Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – India chapter Gujarat has to say about Patan Patola saris:
“About 130km northwest of Ahmedabad, Patan was Gujarat’s capital for six centuries before Ahmedabad was founded in 1,411. It was ruined by the armies of Ala-ud-Din Khilji around 1,300, and today is a dusty, little town with narrow streets lined by elaborate wooden houses.
Patan is famed, far and wide, for its beautiful Patola silk textiles, produced by the torturously laborious double-ikat method. Both the warp (lengthways) and weft (transverse) threads are painstakingly tie-dyed to create the pattern before the weaving process begins. It takes about six months to make one sari, which might cost ₹180,000 (3,600 CAD).
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We knew our next stop was to see the weaving of double-ikat saris but we didn’t realize the business was so close to the Rani Ki Vav step well site. We had barely got in the van before we were getting out of it again. As we approached the building with a sign out front ‘Patola House’, I wasn’t sure we were entering an elaborate home, or a business centre.
A much larger sign indicated that the building contained a workshop and a museum, opened to promote the intricate style of weaving that dates back to the 11th century. I was happy that this wasn’t just a showroom selling expensive saris to interested customers.
The first thing I noticed when we walked in the door was the very large loom stretching from the front of the room all the way to the back. I studied Clothing and Textiles as part of my BSc in Home Economics program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It was a general program that included Foods and Nutrition as well because at the time, I thought I wanted to become a Home Ec. teacher when I graduated. I chose to study through the Home Economics Department instead of the Education Department with a major in Home Economics because I enjoyed the emphasis on science courses as opposed to education courses.
Much later in life, I was introduced more practically to the concept of double-ikat weaving when my brother started importing textiles from Thailand and Indonesia, and he had a wide variety of double-ikat textiles in his import store in Edmonton. However, I had never heard of the Patola sari and the terrific reputation it had for the delicacy of the silk, and the intricate weaving.
Now, here I was with a traditional loom right before my eyes, it was all I could do not to jump over the barrier and see the weaving up close and personal. Almost immediately, I pulled out my phone in order to take some photos, but our host pointed to a sign noting that photography was not allowed. My heart sunk into my stomach.
Thank goodness there was a small museum of sorts a little further into the building. The first part consisted of a series of photographs showing the various steps in preparing the silk threads before they are dyed in preparing them for the actual weaving process. I poured over the photos with great interest, and then came back to have a look at the loom once again.
We were told that in the past there were other families in the region that did this unique type of weaving with silk, but now this particular family is the only one left to carry on the tradition. One of the senior members of the family gave us a demonstration of how the weaving proceeds and again, I was captivated by the care that is taken to make the intertwining threads line up just right.
I think it was my genuine interest, and bit of background knowledge about the process, but the gentleman surprised me by suggesting that I could take some photos if I still wanted to. What a wonderful take-away. I suppose the sign is posted because sometimes bus loads of visitors must come and they don’t want people just snapping photos randomly, without showing any real appreciation for how painstaking this type of weave actually is.
After getting my cherished photos, I continued on to explore the main floor behind the array of professional photos to view an extensive display of double-ikat weavings from around the world. There I saw many examples of South East Asian textiles that were more like what I’d seen in the past.
Anil finished the visit off my taking a photo of by taking photos while the ‘No Photography’ sign looms, (no pun intended), behind me.