Paithani saris are silks in which there is no extra weft forming figures. The figuring weave was obtained by a plain tapestry technique.
• Split tapestry weave - the simplest weave where two weft threads are woven up to adjacent warp threads and then reversed. The warp threads are then cut and retied to a different colour.
• Interlocking method - two wefts are interlocked with each other where the colour change is required. The figuring weft is made of a number of coloured threads, weaving plain with warp threads and interlocked on either side with the grounds weft threads are invariably gold threads which interlock with the figure weft threads, thus forming the figure. This system of interlocking weaves, known as kadiyal, is done so that there are no extra floats on the back of the motif thus making the design nearly reversible.
• Dove-tailing method - two threads go around the same warp, one above the other, creating a dove-tailing or tooth-comb effect.
Weaving could take between 18 to 24 months, depending upon the complexity of the design. Today there are many weavers who are working for the revival of this treasured weave.
a. First the skirt portion of saree is woven. It basically is of plain weave which is done using shuttle (dhota). If border is in different colour two different shuttles are used for it.
b. In jacquard motifs the threads lift up automatically according to the design. The weaver has to insert yarn from the gap.
c. After this the pallu portion is woven. The whole of pallu is a region where the weavers make use of small cotton spools wound with different coloured silk yarns.
According to the design the number of spools increases. These spools are moved from one side to other in one picking and then in opposite direction in next picking.
The threads are lifted according to design patterns which are either fixed on paper below the warps or are fixed in the minds of the weaver in terms of number of threads to be increased and decreased to create the pattern.
Once the saree is complete the weaver leaves a space of about 5 inches and begins plain weaving.
After 2 inches a gap is left and again a little plain weave patch is woven.
Then the threads are let off and fabric is taken up on cloth beam.
A rod is inserted through threads in between two woven patches.
Finally the ready fabric is cut off from the loom!
In the days of Peshwas, the borde rs and the pallu were made of pure gold mixed with copper to give it strength.
The proportion was 1 kg of gold to 1 tola of copper. The combination was spun into a fine wire called the zari.
In recent times, zari is made of silver, coated with gold plating. The borders are created with interlocked weft technique either with coloured silk or zari.
In the border woven with a zari, ground coloured silk patterns are added as supplementary weft inlay against the zari usually in the form of flower or a creeping vine.
Two types of border are the Narali and the Pankhi.
Even if a very good weaver has woven the main body, a master weaver is needed for the intricate inlay border paths. The borders and the pallu are woven in zari regardless of the colour of the sari.