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The acknowledged quality of the Sambalpuri ikat handlooms

The Ikkat style of weaving is employed in the hand-woven Sambalpuri saree using geometrical patterns. Ikkat is a technique which involves applying bindings, which resist dye penetration to the threads in pre-determined patterns, and then dyeing the threads. These dyed threads are then woven to produce the desired pattern. Within the ikkat style are variants of single-ikkat and double-ikkat. Alternately the tie-dye method of weaving and then dyeing, known as ‘bandhakala’ is also used. Here the threads are first woven and the resist bindings then applied to the fabric before dyeing it

The famed Sambalpuri cottons and silks

Sambalpur in the state of Orissa, or Odisha, is famous for its Sambalpuri variety of cotton and silk sarees, using Ikkat patterns or the tie-dye method, in their making. Cotton and mercerized cotton are used in making sambalpuri cotton saris. Shanka, chakra, or floral pattern motifs may be seen on the base fabric, with designer colours and patterns chosen to provide the traditionally woven saree, the modern look.

The need for a fabric similar to silk, which had its lustre, strength, smoothness and soft feel, was acutely felt on account of silk having a high price and low volumes of raw material for producing it. Moreover the substitute would also have to possess its elasticity and the desirable quality to acquire most colours and shades in the dyeing process. Mercerized cotton yarn which afforded these qualities, was the answer which evolved, to get over this limitation.

Cotton has the best absorption capacity among fabrics and is a ‘breathing’ fabric which allows free air movement. This allows the body to cool and keeps it comfortable in hot and sultry weather conditions. Mercerization is a treatment for cellulosic materials like cotton fabric and thread that gives the fabric or yarns a lustrous appearance, strengthens them and yet maintains the above mentioned qualities of pure cotton. Sambalpuri cotton sarees find preference for daily-wear as well as for casual occasions and generally housewives and college-goers choose to wear them.