Eri silk | Home reared | Handspun | Handwoven | Natural dyed | Patchwork
The magic of hands
1) Home reared Eri silkworms make their cocoons. The rearer collects those cocoons and hands them over to the yarn spinner.
2) The yarn spinner boils (degumming), washes, flattens the cocoons into fibre cakes. The fibre cakes are then mounted on a light wood stick to start the hand spinning of this fibre based silk. No charkha, no mechanised equipment, just a gentle dance of hands twisting the yarn while pulling them from their condensed form in the cocoon. A stone weight spindle keeps turning as the spinner keeps twisting the fibre. When sufficient amount of yarn has been spun, it is rolled into hanks and sent to the weaver.
3) Weaving is primarily woman’s domain in Assam, where the traditional throw shuttle looms are mounted between four pillars dug solid into the flat mud ground. Eri silk’s hand spun fibre involves an intricate warping process. This delicately slub yarn is more or less irregular in size leading to a completely manual process of heddle-making and yarn joining. At no point, the weaver can loose their attention for gentleness while weaving this yarn.
If the yarn is dyed first then the woven fabric is ready at this stage. If the fabric is to be dyed directly, then after weaving, fabric is ready to be sent for the next stage that is dyeing.
4) Eri Silk being a protein fibre absorbs most natural dyes. For this shawl, we have used Indigo as the main dye source. Indigo is derived from Indigofera Tinctoria. To get the adequate mix of Indigo dye, the dye vat goes through many days of fermentation using the pounded leaves of the plant. Once the dye is ready, the fabric is dipped in the vat. Depending upon the number of dips, the shades of Indigo can vary from lightest to deepest. Indigo compositions with Natural ivory gives the shaded light-indigo and Indigo with Turmeric compositions yield green. Handspun, handwoven, natural dyed Eri silk is now ready.
5) Upon reaching Punjab from Assam, the smallest strips and scraps of Eri silk are bound together and turned into asymmetrical patchwork.
Every step demands a special skill- the magic of hands, lending the appropriate title to this shawl “hatho’r jaadu”. No machine, no chemicals, no industrial intervention to speed up the process. Just the slowness that is prerequisite to a hand craft.