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The revival of the Maheswar craft

The Maheshwar loom has the buttas or motifs and the borders made on the shuttles involving an intricate system of weaving. Coupled with dedicated introduction of innovations it has given the Maheshwari Sari its pride of place as one of the finest traditional fabrics that has survived the test of time and regained its former glory.

Maheshwari fabrics

One of the leading varieties in handlooms known for its typical designs and innovative block prints, the Maheshwari saree can be from cotton, silk or a blend of the two. There is a marked use of the golden zari for borders and motifs. Quality raw materials are procured from different parts of India but the indigenous workmanship is at Maheshwar, mostly by women.

The complete process of making the fabric

The entire process from scratch to finish involves six stages.

  • design
  • procurement
  • dyeing
  • preparing warp & weft
  • weaving
  • finishing

Design – Maheshwari handlooms use a lot of traditional sari designs, many of which have been popular since historical times. Many such designs have been used in their original form, others with minormodifications. Interestingly, the borders of the saris would most certainly have the designs engraved on the walls of the Maheshwar fort. Based on the design of the border,Maheshwari sarees are identified as Maheshwar bugdi kinar, zari patti, rui phoolkinar,phoolkinar, chataikinar, V kinar, kaharkinar, bajubandkinarphool kinar, chatai kinar, V kinar, kahar kinar, bajuband kinar etc.

Procurement – based on the number of fabrics to be woven at a time, procurement of silk yarn, cotton yarn, zari and any other additional materials not available locally from their respective sources. Quality of the material procured is ensured so that the Maheshwari product would not suffer.

Dyeing – Dyeing is an important part of the whole process to get the correct shade as desired.Threads of both cotton and silk require dyeing before being processed further. The dyeing process requires care hence either practiced weavers or special called-in technicians ensure the correct shade is achieved. Different kinds of dyes are used for silk and cotton threads. Naphthol, wet and procion dyes suit the handloom cottons but the dyeing is not of a single color but in a correct mix of two or three of these. For silk fabrics, there are special readymade dyes that need no mixing but are readily applied.

Dyeing involves dipping the raw threads in a mix of Turkish oil and bleaching powder for at least four hours. after it has got completely bleached the dyeing process starts. first dyes are mixed in a vat of warm water and the correct shade obtained. The threads are then dipped for a while in the color, then dipped in a vat containing naphthol to obtain stability or fastness of color. Further washed in plain water they are put in a vat of warm water with soda and detergent solution. Again washed with plain water, slung to dry on bamboo poles, they are later sent for the weaving process.