The Long Story about processes in handloom


For handloom production, yarn is colored / dyed in the hank form. Yarn dyeing for handlooms is a crucial pre loom activity. Although the handloom sector is decentralized in nature, dyeing with chemical colours has emerged as one of the centralized activities in the last 50 years. Dyeing is still carried out in the village or centres which are close to the weaving activity.

Colorants, or dyes as they are commonly known, are highly colored substances that impart color to a wide variety of materials. Natural and chemical colorants are used to dye hanks. This process of dyeing is done by hand, in small lots.

Dyeing in handloom sector is usually done in small to medium sized dye houses situated in the village. The dye houses are equipped to dye small and large quantities of yarn.

Natural Dyeing

Natural dyes are extracted from natural materials such as bark of trees, flowers, leaves and minerals. Natural dyes were used traditionally by weavers across the country. Chemical dyes completely replaced natural dyes sixty years back.

Vegetable dyes are a sub-category of natural dyes referring to those that come from plant matter only. Wool is generally the best fiber to color with natural dyes. It will attach to a wider variety of dye chemicals than cellulose fibers such as cotton, and, since it is usually washed in cool water, or only dry-cleaned, colour fastness of natural dyes does not become a big  issue.

Cotton is less suitable for many natural dyes. There are some natural dyes that will work on cotton especially if mordanted with tannins. Among the better natural dyes for cotton are annato, cutch, logwood, madder, and indigo. All of these except for indigo require mordants, while indigo requires a special type of dye vat.

The series of pictures show anar, pomagrenate rind dyeing process. 

Indigo Dyeing

Indigo dyeing was one of the first specialty professions in manufacturing of textiles. It contains neither harsh chemicals nor toxic metals. It can be used to dye any natural fibre. The use of indigo dyeing goes back to 2000 BC.

Indigo is a dye different than any other. First step in the process "reduces" the indigo, changing it from blue to yellow. When the yarn is worked in the solution, or "vat" and brought out to the air, it is a bright green. Slowly the air changes it to the beautiful deep and rich blue of Indigo. Indigo in some form was used in all traditional cultures, for it is the only clear and fast natural blue.

Chemical Dyeing

Chemical dyes replaced local natural dyes many decades back. Today chemical dyes are available in different varieties. There are categories of dye stuff in chemical dyes which are azo free. Azo free dyes are environment friendly and do not harm the environment, dyer and user. Chemical dyes were initially invented to suit large centralized mill production base. These dyes were adapted by the local weavers to dye their yarn in colours. 

The series of pictures show the dyeing of red colour by a weaver couple in Nalgonda district. Ikat weavers are the only weavers who still do their own dyeing. Otherwise dyeing is carried out by people trained in dyeing.