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Maheshwar 2022- 2023

My impetus to learn weaving began from challenging the notion that design and production are separate functions. Through an organization, Karghewale, in Maheshwar (Madhya Pradesh), I met Nisha Verma, a first generation weaver, with whom I started an apprenticeship in March 2022. Weaving in Maheshwar is typically done with fine silk and fine cotton, and the ancillary functions are so varied and skilled, they happen at other workshops or homes or skilled ancillary workers.

Ancillary functions include warping, bobbin-winding, pirn-winding, separating large wound-up balls (pindas) of warped cotton so they can be set on the loom, drafting and denting of yarn through shafts and reeds (rajbharan) and finally, weaving. There is also the dyeing of yarn, a highly specialised skill and service.

A process that stood out for me is the connecting of one warp to the next by twisting the two yarns together, with a pinch of ash. This process is to avoid the hassle of drafting yarn through the shafts and reed again, and can only be done when the design is nearly the same as the previous one. This connecting of warp yarns, done individually – yarn by yarn – is called jodni in Maheshwar. जोडणी, meaning, connection.  

Towards the end of my 3 week long apprenticeship, during which I learned bobbin winding, warping, pirn-winding, drafting, and jodni, I finally began weaving. A short stretch of leftover silk warp was already on a loom, and I wove a small piece of fabric with multiple colours in the weft, based on the colours available.

Curious to expand on sections of the stripes, I did a few rounds of R&D, first in mercerised cotton and then finally in non-mercerised cotton in both the warp and weft. The final developments were swatch blankets of a few panels of designs in the warp, with various permutations in the weft.