Ikat explained pictorially

Rajesh Pamnani’s photo booklet on Pochampally ikat explains the weaving process, from yarn to fabric

Published - January 16, 2018 03:17 pm IST - Hyderabad

 A weaver working on a pit loom

A weaver working on a pit loom

The increased discussion on handlooms, we assume, has brought in more awareness and helped people distinguish different weaves and techniques. And, out of the blue someone asks ‘is ikat a print or a weave?’

Information is available in public domain, through published books and online, on the evolution of ikat, its different types across the world and in India. Occasionally, in handloom melas or even at Hyderabad Literature Festival in 2017, a weaver from Pochampally was brought in to demonstrate ikat weaving on a pit loom and explain to anyone who might be interested, the process of making ikat — right from the preparation of yarn.

Understanding that despite the availability of information, there’s still a window to explain the process to people in an easy-to-follow pictorial method, Hyderabad-based photographer Rajesh Pamnani worked on ‘Ikat: The soul of the ethnic fabric’. The pictorial book was printed by Telangana Tourism and circulated to guests attending select sessions at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017.

While the wider printing and circulation of this book is still in process, Pamnani has decided to unveil his work on his website (pamnani.info) and the 32-page booklet can be downloaded for free in pdf format.

Pamnani has been visiting Pochampally for nearly 25 years, first as a student, bird watcher and budding photographer and of late to help his daughter and designer Sonal Pamnani source fabric from the region.

When he looked around, he found books detailing the Indonesian ikat methods but relatively less information on Indian ikat — spread across Orissa, Gujarat and Telangana. Once he decided to focus on Pochampally ikat from Telangana, he and his staff spent three months in the region, documenting the ikat process from the yarn to the fabric.

“When I visited Pochampally in the 80s, I would easily spot at least 2000 to 3000 looms in the villages. There are fewer looms today, mostly worked on by middle aged weavers since the younger generation has taken on other jobs in the city,” says Pamnani.

‘Ikat: The soul of the ethnic fabric’ begins with a brief account of ikat’s history in India, Indonesia, Japan and later in Europe.

Pamnani answers the question ‘why is ikat unique’ as he takes us into homes of weavers. “Their life revolves around weaving,” he states. A cluster of 80 villages in Pochampally have mastered the art of weaving ikat which involves ‘resist dyeing of yarn’ as opposed to ‘resist dyeing the cloth in bandhani and batik’ to achieve specific patterns. Koyalagudam is one of the busiest weaving villages and makes thousands of metres of ikat each month.

The book details every step pictorially. It begins with drawing the design on paper, working it out on graph paper to get precise measurements. A master weaver then translates this design to the warp and weft.A charka is used to wind the yarn on the bobbin (warp) and pirn (weft).

 Preparing the weft yarn using a charka

Preparing the weft yarn using a charka

The warping machine or aasu is used to prepare the warp yarn while the weft yarn is done on the chitik frame.The photo journey proceeds to explain the interlacing of warp and weft to make the fabric using a pit loom and also the dyeing process. An infographic shows the evolution of pit loom.

 Preparing the weft yarn using a chitik frame

Preparing the weft yarn using a chitik frame

Pamnani feels his ikat journey has scope for further research. “I was curious to know the meaning of the different motifs. For example a wave-like pattern indicates water. When I began to question the growth of each design many weavers didn’t have the answers. Maybe that’s an area I can further explore,” he says.

(‘Ikat: The soul of the ethnic fabric’ can be accessed on pamnani.info)

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