Java cotton is obtained from the kapok tree

Weavers of Anakaputhur, majority of them women, launched a saree made of kapok on International Women’s Day. Kapok (Ceiba pentandra), also called Java cotton, is the fibre obtained from the kapok tree. The inelastic fibre is too brittle for spinning but it is one-eighth of cotton’s weight.

The weavers say they had to put in a lot of effort to keep the quality intact, without using machines. Since weaving the saree involved multiple fibres, three weavers spent a whole week on it. Tougher still was to source all these fibres which came from different places. There are about 90 members in the weavers’ organisation. Women constitute 90 per cent.

According to C. Sekar, president of Anakaputhur Jute Weavers Association, dresses woven out of natural fibres are in great demand inside and outside India. Kapok fibres are purchased in bulk from growers in Erode district and are cleaned in a simple bleaching process. “After a very delicate process of cleaning the fibre, they are woven into fabrics like any other material,” Mr. Sekar said.

Launching the saree on Saturday, Divia Patel, Curator, South Asia, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, appreciated the efforts of women weavers in making their economy stable. She said using natural fibre was a lesser known skill in garment making in India, and she had purchased one for the museum.

K. Lakshmi, Manager, Indian Overseas Bank, Anakaputhur branch, said the bank had been lending support to the weavers. Prompt repayment by them had allowed the bank to extend more credit to them.

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