The making of the Patan Patola

- Only high quality, fine silk is used for making patola fabrics. Silk is usually imported from China, Japan, Brazil and Korea.

- The warp and weft, or the Vana and Tana as they are called locally, are dyed in the yarn form itself, using the tie and dye technique. This process of yarn dyeing is tedious and takes about two to three months.

- Since the silk fibres are extremely delicate, eight yarns are twisted together before bleaching. These yarns are then woven on a hand loom.

- The initial design is made on graph paper and then copied on the threads that have been laid open. The rest of the threads are covered with cotton. Threads are then dipped in colour, absorbing the dye differentially. The tied parts remain untouched, while the exposed areas absorb a high amount of colour.

- In the next step, a different set of threads is coloured by keeping them exposed, while the area that has been dyed already, is covered. Several colours may be applied by this technique. Around 75 days are required for the completion of this process.

- The warp and the weft silk threads are tied separately. The threads have distinct knots of cotton thread, as per the design the weaver has composed. The knots help to keep that particular area unexposed while dying.

- The process of dyeing is repeated – tyeing, untyeing, retying and dyeing – several times to dye in different shades and colours and patterns as envisaged by the weaver.

- After completing of the dyeing process, the weavers put together the threads of the warp in a sequence on the loop so the design becomes evident. The patola is woven on a primitive hand operated harness loom made out of rosewood and bamboo strips. The bamboo shuttle is made to move to and fro through warp shades. Each weft thread is examined thoroughly and matched with each part of the warp design pattern while weaving.

- In a normal loom, a single person can work at a time. A loom for weaving patolas, however, requires two people working in unison in order to complete a minute segment of the saree. At a single stretch, the weaving process can only be carried out on an 8-inch length of the fabric.

- Because of the double resist dyeing process, the colors are guaranteed not to fade for a very very long time beyond the life of the fabric itself.

- Patola weaving depends on high accuracy of the weaving involved, that means positioning of the warp and weft will determine the weave of perfect design and colour. The process is time and labour intensive, requires high order of skill and dexterity.

- Finishing has to be done after every stretch of weaving is completed. This makes the process a very long one, taking up to a year in the manufacture of one patola. A high degree of skill is required to complete the weave.

- There is little room for error, since one small mistake in the placement of warp and weft can alter the design drastically. This can have serious consequences for a product that has been custom ordered.

- The most common motifs used in Patola are geometric designs of flowers, animals like elephants, birds like parrots, and human figures. The Patola worn by the Bohra Muslim community has just geometrical designs sans motifs throughout the fabric.

- Because of the intensive manual work, and the time and effort involved, the price of an authentic Patan Patola saree can range from Rs 1 lakh to a few lakhs.