The craftsmen of India have a carved a special place for themselves in the world of fabrics. The art of fine weaving and the complex processes of bleaching and dyeing and the arts of hand and loom embroidery were perfected by the people of India long before conditions in the textile industry were modernized. The weavers of ancient India had perfected the art of tapestry weaving, which forms the base for Paithani. The tapestry weave is distinguished from all other weaving techniques in having multiple weft threads, which interlock to produce the woven surface. In this technique multiple non-continuous wefts in contrasting or complementary colors are woven in plain weave, the yarns of different colors interlocking at the change of colors, thus creating a solid color effect. The art of tapestry weaving & the double interlocking techniques are some of the skills bestowed to the new generation weaver across generations. The qualities looked for in a true artisan were apprenticeship, commitment & co-operation.
Experience plays a pivotal role in weaving Paithanis. Some truly intricate designs like Bangdi More (Four peacocks weaved in a bangle) requires two to four weavers to work in unison and takes around an year or two to complete one saree. The process of weaving is very intricate & demanding and there have been instances of effect on the eyesight of the weaver while producing a masterpiece.
In the olden days, Paithani enjoyed the attention of royal households like Peshwas & Nizams, who considered their responsibility to keep this art alive. They opened centers for weaving turbans, sarees, shalus and patkas, which constituted an important part in the dressing style of that era. The weavers prided themselves on producing woven gold which was so translucent that it reflected the face of the weaver. However by the end of the first quarter of the century they had begun to prepare such elaborate patterns that the cost became prohibitive and the market died down.
Consequently many weavers opted out for other lucrative business and the younger generation was not interested in carrying out the tradition. Finally, the Government of Maharashtra & a few Non Government Organizations (NGO's) took the Herculean task of "Revival of Paithani". The first step towards reviving this lost art was to boost the morale of the weavers and then set up centers for training & weaving. Their joint effort paid off & the last 3 decades saw the rise in demand of Paithani sarees from all over the world. Today, Yeola itself boasts of more than 2000 skilled weavers.
A Paithani not only entails weaving but several other associated processes like cleaning and dying of silk, which calls for the contribution of the whole family. Soni Paithani came into existence in the year 1860 and since then many of the weaver's families are associated with us. They have passed their knowledge & unique weaving techniques to generation after generation. Whenever you buy a Paithani creation, do acknowledge the art, hard work and dedication behind the exquisite wonder. The least we can do is give the real people credit for their time & commitment. As they say, "We don't weave silk, we weave tradition".