Yarn In Weave – Behind the Images

Discover the stories behind the images we selected for Kanakavalli’s 2020 desk planner –

January’s image features a bundle of vivid crimson and mithai pink silk yarn, balanced on a bicycle carrier. In Kanchipuram, it is not unusual to see all sorts of transport used to ferry silk around, and the ubiquitous bicycle, zipping and weaving in and out of Kanchipuram’s bustling, winding roads and gullies, with shocks of brightly coloured dyed bundles of silk perched on their derrieres, caught our attention.

For February, we chose this striking image of ‘lingos’ – used in the jacquard mechanism – these finely made, small metal rods add weight and hold the position to the multitude of warp yarns during the process of lifting while weaving. Tiny, intricate hand knotting seen in the image is a frequent recurrence in the looming prep. Skilled hands deftly create the many hundreds of knots used.

March’s image is the only one where the element we focused on – in this instance the dyed silken yarn – has been taken out of its natural habitat and photographed along the walls of a temple. It seemed fitting though, on several levels – the kanjivaram craft is deeply infused with religious symbology, and Kanchipuram is often referred to as the town of a thousand looms and a thousand temples. There is also the potent connection between the auspiciousness of the colour red, and its use in rituals, colouring everything from the sindhoor to being a popular bridal colour choice, symbolising fertility and purity.

April’s image is astounding in its complexity and beauty, and yet very much a matter of fact visual for weavers…somewhat similar in end use to February’s image, here, Heald shafts are shown, through which warp yarns are passed, the mechanism helping to control the lifting of the warp yarns during weaving. What drew us to this image was the extreme delicacy of the entire set up, the fragility of each yarn, and the geometry of the whole.

May’s image shows the fine composition of gold zari, the buttery smoothness of each wisp thin strand wound in place on the loom, as the process of weaving unfolds. Gold zari comes in many qualities, but the finest variants almost always stay true to a particular composition : a strand of red yarn, on which silver and then gold is layered on. The amount of silver and gold used determines the quality of the zari.

Tiny, unremarkable plastic tubes known as “pirns” are photographed in a well worn tin box for June’s image. These pirns, ready with wound yarn and zari, wait their turn for when they will be transferred onto hand operated shuttles, and then into the weave on the loom.

July’s image is orchestral – showing thousands of yarn strands hand knotted onto the feeder yarns, that mark the start of the warp and the weaving. Each sari can have varying numbers of warp yarn, but each yarn will need to be laboriously hand tied onto these feeder yarns before weaving commences, As the weaving starts, the feeder yarns give way to the actual warp yarn.

August’s striking image is multilayered, traversing all sorts of tactile materials and textures – from the weathered wood of the warp beam, the twisted plaiting of the cotton cord thats used, to the fine bundled silken yarn that’s held in place during the weaving. And, out of focus, but deliberately captured, an auspicious rice kolam pattern on the ground ties the disparate elements together in perfect visual harmony.

September’s image features the intricate warp, thousands of silken yarns poised on their journey to the weave, where they will marry with a web of weft yarns. Look closer and you can see a telltale dye line where the off white colour gives way to the rich vermilion.

October’s image reveals the rustic construct of the wood and cane bobbins, which hold the fine silken yarn around them, prior to being transferred onto their tinier cousins, the pirns we described further above. It is not uncommon to see rows of these bobbins, exploding in multicolour, dangling off a makeshift clothesline at weavers’ home looms, like some precious decorative bunting.

November’s image shows the magnificent beauty of the loom, specifically the warp yarns, which are spread equally across the loom width with fine adjustments to their tension (which must match across the warp), prior to weaving, not unlike the tuning of a string instrument before a performance.

December’s image captures perhaps the most fascinating process – the punched dobby cards. A pattern is created in the weave from the instruction punched into these jacquard/punch cards, the order of the punch holes a Morse code that reveals itself finally as an intricate and beautiful pattern. Not unlike computer coding, the most complex of stylised representations is codified as a “binary” (hole or no hole). In the background, a small bowl of water/kerosene and some pirns – the pirns are dipped in the bowl to add tension to the yarn.

And that brings us to the end of our 2020 calendar art, and the images it contains. Next year, we hope to find another exciting theme to share with you. Till then, for now and the year ahead, we wish you all the very best!

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