Patolas in Patan, Gujarat. Ikat Weaving by the Masters

My Turkish travels and studies of textiles over the years has led me further afield in search of a broader and deeper understanding of global weaving techniques that enhance and inform my understanding of the regional textiles of Turkey and it’s neighbours. That said, just over a year ago, I had the privilege of traveling with a small group in northwest India visiting the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Judy Frater hosted the group.  Judy is expert in local textiles and involved with the newly launched Somaiya Kala Vidya a training institute for traditional artisans.

The highlight of the travels for me was a visit to a small workshop in Patan, Gujarat where a family of weavers were practicing their complex art of double ikat weaving producing silk wedding saris known as patola.

Double Ikat Patola on the Loom

Double Ikat Patola on the Loom

I had handled and sold the wonderful, powerful and graphic ikat textiles of Central Asia which come onto the Turkish market but I had only studied in textbooks the practice of the double ikat weaving technique of this corner of India. The degree of complexity, precision and the labour intensive nature of this technique is a mind blowing.  This practice of extraordinary mathematical precision where both the warps and wefts are resist dyed in a specific pattern prior to their meeting one another on the loom. In a normal (single) ikat the warps are resist dyed in a pattern, put on the loom and the wefts that are interwoven are of a single colour. The warps in a single ikat provide the pattern of the cloth in a ‘warp-faced’ textile. Here in Patan both warps and wefts are pre dyed and then woven into generally small scale repeating patterns although at this workshop a magnificent old textile was displayed with elephants marching across the field.

The fibre that they weave with is silk and the looms were prepared to weave three sari lengths on each loom, approximately 18 meters in total. If a picture is worth a hundred words hopefully these images will give you some insight into complexity and labour intensive nature of this technique.

 

Warps and wefts wrapped before resist dying

Warps and wefts wrapped before resist dying

 

Wrapped warps and wefts ready for resist dye

Wrapped warps and wefts ready for resist dye

 

Patterned resist dyed warps on the loom

Patterned resist dyed warps on the loom

Silk weft pre dyed on the shuttle.  Wrapped fibres are retracted into the bamboo casing.

Silk weft pre dyed on the shuttle. Wrapped fibres are retracted into the bamboo casing.

 

Two weavers working together

Two weavers working together

 

 

Metal tool used to align the pattern with tiny brushing strokes

Metal tool used to align the pattern with tiny brushing strokes

These weavers were so graciously welcoming and understandably very proud of their skill and focused in their commitment to continuing this age old art.  Here is their contact info if you should find yourself in Gujarat.  I am so thankful not to have missed visiting this workshop.  I was wowed by the process.  Having traveled halfway around the world I was so thrilled to be seeing and learning in the presence of such masters of this weaving technique.

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