At a recent seminar, the significance of the Handloom Mark Scheme was elucidated for students.

A sea of eager, intent young faces greeted the visitor at the auditorium of the Dr. MGR Janaki College of Arts and Science for Women. After the welcome address by A. Periasamy, QAO, Textiles Committee, M. Vasanthakumar, deputy director, held forth on the significance of the Handloom Mark Scheme launched in 2006 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the promotion of the handloom industry.

The mark provides recognition and collective identity to handloom products and is aimed at improving the livelihood of handloom workers. The Handloom Mark is a label issued by the office of the Development Commissioner for Handloom, the implementation agency being the Textiles Committee, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. It distinguishes hand woven fabric which is characterised by several unique features.

The mark is in two forms - one for domestic use and the other for international marketing. Woven designer labels in black with a choice of blue/ red logo are reserved for elite, high end handloom products.

Created by the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, the design of the logo is derived from the concept of interlocking threads of the warp and the weft which close to form a three dimensional cube. The threads signify the collaborative institutes giving their input and the artisans contributing their skills. Made from taffeta, the labels measure 1"x2' and are made available in batches at nominal cost to individual weavers, apex and primary handloom weaving cooperative societies, Handloom Development Corporations, retailers and exporters on due application and registration.

To prevent misuse of the scheme, registration is permitted only after onsite inspection of applicants' weaving facilities and products. Only genuine handloom products are authorised to display the mark. The mark is also available as printed art card labels.

The objectives of the scheme include giving assurance to consumers about the genuineness of product origin, promotion and price realisation of hand-woven products in domestic and international markets and facilitation of higher earnings with uninterrupted work flow throughout the year to weavers.

P. Thennarasu, deputy director, Weaver's Service Centre (WSC), explained that the Handloom Mark is a definitive symbol of hand-woven textiles. Aimed at imparting textile skills, the WSC has so far trained students from 17 city colleges under internship programmes in weaving, dyeing, (vegetable dyes) Batik and block printing. Usha Krishnan, director of the Dr. MGR Janaki College of Arts and Science for Women, and Dr. R. Manimekalai, principal observed that the strength of handloom lies in producing innovative designs.

“The recent initiative by the Textiles Committee to create awareness among students about the Indian handloom industry in general and about the Handloom Mark Scheme in particular through seminars has been widely welcomed. They are held at three colleges in every city that has a Textile Committee office. The discussion is followed by an elocution competition in which the prizes awarded are handloom products,” said Vasanthakumar. In Chennai, the venues chosen were Ethiraj, Dr. MGR Janaki and Stella Maris colleges.

"In view of the challenges students face in the job market once they graduate, we have integrated a certificate course in the second year and an employability course in the third year of all Bachelor courses. With options that include vermin-culture, textile and block printing, the students are given an opportunity to focus on their areas of interest and equip themselves for jobs as well as self-employment ventures. The handloom mark awareness program will greatly benefit students who plan to specialize in textiles,” added Manimekalai.

There was plenty of positive feedback from the students. "Many of us buy cotton textiles, but do not know the difference between handloom and power loom products. This seminar has been an eye opener in revealing, for instance, that there is one form of the mark for products sold in India and another for export products,” said R. Divya (BBA). N. Dilli Rani (B.Com, C.S) chimed in, “Now that I know more about the artisan’s effort and creativity that goes into handlooms, I shall buy hand woven fabrics at least once a year.”

THE USP OF HANDLOOM

Handloom textiles can be distinguished from power loom fabrics. The following features are unique to handloom:

*Texture speaks. Handlooms are soft to the touch, while power loom fabrics tend to have a rougher feel.

*There is no uniformity in weave. Variations and uneven finish are part of the charm.

*More threads per inch of woven fabric.

*When held vertically against the light, the reed marks stand out. (The reed is an implement in the loom that separates the threads in the warp and holds them in position during weaving).

* There are no oil stains. (In power loom, the oil used on steel machinery stains the fabric).

*Fabric edge is slightly wavy and uneven.

*Corresponding pin marks pierce the top and bottom edge of fabric at regular intervals, indicating the spots where fabric has been pinned to the wooden loom to maintain tension while weaving.

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