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The uniqueness of the Sambalpuri Ikat weave

The district of Sambalpur lends its name to the Sambalpuri weave. The Sambalpur Vichitrapuri saree has an extra warp pattern on the body and an extra weft pattern on the pallu, while the shakarapara designs of squares of different colours: white, red and black are in double Ikat. The colour scheme for the weave is predetermined with extraordinary precision, so that when the dyed threads are woven together, the design appears in the finished textile, as if by magic.

The general weaving process of the Odia Ikat saree

- The silk yarn purchased still contains some sericin or silk gum that must be removed in a soap bath to bring out the natural luster and the soft feel of the silk. For this purpose soap cake is used. As much as 20-25% of the gum gets removed from the silk. When the gum has been removed, the silk fiber or fabric is a creamy white colour, beautifully lustrous, and luxuriantly soft. Degumming takes place in order to prepare the silk yarn for dyeing. A small amount of sericin is sometimes left in the yarn or in the fabric to give the finished product added strength or a dull finish. At a time, yarn required for two sarees is taken for degumming.

- The processed yarn is tied to a wooden frame and tied as per design, such that each bundle has 25 threads. The dying process is carried out on a small scale. The majority of the dyes used here are chemical (azoic) dyes. The process of dyeing is the same for all dye types. Water is prepared in such a way that there is certain softness present in it. All colour shades have different temperatures and recipes for their preparation. Acetic acid is added to the mixture in the end. The wooden frame with the threads tied is immersed into the prepared solution for dyeing the yarn. Some of the vegetable dyes used are catechu, onion, anaras and basant flower. After degumming and dyeing of the yarn; the threads are dried in rooms or in the open. Once dry, the yarn is spun on a spindle and gathered onto a bobbin or konda. The local name for it is osari. Each bobbin weighs 120 grams.

- The thread from the bobbin is rolled out onto the drum. At one time, thread from 120 such bobbins is wrapped around the drum. From the drum, threads are separated and passed through reeds (comb like structures), such that 2 threads pass between a reed eye (space between 2 reeds). The threads further pass through a reed buoy. The yarn is finally rolled out onto a rod and taken outside where it is checked for knots. The process of rolling done here is known in the local language as thaani. The threads are rolled onto a wooden log known locally as thun. On completion of the process of checking for knots this then is taken with the rolled thread on it and placed behind the loom set for weaving.

- In the weaving operation, lengthwise yarns, which run from the back to the front of the loom, form the basic structure of the fabric and are called the warp. The crosswise yarns are the filling, also known as weft. Before weaving, these warp and weft threads are spun. To make a sari with a reed count of 6800 it can take up to one and a half months of working days. The typical sari is 47 inches long and weighs around 500 grams. However the percentage of wastage is only 5%. Though weaving on pit looms is far more time consuming, the weaving comes out far neater on a pit loom compared to a jacquard.

- Apart from the traditional single, small motifs consisting of fishes, conches etc. the resource center has come a long way in designing pencil-drawing type motifs. These figures cover the entire length of the pallu. The motifs are inspired from mythological characters. A combination of both Ikat and bomkai weaves can be found on one sari. After a lot of research and hard work has developed spun tussar, one of its kind, which is 100% silk but feels soft like cotton. Earlier, this type of cloth consisted of equal quantities of both cotton and tussar silk.