After the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, many skilled weavers moved from Dhaka to Phulia, in West Bengal. The weaving process begins with pure cotton and silk yarn, which is then washed, dyed, and dried in the sun. The yarn ultimately ends up on looms as the warp and is threaded through the beam to set up the weave. Finally, the weaver passes a shuttle back and forth and the fabric pattern emerges.
In Kashmir, India’s northernmost and most majestic and mountainous state, a group of women artisans are contemporizing traditional crewel embroidery that resembles crochet and dates back to the 1400s. Textiles of all kinds – scarves, bedding, sheets, clothing – are enhanced with this hook stitch in traditional motifs and brilliant colors. The designs are stenciled on paper before being transferred to the fabric and are then hand-embroidered.
In the eastern Indian states of Iharkand, Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar, the rare tassar silkworms are “farmed.” Here, farmers raise the silkworms, hand carrying them from tree to tree to make sure they get enough to eat. Within a month of spinning their cocoons, the farmers harvest almost a mile of silk from each cocoon using a process which allows the worm to survive. Silk spinners and weavers clean, prepare and weave the silk on traditional hand looms.