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Photo Essays


Cotton to Cloth

From cotton to cloth... images, materials, tools, an exhibition on cotton handloom weaving


The skylight falls on the loom as the shuttle moves across in rhythmic continuity. The eyes focus, the foot moves and then the hand; thread by single cotton thread, the weft merges effortlessly with the warp - two identities dissolve magically into a third and a skilled old master might also add the extra weft for that intricate jamdani.


The journey from the cotton field to the handloom fabric is one of Andhra Pradesh's most well known - the journey of many journeys : from fields to spinning wheels, from the white of cotton to nature's blues, greys and yellows : many yarns to one elaborate warp, the warp that then makes it to the loom.


  • Cotton
    Natural coloured red-cotton Erra Patti (left) and hill-cotton Konda Patti, traditional varieties of cotton from Srikakulam.
  • Separating cotton and seed
    Separating cotton and seed
    The cotton fibre is separated seed by seed in an intense and labourious process. This is an integral part of making of the renowned khadi of Ponduru.
  • Cleaning cotton with fish jaw
    Cleaning cotton with fish jaw
    Cotton fibre on every seed is cleaned by hand with the help of the jaw bone of the valuga fish. This is the traditional method that also helps align the fibre and ensure good quality in the final product.
  • Hand carding
    Hand carding
    Fibres of cotton separated from the seed are hand carded with the bow string to help align the fibres. This ensures ease and quality in spinning and eventually in the woven fabric.
  • Spinning
    Most pre loom processes for making khadi like spinning here are done by women. The women of Ponduru are masters at spinning and can generate very fine yarn of counts upto 120 which is usually used for producing muslins.
  • Yarn scoured for dyeing
    Yarn scoured for dyeing
    Yarn needs to be washed properly before taken for dyeing. This helps to remove the external matter and prepares it for better absorption of the dye colour.
  • Harda treatment before dyeing
    Harda treatment before dyeing
    Dyeing of cotton yarn is an elaborate process that has many steps. Here the yarn is treaded with a mixture of harda and cow-dung after scouring to help the process of absorption and fixing of the dye colour to the yarn.
  • Checking yarn for colour evenness
    Checking yarn for colour evenness
    The human element, be it in weaving, dyeing or ensuring quality is integral to the handloom process.
  • Yarn in natural dyes
    Yarn in natural dyes
    Anaar, katha, neel, ratanjyot, manjistha… artisans and traditional technologists use a range of natural materials to dye cotton yarn.
  • Yarn dyed
    Yarn dyed
    The bark of ratanjyot, also known as jatropha, yields a dye that colours yarn in a beautiful grey.
  • Street sizing
    Street sizing
    Sizing is unique to the handloom weaving process. It aligns and strengthens the yarn before weaving and ensures that the woven fabric is soft and supple.
  • Yarn rolled for warping
    Yarn rolled for warping
    Winding the Warp involves elaborate calculations to create the appropriate structure of fabric. This in turn ensures qualities like durability, strength and drape that are the hallmarks of the hand woven fabric.
  • Weaver at the loom
    Weaver at the loom
    A young woman weaving natural dyed khadi saree. Weaving is predominantly done by men traditionally, while most of the pre-weaving processes are done by women.
  • Three shuttle weaving
    Three shuttle weaving
    Kuppadam (three shuttle weaving) is one of the high skilled techniques of handloom weaving that is unique to district of Srikakulam today.
  • Jamdani
    The extra weft technique of Jamdani is practiced by only a few extremely accomplished weavers of Ponduru in Srikakulam District. The Jamdani is a highly skilled traditional technique for surface ornamentation. Precision meets aesthetic here in a manner with few parallels.
  • Pulugurtha
    100s of weavers co-operatives like this one in Pulugurtha dot the rural landscape across Andhra Pradesh. Thousands of weavers families constitute the members of these co-operatives that a crucial link in keeping alive the cotton handloom industry in the state.