Thursday, May 6, 2010

I used to wonder what it was about the traditional Gadwal saree that made it so much more expensive than other dressy cotton sarees with zari on silk borders and pallavs. One day about 25 years ago Nazeer Kamal came to visit. He was a powerloom operator from Karnataka. His father had been a handloom weaver in Kurnool and had migrated from there to Sholapur when textile mills were set up in Sholapur the 1950s. Nazeer and his brother lived there as children, and moved to Bellary when the mills closed in the 1980s. Starting as an operator in a powerloom concern, he joined with other operators to make a union and to buy their own powerlooms. Now Nazeer was interested in technique, and what could be done on handlooms that was not possible on mechanized looms.

I opened my cupboard and showed him my heritage sarees, among which were the Gadwals I had inherited from mother and aunts. Nazeer was fascinated, and pointed out the specialty of the Gadwal technique: unlike other sarees in which cotton and silk combine, in the pallav of the Gadwal saree the cotton warp as well as the weft changes from cotton to silk. While it is a simple matter to change the weft, in order to change the warp each of the thousands of single cotton yarns of the warp must be twisted by hand onto a silk warp yarn, for each pair of sarees.

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