In conversation with Isha Priya Singh, aka Desi Drapes, about the rich handloom of India!

There’s more to Indian handloom than simply just silk and patola and that’s why Isha Priya Singh aka Desi Drape talks to Local Samosa about what handloom actually is, its types, and much more.

No doubt, India is highly rich in handloom, and the types of handwoven fabrics we weave are mind-boggling. We have a plethora of materials, and each one is equally beautiful. To know more about this side of our culture, we decided to chat with Isha Priya Singh, a handloom enthusiast, jewellery designer, and someone who shares her knowledge and love for the Indian handloom culture through her blog, Desi Drapes.

Indian handloom

What handloom is, after all?

Aren’t Chikankaari, Bandhani, and Zardozi all handloom? Well, actually, they are not. There’s definitely confusion, and most of us have mixed the surface ornamentation crafts like Bandhani with Handloom. “Crafts like Zardozi and chikankaari are not handloom. They are handicrafts, hand embroidery, or hand dying if you add Bandhani. Handloom is a technique of weaving fabric by hand. On the other hand, these surface ornamentation crafts can be done on these fabrics even if it is not handwoven”, said Isha, aka Desi Drapes.

Handloom is a handwoven process and uses a loom (a device) that’s used to weave a fabric itself by hand. Unlike power looms (which use electricity), every thread has to pass by human hands, and every inch of fabric is woven by the feet and hands of humans.

The rich culture of Handloom in India

Almost every state has its own unique handloom. Be it Maharashtra’s Paithani sarees, MP’s Chanderi silk, Andhra Pradesh’s Kalamkari, or Assam’s Muga Silk, the variety India as a country has, is hard to find anywhere else. “Different parts of the country produce different types of handloom. It’s not possible to know everything, and so even I have to keep reading more and connect with people from these communities. However, Chaṭāpaṭī or Ṭukr̤ī work is my personal favourite. It is created with geometric shapes of fabric–cut, stitched, and embroidered together. It was carried by the craftspeople who migrated from India to Pakistan and is practiced in Pakistan as well.”, she adds.

It’s indeed a blessing that our country is so rich in terms of hand weaves. The handcrafting heritage that we have when it comes to textile is something we should respect. From everyday cotton wear of Odisha and Bengal to lavish and opulent fabrics like kanjivaram and banarasi, the weaves are diverse. “Even Tangaliya, which belongs to Gujarat, is a beautiful handloom. I was fortunate enough to involve in the revival process of the same recently. But Tukdi work is very close to me because it comes from my hometown. I really would like to see it flourish. So far, it’s been restricted to elaborate wedding wear, but I’d love to see it as everyday wear”, she explained.

The advent of machine work and Indian handloom

In the last few years, we have seen the machine work industry flourish to a great extent. A lot of people see it as a competition to the handloom industry and even consider it a threat. But is it actually an issue? Let’s find out. “I feel machine work can exist. It can make beautiful pieces, and there are definitely buyers for it as well. But yes, the sellers should be transparent about their products. They should not misuse the crafts that have taken centuries to reach their refinement and finesse. If it’s a saree that’s been copied from jamdani, then it should be just called a power-loomed made saree. There are different regulations like handloom mark and more, but none of these have succeeded”, said Isha.

Sarees, Ghararas, and more.

The conversation would be incomplete without mentioning handloom sarees and how they play an important role in the Indian handloom culture. It’s a sustainable and versatile outfit that deserves more appreciation. “What is it? A simple long piece of fabric that can be used in different ways. It even stays with you through your size fluctuations and can be repurposed in many ways. You can adjust it as it’s not at all restrictive. It’s something very dear to me”, added Isha while smiling.

Well, we couldn’t agree more. Saree does allow freedom and fluidity, and which’s why it has survived for so many years. But, it’s not just the saree that Isha adores but also the gharara that she loves. “Ghararas are more elaborate garments, and of course, they can be worn as regular wear as well. But I feel the kind of fabric that goes into stitching a gharara and the flare it has, it’s occasion wear”, she mentioned.

Also Read: National Handloom Day: A moment of appreciation for these NGOs promoting the handloom industry!

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