Only high quality, fine silk is used for making patola fabrics. Silk is usually imported from China, Japan, Brazil and Korea. The warp and weft, or the Vana and Tana as they are called locally, are dyed in the yarn form itself, using the tie and dye technique. This process of yarn dyeing is tedious and takes about two to three months. Since the silk fibres are extremely delicate, eight yarns are twisted together before bleaching. These yarns are then woven on a hand loom.
L: Warping being done for weaving
R: Dyeing of yarn
The initial design is made on graph paper and then copied on the threads that have been laid open. The rest of the threads are covered with cotton. Threads are then dipped in colour, absorbing the dye differentially. The tied parts remain untouched, while the exposed areas absorb a high amount of colour.
Use of wooden stands for yarn dyeing
In the next step, a different set of threads is coloured by keeping them exposed, while the area that has been dyed already, is covered. Several colours may be applied by this technique. Around 75 days are required for the completion of this process.
L: Tie dyeing technique in patola
R: Solid dyed yarns set on a loom
In a normal loom, a single person can work at a time. A loom for weaving patolas, however, requires two people working in unison in order to complete a minute segment of the saree. At a single stretch, the weaving process can only be carried out on an 8-inch length of the fabric. Finishing has to be done after every stretch of weaving is completed. This makes the process a very long one, taking up to a year in the manufacture of one patola. A high degree of skill is required to complete the weave.
Threads of different colours
There is little room for error, since one small mistake in the placement of warp and weft can alter the design drastically. This can have serious consequences for a product that has been custom ordered.
Weaving using a needle
Images: Happytrips, Gaatha, Patan Patola, Yogoyo, Tripadvisor