Chanderi sarees are a fine blend of silk in the warp and cotton in the weft. The weavers work away on their traditional pit looms and create the Chanderi sarees of wonderfully light and rich quality.

Raw Materials

Zari - A metal or gold thread used in the borders and the Butis.
Cotton - Primarily white colour is used and it is sourced from Coimbatore. The cotton used is 2/120's, 2/100's (plain yarn) and 2/120 and 2/100 mercerized yarns. The yarn is of high quality and extra fine. Because of non - degumming of the raw yarn, the finished fabric produced is transparent and light.
Silk - Fine silk is sourced from Bangalore. The silk yarn used of 20/21's, 2/100's and 16/18 denier. The term Denier is a measure used to connote the fineness of yarn.

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Waste

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Tools & Technology

Looms - The Chanderi fabric is woven on the traditional pit looms. These looms, like their names go, are installed inside a 3 feet deep pit. The weaver sits at the wall of the pit with his feet inside. The looms are permanently installed in these pits and are hardly moved from their place. Since the artisans own the looms, they bear the expenses of maintenance and repairs of the looms.  Pulleys and weights - These are used to suspend the zari and mercerized cotton above the loom and keep them taut. They also aid the weavers in being able to change the border colors.Jacquard/Dobby mechanism - A miniature Jacquard mechanism, normally referred to as the dobby, is installed on top of the loom. It helps in the design and weaving of the border of the sari.

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Rituals

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Process

Designing : The master weaver draws out the design on a grid sheet, where all the junctions of intersection of the warp and weft threads are clearly set in an organized pattern. The more complicated designs for higher range saris are now drafted on computers, which then the weavers incorporate into the weave.

Dyeing : The threads of the warp and weft are dyed according to the designs. Expert dyers with years of experience carry about the dyeing of the Chanderi yarn. The dyeing is done mainly for the silk yarn. The process takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes.  After this, the yarn is loosened out and wound on reels.

Warping : Warpers carry about this specialized process by winding the warp yarns around bobbins. These are then arranged across a wooden frame called reel. The yarns from these reels pass through a reed to be wound around a vertical drum. At his maximum speed, the warper would warp 4 or 5 warps for 12 sarees each.

Street Warping (Bhem Bandhana) : 'Bhem bandhana' is the process by which the spools of thread are arranged in the weft according to the design. The threads are anchored at different heights and tightened by suspension. The number of threads depends on the width of the cloth. The length depends the quantity of production. A warp is usually stretched to get eight to eighteen sarees in one go.Warp Connecting : After the warping, the yarns are passed through the reeds and the healds. These are deftly joined to the old warp threads by the women folk in approximately 3 - 4 days.

Drafting & Designing : The designs of the border and the Pallav are decided before the weaving begins. A vertical harness called 'Jala' holds the ends of the threads set according to design. The process is called Jala tying. This takes around 3 - 4 days depending on the complexity of the design. The higher the number of weft yarns and higher the reed counts, the more time the process takes. The time however can be reduced if the ply in the weft yarn is more. This also enables the weaver to move faster and cover more ground. The only disadvantage being that the output might be less fine.

Preparing the loom and weaving : A 'Karigar' or master weaver ties the silk thread on the drum, while another specializes in tying the symmetrical strings across two sets of metal eyes. This is done before the threads are fed ' into the looms.Sometimes there are separate families who do the warping and provide the weavers with pre-measured warps of lengths leading up to 18 sarees at once. The preparation of these long lengths of threads on the drums has to be done very carefully because losing it means losing the entire cost of the silk. The family carefully untwists, combs and spreads the length of warp into its woven width on the beam. Two people hold the bamboo lease sticks and flick up and down to spread the fibers out square. In the summers when the silk threads keep breaking off, the craftsmen use water and tighten the strands. To ensure that the threads don't keep slipping off, the craftsmen coat their hands with soot.Once the setting is fixed, the loom can deliver up to six to eight sarees at a stretch. The process is labor intensive and takes great physical strength to change the loom settings.

Butis : The Butis are made by a separate string of heddles after weaving about two meters of the fabric. The Butis are done in zari with the help of supplementary heddles secured on a separate frame on the sides of the loom. They are tied to these stationary side members to hold their tension across the width of the cloth and underneath pin weights hold them down to keep the shed open.The Chanderi fabric does not require any post loom processing. It can be packed and made ready for sale as soon as it is cut off the loom. It is packed as per the requirement of the buyer and of the trader, by way of customized packing methods. However, the popular three fold folding method of the cluster is peculiar and is what sets these sarees apart in a layman's eyes.

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