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Process of Power Loom Weaving

The owners in the small houses consisting of two to three rooms are installing the power looms to meet the demand by increasing their supply to the market. Initially the most widely used technique was handloom but this trend is declining as the handlooms are being replaced with the power looms due to the technological advancement plus the rise in demand. According to one of the owner: the Lahore, Karachi and somewhat Hyderabad have a big market of buyers. The raw material (cocoons) used in the production of banarasi cloth is imported from China whereas the thread use for the production is manufactured in this place. There are very few places in Karachi where the banarsi cloth is manufacture (weaved).

After deciding the fabric, the threads will be selected with the preferred color. The process goes further with the selection of thread count (it is a unit of textile measurement, used for measuring the thickness or fineness of fabric) the worker set the number of threads along two sides (up and across) of the square inch. Higher the thread count, finer the fabric is.

Now the weaving starts; today this process is mostly automated for mass production. In it, two distinct sets of yarns called the warp and the filling or weft are interlaced with each other to form a fabric. The lengthwise yarns, which run from the back to the front of the loom, are called the warp. The crosswise yarns are the filling or weft. A loom is a device for holding the warp threads in place while the filling threads are woven through them. It is about interlacing of two sets; warp (taana) and weft (baana), at right angles to produce the cloth. Warp is the base of the fabric, which is first made by tuning the desired count of reed and then spinning the thread. Because the warp is held under high tension during the entire process of weaving therefore warp yarn must be strong. The filling yarns (weft) experience less strain during the weaving process. Their preparation includes spinning them to the required size and giving them just the right amount of twist desired for the kind of fabric they will be used. Reed is a comb like structure with small dents in it from which threads are passing. Larger the gap between the reed count means the finest is the banarsi fabric.

After Warp the next process is making weft. Weft process starts with the selection of thread then placing these threads on wooden shuttles (bobbin). The process of weft completed when the design (naqsha) that needs to be on banarsi fabric is created on the graph paper in order to control the size of the motives. Then these designs are re-drawn on these punch cards, the machine reads the design on the punch card and the weft is weaved according to the design.

Several kannis or little wooden shuttles of different colors are used for a single weft line of the fabric and for the naqsha weaving. The most popular colors in the making of weft are zard, sufed, mushki, ferozi, ingari, uda gulnar and kirmiz. The number of threads used in a banarasi fabric can easily be counted with a simple formula that is No. of reed use x Total length of the fabric.

While talking to the loom owner, he explained that the hiking prices in a raw material such as cocoons by 3% are negatively affecting their business. Therefore the quality of silk has decreased due to the modern pressures of cost benefits and mass production. Pure silk is no longer a feasible option for most weavers, who now employ a mix thread of silk combined with other mixed yarns including silk and wool, silk and cotton, silk and viscose.

The effect achieved after the cloth is woven resembles that of embroidery. Therefore, the banarasi weaving technique is often defined as ‘embroidery weaving’ or ‘loom embroidery’. This technique can also be applied on other fibres but banarasi is generally restricted to rich silk threads. Currently, any of the major textile fibres may be used in a wide range of quality and price.

Currently, the motifs and patterns of banarasi have evolved tremendously from the old times. The big size and the bold motifs that are the remnant of the past civilizations are missing in today’s banarasi designs. The currently used motifs and patterns (floral, paisleys, butis, etc.) display greater intricacy as compared to the boldness observed in previous times. Even the compositions have changed as less space between the motifs is observed compared to the past designs. According to the wholesalers for the local market, the removal of figurative motifs diminishes all risks in its sales. However, even though old banarasi motifs have changed, the concept of incorporating gold and silver threads in the construction of the banarasi cloth can still be seen, though on a smaller scale.

In order to maintain harmony and correlation between motifs, certain geometrical patterns are common. The most common of them being chevron, checks, straight or diagonal lines, mothra (a double line containing a simple or running pattern inside) and so forth. The natural forms are woven in a highly decorative and stylize manner. After assimilating the essence of a pattern, the designer implements their own interpretation of it. Thus, a leaf can evolve into a flower or a bird form. Decorative motifs like the leaf, flower, fruits, creeper, etc. are used to maintain the symmetry of the pattern.

The market for pure silk has also gotten limited due to ever increasing prices of the raw materials, thus primarily only designers use pure silk in their work (importing cocoons from China and then weaving the cloth). Modern Power looms have replaced much of the hand-made craftsmanship of the weavers and while they can easily satisfy the demands of the times, the quality that jamawar was once famous for is not the same anymore because of this mass production method.

The quality of banarasi has decreased due to the modern pressures of cost benefits and mass production. Pure silk is no longer a feasible option for most weavers, who now employ a mix thread of silk combined with other mixed yarns including silk and wool, silk and cotton, silk and viscose. In areas even where these weavers still employ pure silk, they are making only razor thin profits and thus most have discontinued the work by not training new workers and letting the family owned businesses die out, as offspring choose alternative professions to follow. The reason for the low profits of weavers has to do with the supply chain. Makers of banarasi have to keep their costs low to sell to the majority of the consumers who cannot afford the cloth at higher prices. This means that the weaver suffers most, since they come last in the supply chain and cannot afford to be out of work and plus cannot dictate the price at which they will weave the cloth due to the almost monopoly of the few fixed designers cum wholesalers who dictate the market.

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