Jamdani is a fine muslin fabric handwoven using cotton. The weaving uses supplementary weft technique, which involves producing artistic motifs using weft. Unlike other forms of designing, the desired patterns are not sketched onto the fabric. It is instead drawn on a graph paper and then used under the fabric as a guide. Jamdani woven fabric is usually grey or white, sometimes with a combination of gold as well. The end result is extremely light, almost feeling weightless to the skin. The Jamdani weaving is a symbol of identity, dignity and pride that Jamdani weavers take, in their heritage and culture.
This type of weaving has been borrowed and originally was used in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Sharing borders and culture, this technique has migrated into the state of West Bengal as well. Ever since the Mughal patronage, this craft has flourished and made a place for itself in India. The name ‘Jamdani’ has Persian roots, with the word ‘jam’ meaning flower, and ‘dani’ meaning vase. As the name suggests, these are some of the floral motifs used as patterns on beautiful Jamdani sarees.
The Mughal emperor, Aurangazebm gave his daughter, princess Zeb-Un-Nissa a dressing gown in frustration of her wearing skimpy clothes. She countered, saying she was fully dressed with ‘seven jamas’, or garments on her dainy, delicate silhouette. Coming to realization, the clothes worn were so sheer and delicate, they were deceitful! To this day, Jamdani muslin is one of the most cherished and elegant Indian textiles.
This particular type of weaving is practised by highly skilled and experienced weavers, as it requires an unimaginable level of patience and concentration in order to create intricate and complex designs through motifs. This is done by lifting and controlling every weft of yarn, and the tiresome task of manually counting the warp yarns. To add the motif, the supplementary weft yarns are interlaced with fine bamboo sticks, targeted by individual spools. This technique of interlacing created a fine fabric with the characteristic of transparency. Moreover, the designs are not freehandedly drawn onto the fabric but are instead used as a model, from a translucent graph paper placed underneath.
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Organic cotton of Kutch
Originating in Kutch, ‘Kala’ cotton is the original pure cotton, ‘old world’ cotton of India. The encouraging production of cotton and its initiative helps sustainable textile production, while also preserving agriculture and artisanal livelihoods in the region of Kutch.
Kala cotton is indigenous to Kutch, and is also organic as farmers do not use any pesticides or synthetic fertilizers which degrades the soil quality, hence preventing their use makes the production organic. It is a purely rain-fed crop used, which allows it to have a high tolerance to natural diseases and pests, which requires minimal investment and interventions.
It seems to be one of the few genetically pure cotton species found in India, and one of the only in the world that is pure as well as cultivated on such a large scale. The cotton usually comes in a short staple length, making it difficult to produce fine quality textiles using it. Due to its length, there are fewer twists per inch of yarn, and due to this quality, the use of this cotton has significantly declined in mainstream markets.
Presently, the Kala Cotton Initiative inspired sustainable cotton production which is in harmony with preserving the environment. They try to meticulously work with marginalized communities, promoting locally grown species and giving them a better standard of living.