Craftsmen of Natural Color Ikats in India

Feb 2012

One of the villages I was most looking forward to visiting on this trip was the weaving village of Ponchampally outside Hyderabad. Using age old techniques for the natural dying and weaving of ikat fabrics, it was a visual feast for someone who spent twenty years in the fabric design business.

As always, we are cheerfully greeted by the village children, curious about what two blond women are doing there and anxious to practice their English. The joy I get from them is immediate and long lasting.

Using a variety of plants and flowers to achieve his subtle hues, the artisan can achieve all colors of the rainbow. Marigolds, pomegranate & indigo are just a few of the types of seeds, bark, pods and full plants used in different combinations for the process.

The potions are boiled to bring out the true colors, and the dyes are set using either allum or sodium bicarbonate. Marigolds are responsible for the golden yellow above and below.

Patterns are made by wrapping rubber bands around the area he wants to preserve yellow when it goes into the next dye bath.

This process is continued until all the colors and wrapping are complete. All his digits come in extremely handy.

The dyed yarn is then woven into fabric, usually for a pre existing clients order. Production is slow and meticulous.

This is one of the finished wefts ready to be put on the loom.

The labor intensive, hand-crafted nature of the process insures that even when a pattern is repeated, all yardage is unique and individual. Slight variations add to the charm of the fabric. The finished product is a labor of love, sure to be treasured for generations to come.