Sunday, December 23, 2012

Weaving at home

Weaving and spinning is an integral part of  almost every household in villages of Assam. In addition to agriculture, the weaving and spinning supports  rural economy of the state. This beautiful art truly reflects creativity and the artistic skills of the people of Assam. As a new bride when I touched Koka's ( Chandan's grandfather/ my mother-in-law's dad) feet, along with the blessings came this request that he would be very happy if I make an effort to learn weaving. I promised him that I would, whenever I have the opportunity and time. Ma ( my mother-in-law) is an expert weaver. She is gifted. The Tatkhal ( the loom frame in the above picture) you see here is about 70 years old. It was her mother-in-law's. It was at our Shillong house all these years. In the beginning of thisyear Chandan and I gifted ma this room so that she can keep her loom here and start weaving that she loves so much. She weaved about 17 Gamosa in a period of two month . A Gamosa is basically a hand woven white rectangular piece of cloth with primarily a red border on three sides and a red woven motif on the fourths. Last time I picture documented the whole process. Last week we again started another project where she will weave boarders (for sarees/mekhela sador). And in this project I am going to be hugely involved  as a learner and help
I removed myself temporarily from social sites so that I can fully concentrate here. I get up an hour earlier so that can complete all my regular chores before my usual time. This way I get about 30-40 minutes in the morning as I leave for my clinic at around 9.00am. This work is so interesting, addictive and makes me feel very happy. In the above picture you can see me helping Bulu, the lady in red shawl. Bulu is my household-helper Mahendra's wife. She is a very clean weaver, her work is flawless. While Mahebdra lives with us ( he is with us for last 18 years) she lives in village along with her son and daughter who study at Govt school.We specially invited her to our home for few days so that she can help us in initial steps.The small girl you see in the picture is Trishna their 12 years old daughter and trust me she really bullies me when I make mistakes. I like my little teacher.

          At first depending on the kind of clothing material one wants to weave, the thread is chosen i.e. either cotton or silk.  The  thread comes in two forms one is called ketcha ( raw, this thread needs washing and starching) and the other is called pokuwa( this can be used straightway). Threads come in various thicknesses. Last time we used cotton thread no 80 which was slightly thicker than the one we are using at present which is cotton thread no 90. The length of our present work is about 25 mts. while our last project was of 15 mts. The above picture is of last Friday's.
After choosing the desired color and type of  thread it is then  wrapped in the bobbins as you see in above picture. Now according to the desired length the thread is stretched. The breadth again depends on the kind of clothing material one wants to weave.
A guide is fixed on the other side/end. This process is called Batikahrah. This is the most tough and time consuming part. It took us about three days to complete this step. Between their office and household work ladies and many  other friends living nearby kept visiting and helping us. It is nice to see my kids taking interest in knowing and learning the art. While my daughter was allowed to help a bit my son was kept away because he had threatened his aaita that he might break some of the threads if he feels like. May be he was kidding but ma was careful not to take any risks.
Last time when I shared some of these pictures on facebook, my multitalented blogger friend Suranga Date wrote a beautiful poetry on one of the  picture  where my nine year old daughter Gauri is holding an umbrella over her grandmother's head. With her kind permission I am sharing that beautiful poem here. Thank you Suranga.

 Brilliant white threads of life
their years
wrapped round and round
the cylinders
standing attentively
next to each other,
looking on
at the new purple ones. 

 So many solid folks in dark wood,
standing and lying down
connected to each other,
magically creating the
warp and weft of life
in the Loom Room.    
And grandma,
who knows them all,
and how to manage them all
without them
getting entangled and knotty,
puts and arm around her little


granddaughter
holding an umbrella for her,
and says,
"Gauri,
for everything ,
there is a science
and there is an art.
We've just done the science;

now come,
I will teach you the art......"

After the threads are stretched to the desired length, it is now smoothed and is carefully checked for broken ends. Smoothing and knotting the broken threads takes a great deal of time. It is done inch by inch.
  The long black stick/rod that you see in the picture is called Raa, this helps in keeping the threads in place. The other plane bamboo sticks are called Seri , they support the thread frame throughout the process. A fine comb is also  used to detangle the threads.
Look at the difference between the smooth and the other rough side. The smooth portion is rolled onto this wheel as you can see in the picture. After the whole stretch is finished being rolled it is ready to be transferred to the loom. Further work can now be carried out indoors.
 The wheel now is transferred to the loom frame and this is how it looks.
A design is selected, calculations are made and the work starts. I am not going to explain more technical details here.
 The real weaving starts now with the help of shuttle and paddle. The one we use is fly shuttle which is called uda maku in local language.
 A look from above. A closer look at the shuttles and the sticks which keep the cloth in proper shape and form .
A closer look at the back side of the design weaved.
Side view. Ma weaved 17 Gamosas last time. We don't do it for business purpose. She gifted 12 gamosas between friends and relatives and we kept 5 for our personal use.
A look at the completed gamosas.
At present we are done with wrapping the threads to the wheel. Tomorrow we will transfer wheel to the loom. Would have done it today but had guests visiting us throughout the day. (In case you are wondering- We used empty gas cylinders to keep the frame in position). This project will take about three to four months to complete because we get very little free time in between work, kitchen and kids. This picture was taken this morning. Bulu and her daughter are back to village and have reached safely. Had a phone-conversation with them few minutes back.
A funny thing happened this morning. This young man came to our house to sell handwoven sarees and mekhela sador but when he saw us busy weaving our own stuff he was not happy. First he told me that I should wear more of sarees and mekhela sador instead of churidar kurtas to promote hand loom. Secondly he went near ma and said that she must stop working at this age and should enjoy watching serials on tv . All of us had a hearty laugh.
Now my son wants me to tell you that this is his kitchen garden which he maintains with the help of Gauri and  Aaita. He also wants to add that mom hardly helps in here. He is very proud of his work. Good thing is that both the kids eat greens and other vegetables without any fuss because the stuff comes from their own kitchen garden.
And this is us Saharias wishing all of you  Happy Holidays And Happy New Year. I will be on vacation till the first week of January. See you all next year.

Blog updated 09.01.12

Ma working on her first boarder (paree) .

Due to some reasons we could not complete our weaving project in time. Family went through a turbulent time and we are still trying bring back ourselves back to normalcy. Here are first few parees that came out from loom last week.