Silk without violence – Ahimsa Silk & Ajrakh Block Prints I #AtoZChallenge 2017
Have you ever heard of Ahimsa Silk?
Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush.
This line from the well known ( and perhaps long forgotten Nursey rhyme) reminds me of the soft, smooth, silken fabric that just slips off as easily as you wear it.
Silk is a natural fabric spun from fibres extracted from the silk worm cocoon.
[Tweet “Did you know that it takes millions of cocoons to make just one silk sari?”]
And what is more shocking is that this fibre is extracted by boiling or steaming the cocoons while the baby silk moths are still hibernating and waiting to emerge as silk moths!
Let’s take a look at how silk is made the traditional way.
Did this video shock you?
Well, it surely shocked Kusuma Rajaiah, a civil servant in the Karnataka government . He decided to make silk in a more humane way. One where the larvae were allowed to live. Instead of throwing the cocoons into water top extract the filament, he pierced a hole into the cocoons after 8-10 days and allowed the worm to escape. Then the silk fibre thus extracted from the cocoon and twisted it into yarn woven into silk. Naturally, this method has its downside – the fibres are shorter but the upside is that worm can grow into a moth and live its short life of just 4 days.
This has given rise to a new kind of silk called AHIMSA SILK – or silk made in a more humane way.
This doesn’t mean that you stop wearing silk because Sericulture has evolved over the centuries and as an agro-based industry provides employment to thousands if not millions of people in India, China and several places round the world. But if you do want to wear this gorgeous fabric without taking a life, then AHIMSA SILK, is the silk for you.
Ajrakh 0r the Block Printing tradition of Gujerat.
Block printing is a very popular form of fabric embellishment and different parts of India have their own traditions and distinctive styles. Common to all, however, is the use of natural dyes.
One bold style of block printing is the AJRAKH . Probably you don’t recognise it as a such. At least I didn’t till I was gifted a shawl from someone in Pakistan. Predominantly manufactured in erstwhile Sindh, this village industry gets its name from AJRAKH which I understand is ‘blue’ in Arabic.
Ajrakhpur in Kuchh is one of the many small villages in Bhuj, where this art is still practiced. Ajrakh is a series of geometrically inspired block prints stamped on cotton. The predominant colours are indigo and maroon and are madeout of vegetable dyes. The printed cloth is used as shawls, for hammocks and even gifted as a mark of honour and respect.
The devastating Bhuj earthquake of 2001 destroyed several villages and many skilled printers lost their lives. Fortunately, the few that survived went back to their looms and continued their ancient trade.
Completely hand crafted
The printer spends several hours carving out the design on a wooden block. Many have, however, begun to use the power drill to save on time.
Once the blocks are made, the printer arranges the cloth ( normally it is a sturdy cotton) and decides how to place the design to get the body and borders . The block is dipped in a dye and placed on the cloth. Natural dyes like Indigo, turmeric, mehndi and even pomegranate juice are used . Even iron and mud are used to make dyes!
The process is not all that simple as it sounds . It takes several steps of dyeing and washing and dyeing and washing before the end result is achieved. But the result is completely worth it !
Disclaimer : I am neither a textile manufacturer nor a historian . I am just passionate about textiles and fabrics and all the information I have presented is garnered from the Internet. So if there are any errors or omissions I seek your indulgence.
I hope you join me and hundreds of other bloggers participating in the #AtoZ Challenge 2017.