding the weft into the fabric and opening other shed.
Handloom weaving involves three Primary Motions i.e. Shedding, Picking and Beating. Shedding motion separates warp threads, according to pattern to allow for weft insertions or picking prior to beating. Picking is the operation wherein after the shed has been formed, the length of weft is inserted through the shed. As soon as a weft yarn is inserted, the reed pushes or beats up the weft to the fell of the cloth. All the three motions are carried out by the weaver manually for weaving of the fabric by interlacement of warp and weft.
Loom is the basic equipment for hand weaving. Broadly speaking, based on their structure and technique of working, the handlooms are classified into four main groups namely primitive looms, pit looms, frame looms, and semi-automatic looms.
In these are included all looms where weft is threaded by hand for interlacing the warp ends. These also include vertical looms like some of the woolen blanket looms, durree looms, newar looms and tape looms.
Two types of Pit Looms are in operation. One is throw-shuttle pit loom and another is fly-shuttle pit loom.
Throw-Shuttle Pit Looms:
Until the invention of the fly-shuttle slay in England in the 18th century, the throw-shuttle pit loom was the most commonly used loom.
Fly-Shuttle Pit Looms:
The fly shuttle pit loom produces three to four times more cloth than the throw-shuttle one and it has all the advantages of a throw-shuttle pit loom except the weaving of intricate extra weft patterns. This loom has enabled the handloom industry to capture a section of the market steadily with hand-woven products like colour bed sheets, towels, handkerchiefs, door curtains, bedcovers, quilt cloth, colour shirting cloth, napkins, etc.
Frame looms are useful for production of designed fabrics like bedsheets, heavy furnishings, towels, dress material, striped and check material, bed covers, gauze cloth, etc. as in Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, etc. Also woven on the frame loom are ordinary saris with plain border, saris with extra warp and cross border designs.
There are two types of semi-automatic looms, namely, sley motion type and treadle type. The sley motion type is the one in which all primary and other motions are effected by the movement of the sley except for picking which is done separately by hand. In the treadle type, all primary and other motions are effected by treading.
4.33 million Handloom weavers are spread across India’s varied climatic and cultural zones. Of the 2.38 million handlooms that are installed in India, majority are modified making weaving less effortful and more versatile.
Strengths of Handloom sector
Flexibility of small production, openness to innovation and adaptability to supplier’s requirements.
Caters to all sections and offers a range that suits every strata of society.
Good export potential along with negligible import content.
High labour intensity providing employment opportunities to 4.33 million people.
Low capital – output ratio.
weaving of every design and construction.
Accounts for 12% of the total cloth produced in the country.
Weaves from a range of fibres like cotton, silk, jute, wool, synthetic blends
Unique where tradition gets woven with modern.
Intensive efforts are being made by the Office of the Development Commissioner for Handlooms, Government of India to upgrade the hand weaving technology in terms of weaver’s comfort, productivity and quality. A large number of Handloom Weavers’ co-operative societies too are constantly at work to improve the quality and working conditions for hand weaving. Nine Indian Institutes of Handloom Technology located across India impart specialised training in handloom weaving to the Gen next to ensure continuity of hand weaving heritage.
India has more than 500 specialised handloom weaving clusters spread across the country. Responding to the changing consumer demand in the modern world, handloom weaving in India is evolving each day. If Madras Check, Cheesecloth and Seersucker, became a craze in the Western world in the 1960′s and 1970′s, several characteristic innovations like heavy casement, recycled rugs and jacquard woven fabrics in thick cotton and silk fabrics are a popular choice today. Celebrities and designers globally continue to make a fashion statement around Indian handlooms.
Today Indian hand weavers offer vast range of decorative and furnishing fabrics for homes in cotton and silk. They have become global style statements. Over 50% of India’s hand woven exports consist of home textile products like bed linen, curtains, table & kitchen linen, cushion covers and durries.
It is difficult to distinguish a handwoven fabric from a machine woven fabric. Therefore, in order to stamp the authenticity of handwoven textiles, the Government of India has introduced “Handloom Mark”.