How are sarees made?

When I went to Kanchipuram in 2008 I learned how the beautiful sarees, that are bought at huge textiles stores like RMKV or Pothys, are made. It was an amazing experience. We walked into a shack like looking “warehouse”, as it was called, and I was awed to see trained men, women and young children working on the hand looms busy making a Kanchipuram pattu (silk) sarees. I was very devastated that day that I didn’t have my camera at that point. I would’ve been clicking away. I managed to find an apt photo over the web.

This one is a basic hand loom held up by booms of wood and pulleys.

So what is a saree? I cannot put it as professional as my favourite friend the Wiki (Wikipedia)… he does the job well…

sari or saree is a strip of unstitched cloth, worn by females, ranging from four to nine yards in length that is draped over the body in various styles.It is popular in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bhurma, Malaysia, and Singapore. The most common style is for the sari to be wrapped around the waist, with one end then draped over the shoulder baring the midriff.

The sari is usually worn over a petticoat with a blouse forming the upper garment. The blouse has short sleeves and a low neck and is usually cropped at the midriff, and as such is particularly well-suited for wear in the sultry South Asian summers. Cholis may be backless or of a halter neck style. These are usually more dressy with plenty of embellishments such as mirrors or embroidery, and may be worn on special occasions.

If I have to start typing about the different kinds and colours of sarees, this blog will never end. Yes, I am serious!! There are a huge variety and collections of sarees that I am still learning about and I myself don’t have that many sarees. You can think of any colour you will find it in the stores of South India. I recently started my collection after I got married in 2008. I am also embarrassed to say this but it took me a very long time to learn the technique  to tie a saree. Especially learning to do the pleats, I have not mastered it yet. I still get help wherever needed. It’s an art to tie a saree.

I have been taught how to tie a 6 yard saree and once only did I wear a 9 yard saree..Oh boy that will take me a lifetime to learn to tie a 9 yard saree the brahmin style. I only wore that once on my wedding day and that’s about it. There are many different ways of tieing a saree within India itself. Each style has its own distinctive dues. 

As you can see in the above photo a man is sitting in the middle of this Piano-look- a- like hand loom. I have seen more basic ones, but this one is so much more sophisticated and intricate. This man is busy making a silk saree at RMKV (a saree textile company). It will take him an estimated 45 days to complete one 6 yard Saree. He must have so much of patience with this loom. If he messes up with one line or strand of silk he has to undo that line again…It looks very complicated. Strands of string-like silk is woven in a row parallel to each other. It all comes together by the roller near where his hands are and he has to use his hands to get the strands together. The weaver has to work meticulously to create the art of work.

“The white strings shown here form part of the web of cords necessary to manipulate each individual thread of design silk. Ultimately, the white strings enable the weaver to integrate certain designs into the body of the saree. The pink strings below are the silk threads that form the actual body of the saree. Located at the far ends of the contraption are finer white cords that manipulate another set of design threads. These white cords enable the weaver to form the intricate border design seen on all fancy silk sarees.” – http://www.dailytravelphotos.com/archive/2010/01/26/

You can see more photos in the above link.

The hand loom work has been done by a specific group of people who have been doing this work over generations. They know the ins and the outs and techniques of the silk or strings and the material. These are the very weavers who can identify the real silk to the fake ones. They do it so fast, it reminded me of of an old granny knitting away… times ten.

When I think about Sarees, the first thing that comes into my mind is festive season and grand Sarees.Well, that’s when you will catch me in a Saree. My mindset is wrong though, there are Sarees made for simple wear and daily house wear.

 

You get Sarees for all kinds of situations, if I can put it in that way! Not only for functions! It is a daily attire for the South Indians. They don’t laze around in their PJ’s. They wear a simple Saree with a mix matched blouse and Chennai bazaar rubber slippers. It is a perfect outfit for that heaty weather. Young women wear  pavadai thaavani (half Sarees) seen in the above photo on left hand side, its a smaller version of a Saree but shorter in width, or panjaabis or chudithaars.

Young men wear kurtha and jippa. Obviously you can get more simpler ones than what you see here for the daily usage.

Well I have not typed about the South Indian men yet but they wear a robe like cloth called Veshti or Lungi and thundu (a cloth for the above part of the body) or simple shirt.

This is a pattu pavadai (blouse and skirt) for young girls ages 1 – 13 after that age they will wear Paavadai thaavani.

I remember when I was living in Chennai, when I was very little, an old woman used to walk around house by house with a bag of kanchipuram pattu (silk) sarees.She will lay a white cloth on the floor first and stack all her hand made Sarees on the cloth, as seen above on the photo. She will open up the Saree and show how the pallu (decoration part of the saree) looks like. I remember she folds it up so quick. My mom bought a few, a maroon and a yellow Saree from that lady. That old tiny lady couldn’t even carry the bag but she managed. She used to hand loom the Sarees with her daughter and sell them. She used to walk miles from her rural village and catch a bus into the city, just to sell her Sarees.

A panoramic view of RMKV bridal wear section. There are many floors of sarees in RMKV Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It is usually not this quiet as you see in the above photo. The shop is buzzled with lots of shoppers moving in and out. You cannot enter the store epspecially during the festive season like Pongal or Deepavali(Diwali). You can see a handloom in the centre of the floor.

If you want to chill in the hotel room in Chennai by watching TV, you will see loads of adverts about Saree with beautiful Traditional South Indian actresses holding lamps with a bridal wear about to enter their marital stage (its an act). Or even when riding around the auto you will see huge billboards of propaganda. The jewellery that goes along with the Sarees are sponsored by jewellers. The jewelleries are absolutely stunning.

Who wouldn’t want to buy a Saree after seeing this advert? or this?

Or when you flip through a Tamil magazine or newspaper you will come across this advert from The Chennai Silks textiles…

Anyways I would like to wrap up my blog with a Saree of my own, which was taken at a function…with my beautiful blue reception Saree hanging over my shoulders  – Regards, Prad

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7 comments

  1. Very informative post on how to make Saree. Nice images. I think a town near Kumbakonam called Thirubuvanam is famous for saree making also. I drove past that town many towns but didnt get a chance to see how its done.

    1. Thanks for your comment Kala. My favourite is the cotton saari, even if I have to wear a “grand” saari it will be on the plain grand not with bead work or other heavy works. They should be light.

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