Rajasthan is well known for the fine Kota Doria Muslin saris. Kota Doria as the name suggests is made in Kota city of Rajasthan. It is a type of cotton cloth that becomes special because of its weave. The weaving is done using pure cotton threads but the style is so varying that it makes the final cloth translucent and gives it cross pattern locally known as Khat .Fine check pattern is locally known as Khat .This is the most open weave fabric woven in India. The weave is result of sufficient spacing between super fine warp and weft threads with slightly thick thread at regular counts to produce a very subtle check pattern. Also, the thicker threads make the cloth strong and more durable. The thin fibers maintain its softness, delicacy and give it translucency and gossamer appeal.
Kota Doria is a good choice for hot summer months in India. Its light and airy feeling makes it very comfortable. Along with comfort, the softness and transparency makes this cotton cloth graceful and part of fashion. Sari is the most common wear made from Kota Doria, but now dress material, Kurtas, and other accessories are also hitting the market.
Kota saris were first made when weavers were brought to Kota (between 1707 and 1720) from the Deccan by Maharao Bhim Singh. The weaves originated in Mysore and surprisingly one could hardly find them now at Mysore. The workers settled there and passed down the art of weaving cotton in the open khat or check structure from generation to generation. Everything is done in the age old manner right from the setting of the patterns, to graph making, dyeing of the yarn and setting of the loom. Down South it is still called by name Kota Masurias. Originally done in pure cotton, nowadays synthetic as well as silk threads are also woven along with cotton threads. This makes it cheaper and more durable. The traditional Kota Doria is found in white color only and one needs to get it dye in different color. Single color dying, shaded patterns, Tie dyed pattern are common with new style coming up each day. Varieties as printed Kota Doria and silk embroidered border are becoming very popular.
Bright colors like pomegranate red, purple, Bordeaux red, turquoise, lapis, turmeric yellow and saffron, besides the usual cream and gold are mostly demanded.. The range includes cloth embellished with gold thread and zari. The zari thread is woven or used for embroidery which makes this simple cotton very beautiful and festive. Heavily embroidered with silk threads is also used as party wear. The Kota Doria cloth has become an important include for summer collections done by various fashion designers. They have brought in accessories done in Kota, which include handbags, pouches and sashes embellished with Gotta Patti, Mukesh and Mirror work.
Preparation of Fabric
The process of weaving is supported by a number of activities like pirn, winding, warping, dyeing, sizing, etc.
Preparation of Yarn
Cotton and silk act as raw material for Kota Doria.Raw material is obtained from Surat and other parts of the country in the form of hanks (‘lachhis’). The yarn requires further processing before being put on the loom for weaving.
Pirn winding is the process of transferring the yarns from the hanks into spools of the shuttles used in the weft while weaving. Pirn winding is also done for zari thread/ silk thread used for value addition during the weaving process. Pirn winding is achieved by using a small swift consisting of a rotary wheel attached to a harness of conveyor belt giving a similar rotary motion to the spool mounted at the other end. Rotation of the wheel by hands results in the rotation of the spool and thereby the thread is wound on small spindles.
The warping method used in Kaithun is known as ‘peg warping’, since wooden pegs are used in the process. These wooden pegs, locally known as ‘pinjras’, and are placed along the whole length of the yarn so that a continuously criss-crossed set of two yarns may be obtained for the weaving process. (The criss-crossing later on helps in finding out the broken yarn on the loom during the course of weaving). These wooden pegs are placed below a thick rope tied to a pair of iron pegs on each end and it is the length of the rope that determines the length of the warp being prepared. Presently this length is 30 yards, keeping in mind that at time 5 saris of 6 yards each are woven on a loom. Thus, keeping a margin for wastage etc. the warp length is predetermined and yarns are wound around the two iron pegs, dug into the ground fully stretching the rope. At least two persons are required for the entire process. While one person has to twist the yarns with a help of a heald, which has the yarns passing through it, the other person has to hold the stand consisting of the spools of the yarns. So one-person keeps on holding the stand of yarns, both of them take turns round the pegs to achieve the desired number of yarns in a warp.
Usually the activity is done in the open spaces or by-lanes near the house of the weaver, either by the non-weaving family members or by other hired persons, usually old-aged women of the village.
The number of rounds to be taken between the two ends of the rope is based on the number of ‘‘khats’ desired in the sari. Since each ‘khat’ is made of 8 cotton and 6 silk yarns in it, the number of rotations around the stands is determined by the capacity of the heald being used. Hence an original Kota Doria sari of 300 ‘‘khats’ has 2400 cotton and 1800 silk yarns in the warp.
Dyers dye the silk and cotton yarn. For certain colors, such as Red, Foam Green etc. mill dyed yarn is also purchased, which is quite rare owing to the high costs of such yarns. Direct dyes owing to their easy use and good retention on silk as well as cotton, are used by the dyers.
Dyeing is done of the readied warp as well as the hanks for the weft. The process of dyeing involves the washing of the hanks/warps, then dipping them in a warm bath of dye, fixing of the dye and thereafter further washing and final drying.
The present dyeing rates are RS. 60 for one ‘paan’ (i.e. 30 yards of warp and yarn hanks for the weft for 5 saris). The rate is slightly increased for two colors in the same ‘paan’ or for dyeing the yarns in different colours for warp and weft for a “Rangoli” variety of saris.
Sizing is mainly done for imparting the yarn enough strength, surface glaze and stiffness so that it can withstand the beating of the reed during the weaving process and also maintain the stiffness necessary for even weaving and a proper look of the sari once the weaving is complete. This is important since no further ironing/polishing of the sari is done in the cluster.
Sizing is done only for cotton yarn and is generally done by using thin paste of rice (‘maandi’). Some weavers also use the juice of a special variety of onions. Sizing is done by the laborers available for this purpose in the village. The process involves painstakingly brushing of the yarns stretched along a stand, using the sizing paste and special brushes for this activity. These brushes are made up of a particular type of coniferous leaves brought to Kaithun by the brush-makers from Kashmir, coming to the village every year for preparing/ repairing the brushes.
Preparation of Loom
Preparation of the loom for weaving involves the following activities:
The process of passing the warp yarn through the heald of the loom as per the design to be woven is known as drafting. This helps in the further process of weaving when locating a broken yarn becomes easy due to the heald and also helps in the designing processes.
Skilled craftsmen fill the reed, a comb like structure, locally known as ‘raanch’, with the yarns on their own or through the men adept at this skill. The reed is made of a special variety of bamboos found only near Benaras.
Since the process of denting is quite laborious and time-consuming, it’s usually done either on a new loom or in case if the design is changed. Otherwise, just new yarns are added to the left over yarns in the reed to continue weaving. This process of joining the warp yarns, with the help of the thumb and the index finger, using some ash in the process, is known as piecing.
The setting up of design on the ‘jala’ of the loom is also a specialized activity and so is that of making of the graphs for the designs. The use of dobby of up to 16 plates and jacquards of up to 100 hooks are also being used in Kaithun, the total number of dobbys being about 25-30 while about 50 odd jacquards are in operation. Dobby is mainly used for ground motifs and in some instances for the pallu also. On the other hand, jacquard is being used for making exquisite borders of the saris. The method of using small spindles, locally known as ‘tillis’ for making the motif on the ground/pallu/border of the sari makes the designing process quite lengthy but at the same time provides such a fine effect, which is not noticed in any other handloom sari easily.
Designing on Kota Doria fabric during the course of weaving is an art in itself and the kinds of adjustments that are needed in the motifs/ patterns so as to take into account the differential picks and ends at different parts of the base fabric (owing to the ‘khat’ pattern). The various gadgets prevalent for the extra-weft designing currently in use are ‘jala’, dobby and jacquard.
Weaving of Kota Doria involves a simple pit loom that can be erected by the local carpenters of the villages and the technique of weaving is quite traditional, i. e. the throw shuttle technique wherein no gadgets are used for the to and fro motion of the shuttles along the width of the fabric. This provides a lot of flexibility to the weaver in controlling the design and also the beating of the reed to achieve the ‘khat’ pattern.