Dhurries, flat woven rugs in cotton, wool and jute, have long been a cottage industry in many Indian small villages and towns of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, with weavers being local men employed to create these hard wearing and attractive rugs,also in Punjab, where the weaving was traditionally done by young Punjabi girls and is still an important handicraft in Punjabi art.
Cotton Dhurries are famously known for the spectacular narrative cotton designs, made by Indian prisoners in the 19th and early 20th Century, these dhurries have intricate sceneries depicting village life, and beautifully woven flora and fauna.The art of carpet weaving was introduced into the Indian subcontinent in the middle of 16th century, by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar and is one of the oldest major industries of India renowned the world over for their design, colour and craftsmanship.
The tools that the weaver uses are simple and these have remained unchanged with time.
Farshi or Floor coverings have always been an important part of homes in India,where large striped and geometric dhurries are used by ordinary townspeople, affluent traders and merchants ,as use of furniture has traditionally been limited. Tent dhurries are still used to carpet outdoor marriage pavilions.The largest dhurries are still commissioned for palace decoration and can measure over eighty feet in length and twentyfive feet in width.
The basic technique of weaving a dhurrie in its most primitive form can today be seen in villages.
The warp of hand-spun white cotton is prepared by stretching two bamboos secured on the floor by four pegs. The length and width of the warp are then prepared according to the requirements of the size of finished dhurrie by winding it over stretched bamboos. The warp runs parallel to the ground about six inches above it
Weaving starts at one end with the help of a forked stick, throwing the weft thread across for a single colour going across the whole width of the warp. The weaving of the patterned dhurrie is done with a series of colours, depending on the pattern and colours to be used. One colour is woven upto the required width after which its interlocked again, thus creating a pattern of multiple threads of weft without any extra weft, with the result that there is no wrong side in dhurrie weaving.
Preparation for weaving.
The cotton and Jute is first sorted to remove waste and carded to align the fibres. Winding/spinning is done on a charkha or traditional spinning wheel.
Wool fleece is hand sorted and separated according to colour and quality.It is then combed repeatedly drawing across rows of small teeth, disentangling the fibres and making them more or less parallel.
After this the yarn is twisted or spun to create the desired count.
Now days this is largely mechanised. Several grades of wool are blended, carded, spun on a rotating machine, wound onto bobbins and converted into long hanks.
It is then plied by twisting two or more strands of yarn to create a thicker cord.
The twist, usually in a direction opposite to that of each component yarn is a balancing act.
The weft often uses thick un- spun yarn called sut.
The yarn is then soaked in a solution of castor oil and sodium hydrosulphide to wet it thoroughly.
This dye bath is then brought to a slow boil and the dye,caustic soda and more sodium hydrosulphide is added.
Hanks of yarn hung on metal rods are then dipped into this solution and rotated to ensure even dye penetration. The hanks are removed and the process repeated three more times, the colour darkening with each penetration, the yarn is cooled and rinsed.
All Dhurries are woven in weft faced plain weave.
The weaver lays the warp, which must be tied with even tension throughout. The wefts are wound into little rectangular bundles.
The graphic replica of the design where one square represents one knot or a colour coded design sketch on graph paper is sometimes used as an aid during weaving, if the weaver is working on a new or unfamiliar design.
After the creation of the colour shade the weaver inserts a single weft bundle as per requirement of design, then weaves from side to side, weaving colour. A weft-placed with dovetail joins is used for locking the two colours together in the same row.
On completing one line of weft its tightened by beating it down with the panja, to create a rug, which is crisp in design and texture. Finer dhurries with the warp set closer use more delicate seven- tined rather than the usual five-tined panja turning the weft threads around the last few warp threads.
Turning the weft threads around the last few warps of each horizontal row reinforces the two vertical edges. A blade, scissors and crescent shaped knife are all used to trim excess weft threads, which may protrude from the rugs surface. the needle and awl are used to pry loose fragments, such as straw or fluff trapped between the wefts during weaving.
We,the buyers then journey outside of Jaipur for the bumpy drive to the Rajasthan village
and the Dhurrie factory, which have produced our rugs in this time honoured fashion, by skilled artisans on a traditional horizontal or vertical loom.Here over a cup of hot sweet chai, we
negotiate our order, choose our designs and send on a lorry to be packed in cloth bales and shipped to us in the UK.
Shown here. The women sitting in the factory courtyard, sorting the wool, ready for dying .