Handlooms — The Less Obvious Choice

Photo credits: Igor Ovsyannyko

Many people would term handloom weaving as regressive. ‘Why strive to make textiles by hand when machines can do the exact same thing, that too, faster and better’ they say.

The statement is fair.

Power looms churn out textiles at break neck speeds and when coupled with manmade fibres, have the consistency and quality that is almost impossible to beat.

In contrast, handwoven textiles require much more time in production and bear inconsistencies that are hard to miss. Slubs, lumps and small pieces of thick yarn are all defining traits of the handloom. Each yardage of handloom fabric is distinct and no two thaans can exactly be the same.

It’s only when you wear and compare handloom fabrics to synthetic fibres, you realise the true difference.

There are no two ways about it; natural fabrics, woven by hand, just feel a whole lot better on the skin.

Take handwoven shirts as an example. Made of khadi or cotton, a handloom garment lets the body breathe and feels more soothing to the skin than any other manmade fabric or a synthetic piece of clothing.

Try on a dress, kurta or scarf made with handwoven fabrics in the peak of summers and you’ll be further convinced. White khadi draped around the body, in any form, gives better ventilation as compared to rayon or polyester mixed clothes. The latter will have you sweating in no time, during a hot day or a humid spell of weather.

But it’s not just limited to the feel.

The global handloom industry employs craft workers and artisans to the tune of millions.

Photo credits: Igor Ovsyannyko

By wearing handloom weaves of any kind, you not only support a rural economy but you also effectively promote craft traditions that are in steep decline.

So the next time you’re out shopping, in a department store or online, take time out to think and consider the less obvious choice.

PS: I run a small startup Bareek, a social enterprise that pays homage to millions of craftworkers and artisans spread across the Indian subcontinent.